Research Misconduct
A Serious and Growing Issue?
How Do We Cope with It?


Misconduct: Intellectual Dishonesty
Fabrication of data/information
Inaccurate referencing
Gratuitous co-authorship, premature publication, duplicate publication
Carelessness, lack of knowledge of research process, or ethical lapses = misconduct?

Visual Deception—
Digital Forgery
When is seeing believing
Digital technology enables manipulation of images: subversion of the certainty of photographic evidence
Workers at plant (six African-American workers became “mysteriously white and an Indian executive had lost his beard and turban): Newsweek (March 4, 1996), p. 55
Abraham Lincoln and Marilyn Monroe
George H. Bush and Margaret Thatcher
Photo of fictitious meeting between then President Clinton and Saddam Hussein

Deceivers:  Some …
Students (high school up): Teachers trying to educate their students (e.g., falsified home pages)
Faculty members
Medical researchers
Governments (mislead or disguise)
How about the private sector:

"Of all the questions that..."
Of all the questions that remain unanswered, the simple one, “How much misconduct is there?,” has inspired the most debate.

A professor has been accused of personally benefiting from information he compiled from a quarterly customer-satisfaction report [by buying and trading stocks of companies participating in the survey] (Chronicle of Higher Education, February 20, 2003)

“A key study pointing to the effectiveness of high-dose chemotherapy and bone marrow treatments in treating metastatic breast cancer was based on faked data (Arizona Republic, April 27, 2001)
A professor admitted to having fabricated experiment results in two studies … while she was an assistant professor … from 1996 to 2000. The studies were partially funded with federal money (Boston Globe, December 16, 2001)

"A highly regarded humanities professor..."
A highly regarded humanities professor at the University of California at San Diego listed “a bachelor’s degree from Grambling College on his CV.” He claimed to have graduated in 1963. In fact, he had no college diploma (The Chronicle of Higher education, April 4, 2003, P. A10)

1995 paper on “coping with discrimination”
“has been cited in more than 50 psychology studies, according to the Social Studies Citation Index. The author fabricated three experiments in the above article and one more.
The fabrications were part of federally-funded research

Anthropology Acquitted
Some anthropologists may have conducted questionable experiments on Amazon tribes. They fomented deadly disease and violence and they observed the consequences--injecting the Yanomami with a controversial vaccine for measles (lack a natural immunity to it); the vaccine causes measles-like symptoms and has proved deadly
They also staged fights among tribal members and encourage violence

Northern Kentucky University
The university has accused five professors--in this case the entire finance dept.--“of fabricating data in scholarly papers, duplicating large chunks of their own work in several papers, plagiarizing and listing as authors a number of professors at the university who did not contribute.”
“The same sets of data and results were used in multiple papers but were attributed to different studies. … passages [were] duplicated in several papers.” Chronicle of Higher Education (Sept. 19. 2003), p. A18.

Do Ethical Issues Comprise Misconduct?
Business professor at Columbia University wrote a letter on business school stationery to the owners of about 250 restaurants in NYC, complaining that he had been stricken with food poisoning after dinner at their establishments. He stated that he and his wife went to the restaurant to celebrate a wedding anniversary but ended up in the bathroom, vomiting.

"In fact,"
In fact, he was doing an “experiment” to compare how business owners responded to polite customer complaints versus how they responded to complaints from enraged-sounding customers.

How about …
 …Researchers [in a study conducted in mid-1990s] enticed landlords to recruit 108 families with healthy children to live in row houses with varying degrees of lead contamination to measure the effectiveness of lead-abatement projects in the city’s poor areas. The parents say they didn’t know the row houses had lead paint, and were told too late by the researchers that their children were being put at risk.
Boston Globe (9/3/2001, p. 1)

Or …
“The editor of American Psychologist … has reneged on an agreement to publish an article critical of the journal’s sponsor and of several members of Congress. … In … [that article, the author] charges the American Psychological Association with caving in to congressional pressure when it apologized for an article about child sexual abuse” [The Chronicle of Higher Education, online, 05/23/2001; 05/28/1999]

Notice of Retraction
“Of the eight persons names as authors of the article [one that appeared in print], some claimed that they had never reviewed the original data and most claimed that they had not seen or approved either the original version or one or more of the three revised versions of the manuscript One author claimed that he had seen neither the original data nor any version of the manuscript. Thus, there was a egregious disregard of the principles of authorship …

"“During the review process"
“During the review process, several of the authors’ signatures were falsified by a coauthor (who later confirmed to us that he had done this)”
Gregory D. Curfman, “Editorial: Notice of Retraction,” The New England Journal of Medicine (March 6, 2003)

Prior to manuscript review, each author attest to (1) his/her authorship of the paper, (2) the fact that he/she had access to all study data, the freedom to analyze the data as he/she saw fit, and the authority to publish the findings regardless of the implications for companies funding the research
The journal then sends each author an email when the accepted has been accepted.

