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Editor's Choice

Research misconduct is widespread and harms patients

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 05 January 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e14

Re: Research misconduct is widespread and harms patients

This report is disturbing and, I believe, generalizes to the US. See: Martinson BC, Anderson MS and deVries R. Scientists behaving badly. Nature, 435(7045), 2005, 737-738.
It's not just the fact that it is happening but that it reflects a culture within which new researchers are socialized. Prior research indicates the motivators for dishonesty include a high-pressure achievement-oriented environment, where "if everybody else is doing it, it must be OK." See: Vedantam S. Cheating is an awful thing for other people to do. Washington Post, August 21, 2006, p. A2.
The problem also underscores how important are reanalysis and replication of reported research, a recent topic on the US IRB Forum. BUT get this, "Ginny Barbour, a senior editor with the PLoS group of journals, said one-third of authors could not find the original data to back up figures in scientific papers when these were questioned." I wonder how many journal editors seek to discover and reject such authors?! I wonder how meticulous the US FDA is in policing the input it receives in support of marketing approval for new drugs and medical devices.
These behaviors are beyond the reach of IRB/REB surveillance and indicate the need for a new end-product quality control system. The simplifying assumptions about the efficacy of peer review and professional ethics and responsibility fail miserably when the emperor is discovered marching around buck naked.

Competing interests: No competing interests

13 January 2012
John H Noble Jr
Emeritus Professor
508 Rio Grande Loop, Georgetown, Texas, USA