Friday, July 15, 2005
Professional misconduct by researchers has sharply risen in recent years, although it has always been a problem. The journal Nature published a survey in their June 9th issue which shows that about 1.5 percent of 3,247 researchers who responded admitted to falsification or plagiarism, with one in three admitting to some sort of professional misbehavior. The AP reports that
allegations of misconduct by U.S. researchers has reached record highs. The Department of Health and Human Services received 274 complaints - 50 percent higher than 2003 and the most since 1989 when the federal government established a program to deal with scientific misconduct. The federal Office of Research Integrity has not been able to keep pace with the allegations; only 23 cases closed last year and only eight people were found guilty of research misconduct.
The article cites several recent examples of researchers being found guilty in federal courts. Eric Poehlman, a prominent nutrition researcher, will be sentenced in federal court for fabricating research data to obtain a $542,000 federal grant while working as a professor at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. He faces up to 5 years in prison. A Wake Forest University rheumatology professor made up two families and their medical conditions in grant applications to the National Institute of Health. The article features the story of Dr. Andrew Friedman who was a researcher at Brigham and Women's hospital and Harvard Medical School who faked and made up data for articles and studies he published in medical journals. He testified, "I created data. I made it up. I also made up patients that were fictitious." He formally confessed, retracted his articles, and was punished. Currently he is director of clinical research at Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical Inc. The article attributes one reason for cheating to the tremendous and increasing professional pressure to publish studies.
Thanks to Lindley Bain for her help with this post. [tm]