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Global Science Forum Develops Steps for Decreasing Research Misconduct

During a workshop held by the Global Science Forum (GSF) of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Devel­opment (OECD) in Tokyo last February, specific steps were made to lessen the prevalence of research misconduct.

Specific steps institutions, governments, scientific societies and publishers may take to lessen the prevalence of research misconduct were developed during a workshop held by the Global Science Forum (GSF) of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Devel­opment (OECD) in Tokyo last February that was attended by over 50 government-appointed represen­tatives of 23 countries.

The Global Science Forum of OECD is “a venue for consultations among senior science policy officials of the OECD member and observer countries on matters relating to fundamental scientific research. The Forum’s activities produce findings and recommendation for actions by governments, international organizations, and the scientific community,” the report states.

The specific steps were reported in an unofficial workshop report, Best Practices for Ensuring Scientific Integrity and Preventing Misconduct, that was presented at the World Conference on Research Integrity, held in Lisbon last September. The unofficial report is available at http://www.esf.org/activities/esfconferences/details/ confdetail242.html. The specific steps contained in the report are:

  1. Designing and implementing a formal system for addressing allegations of misconduct in research that is tailored to local conditions and requirements.
  2. Making the results of each investi­gation known in the scientific community, as a deterrent to similar occurrences.
  3. Adopting definitions, standards, rules and codes of conduct. These can cover three areas: (1) good scientific practice (e.g., experi­mental design, laboratory safety, error analysis, data curation and access); (2) traditional ethics issues (e.g., rights of human subjects, handling of experimental animals, philosophical/moral aspects of research in human reproductive biology, defense-related research); and (3) misconduct.
  4. Promoting the internalization of rules and standards via carefully designed and implemented educational measures. Curriculum design is a key issue, as is the question of when (at what stage of a scientific career) education measures can be most effective.
  5. Incorporating instruction about responsible conduct of research in student curricula, and in the training of faculty, staff and technical personnel. Of particular value is instructing graduate students about the realities of scientific careers, including a realistic description of the pres­sures that can destabilize the lives of postdoctoral fellows and assistant professors.
  6. At the level of research institu­tions (e.g., university departments, large laboratories), actively fostering open and frank discus­sion of misconduct-related matters. Promoting collegiality and networking among colleagues to discourage isolation of the type that can harm susceptible indi­viduals (‘lone wolf’ scientists) and to clarify collaborators’ responsibilities within research collaborations. At the institutional level, rewarding those leaders who set an example by visibly adopting the standards of integrity in research.
  7. In hiring and promotion, reward­ing quality of work rather than quantity of publications.
  8. To the extent possible, streamlin­ing, rationalizing, and simplifying the grant application and award system.
  9. In scientific publishing (and in grant applications) adopting clear, uniform standards for:
    • authorship criteria for papers, in­cluding obligations of co-authors;

    • allowable types of image processing in published images;

    • requirements for making primary and secondary data available to the general scien­tific community

    • conditions under which results will be published (i.e., with or without permission of the sponsor).

  10. Making use of computer-assisted tools (software) for detecting plagiarism in publications, proposals, reports, etc. Promoting the development of software for detecting fraud in images, data, figures, etc.

Reprinted from the Office of Research Integrity Newsletter, Volume 16, No. 1: December 2007 (http://ori.hhs.gov).