"A study by Dr."
A study by Dr. John M. Budd et al. in the Journal of the American Medical Association (July 15, 1998) examined 235 scientific journal articles that had been formally retracted due to error, misconduct, failure to replicate results, or other reasons. The researchers reported that, “Retracted articles continue to be cited as valid works in the biomedical literature after publication of the retraction.”

Summary of Types of Problems
Lack of honoring of “intellectual debt:” lifting the work of others without attribution. The intentional mis-characterization of works of others
Falsifying data/experiments/ research findings
Falsifying CVs
While reviewing research proposals, turning one down and later submitting the same proposal yourself
Filling out some questionnaires yourself or some of the questions
Gratuitous co-authorship, premature publication, duplicate publication

Examples of Journals in Which Misconduct Has Appeared
American Journal of Medicine
Clinical Research
Journal of the American Chemical Society
The Lancet
New England Journal of Medicine
Tumor Research

So this coming weekend
I am going to ….

Is the problem that serious?
There are only a few isolated incidents
Whatever appears in print, is true? (Even in peer reviewed journals)
Science, after all, is self-correcting
Governments never “lie”
How about links between corporate sponsorship and conflicts of interest (e.g., medical research)
-- Researchers have a significant financial stake in companies sponsoring research; researchers are driven by financial motives, including the need for subsequent public or private sector funding

Misconduct affects the
Findings of research, government and non-government
What we read and hear
Scholarship, including the integrity of journals and fields of study (e.g., publishing fraudulent research to discredit a journal and a field of study)
educational system
Policies based on certain research
Library budgets

Federal Science Standards
Office of Management and Budget, “Guidelines for Ensuring and Maximizing the Quality, Objectivity, Utility, and Integrity of Information Disseminated by Federal Agencies”
The public can complain that a particular scientific study did not meet the standards set. Agencies would be required to respond to such complaints, review the study, and correct if it is found to be in error.
In other words, what if some object to the study and use the appeals process as delaying tactic. Their objection cast as objecting to parts of the research process in fact related to religious, social policy, etc. issues

How can we attack the problem
Strengthen penalties on those convicted of misconduct
Review conflicts of interest guidelines
Require signed agreements from all authors; ensure that each one is sent that agreement and returns it
Make more people aware of the issue (as the New England Journal of Medicine has done)
Find ways to increases information literacy of various groups—e.g., locate and evaluate information before using it.
Do not assume the problem resides only with students
Become familiar with the Office of Research Integrity (Department of Health and Human Services),

How can we attack the problem
Resume congressional oversight hearings, like done in early 1980s, for the purpose of (1) greater public awareness and (2) accountability for public monies spent
Increase knowledge of the research process, among students in more social and behavioral sciences
Including requiring research methods in LIS programs

How can we attack the problem
Continue to support committees that protect human subjects, animals in research, etc.
Pressure universities to deal with the issue and have proper guidelines for addressing the issue. Tendency is to be silent on the issue: image
Correct bibliographic apparatus: need for retraction and correction

What we cannot do
Interfere with the integrity of the peer- review process
Attack or discourage legitimate whistleblowing
Overvalue replication of social science research (placing such research in peer-reviewed journals)
Assume that misconduct applies only to students
Assume that misconduct is an insignificant problem

Undergraduate students
Grade inflation
Limited reading and literature searching, and only do what is necessary for a grade
Excellent at taking tests (a nation of test takers) but problems with conceptualization and problem solving, as well as communication (written, oral, and presentation skills)
Do not filter their information
Ahistorical: lack historical context

"Students (continued)"
Students (continued)
Failure to repay intellectual debt in what they use/cite
Inaccurate references
Failure to obtain permission for quotations, figures, and adaptations of figures placed in scholarly articles
Failure to repay intellectual debt and inaccurate references
Place article on home page contrary to journal/ publisher specifications (publisher agreement)

One study shown to be the result of misconduct has had more than 750 citations, none of which are negative!
Misconduct has surfaced in disciplines such as history, psychology, chemistry, physics, anthropology, and literature. It also has posed a problem for journalism: print and electronic media

"Bogus research may be forgotten"
Bogus research may be forgotten, its perpetrators disgraced or dead, but tainted writings endure. As Mallon (1989) wrote, “To put one’s theft into print is to have it forever on the library shelves, guiltily stacked just an aisle away from the volume it victimized, a stain that doesn’t wash but forever circulates.”
In 1997, Altman and I wrote, “Unfortunately, the mechanisms for notifying purchasers [and users] of bogus, falsified, and simply erroneous publications are even weaker than the mechanisms for detecting them.” Has this situation changed?

Altman, Ellen and Peter Hernon (ed.), Research Misconduct: Issues, Implications, and Strategies (Ablex, 1997)
Braxton, John M. (ed.), Perspectives on Scholarly Misconduct in the Sciences (Ohio State University Press, 1999)
Journal of Higher Education (Spring 1994 issue)
LaFollette, Marcel C., Stealing into Print: Fraud, Plagiarism, and Misconduct in Scientific Publishing (University of California Press, 1992)
Simmons, Patience, “Plagiarism and Cyber-Plagiarism,” College & Research Libraries News (June 2003): 385.