James Wells, Director of the Office of Research Policy at the University of Wisconsin, conducted a survey of Research Institutes to assess research integrity, along with two experts from the US Health and Human Services Department’s Office of Research Integrity, particularly in the context of Research Institutions receiving undisclosed funding from Drug companies.
According to the survey, Research Misconduct at US institutions may be more common than previously suspected, with 9% of scientists saying that they personally had seen fabrication, falsification or plagiarism.
The survey of 2,212 mainly biomedical scientists at 605 universities and other research institutions, published in the journal Nature on Wednesday, also showed that researchers are very reluctant to report bad conduct.
Thirty-seven per cent of cases of suspected misconduct were never reported to the institution involved for investigation, perhaps due to fear of reprisals for turning in a colleague or a desire to protect the flow of research money.
“There’s more misconduct, or potential for misconduct, out there than probably anyone has appreciated before. And a good part of that goes unreported,” said James Wells. “Usually what happens is that somebody very close to the research has to observe this going on. And they have to step forward and report it to their institution in order for something to happen. And they can very often be jeopardizing themselves,” Wells added.
The findings come at a time of concern among US lawmakers and others about research integrity in the United States and abroad, financial conflicts of interest by scientists who get paid by drug companies, and study results being warped by the influence of research funding from the pharmaceutical industry.
Recently, US senator Charles Grassley has accused prominent Harvard University psychiatrist Joseph Biederman and others of failing to fully disclose payments from drug companies.