Thursday, June 09, 2005

Study on scientific misconduct

Issues in Scholarly Communication links to a study reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education that found that a third of respondents to a survey about scientific misconduct in the U.S. admitted to having "engaged in actions such as overlooking others' use of flawed data, failing to present data contradicting one's own work, and circumventing minor requirements of human-subject research."

The original article from Nature, entitled "One in three scientists confesses to having sinned" (written by Meredith Wadman), is available online (for how long, I don't know). It quotes Brian Martinson, who conducted the survey with colleagues at the HealthPartners Research Foundation, as saying that "'[t]he majority of misbehaviours reported to us are more corrosive than explosive,'" but also that they are still a serious matter.

Martinson, according to Nature,
thinks the main cause of all the questionable behaviour is the increasing pressure that scientists are under as they compete to publish papers and win grants. "We need to think about the working conditions in science that can be addressed," he says, suggesting better salaries and employment conditions for young scientists, and a more transparent peer-review process.
The U.S. government, evidently, has a policy of only policing "fabrication, falsification and plagiarism" and does not concern itself with other types of misconduct like the ones mentioned above. The article concludes,
Martinson and his colleagues say their study is the first attempt to quantify such activities. They hope their results will persuade scientists to stop ignoring the wider range of misbehaviour.

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