Memory Hole (15 October): Research misconduct definition that sticks (but is it relevant?)

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8 years ago today: Research misconduct definition that finally sticks (but is it relevant?)

On 15 October 1999 the Journal Science reported that a panel were unveiling "the first government-wide definition of improper conduct in scientific research. True to long-circulating rumors, the new definition would narrow research misconduct to three specific acts: fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism (FFP). But officials at the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) say they've fleshed out these categories to ensure that a variety of serious misdeeds are explicitly included."

The previous misconduct definitions had used the phrase and "other serious deviations" from accepted practice", a clause that has been criticized as too vague.

The new definition tries to encompass misdeeds that may have fallen through the cracks. So for example they specifically include "destroying a colleague's research data" as a type of misconduct, or "manipulating research equipment" or "plagiarism during peer review".

The problem is that this is ludicrous and has always been ludicrous. What "cracks" have been missed (perhaps deliberately). Any decent scientist knows what behaviours threaten the integrity of the scientific record. The definitions are a bit like defining murder by listing the mechanisms of death.

The leadership of science and medicine have spent so many decades babbling about nonsensical definition and redefinition while doing absolutely nothing. We have seen a journey of many paths leading from nothing to nowhere.

Sources: Kaiser, Jocelyn. "Misconduct Definition That Finally Sticks?" Science 286, 15 Oct 1999; Hat tip
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Comments on: Memory Hole (15 October): Research misconduct definition that sticks (but is it relevant?)

 

Anonymous Rachel W said ... (October 16, 2007) : 

Spot on:

"The problem is that this is ludicrous and has always been ludicrous. What "cracks" have been missed (perhaps deliberately). Any decent scientist knows what behaviours threaten the integrity of the scientific record. The definitions are a bit like defining murder by listing the mechanisms of death."

The definition of scientific fraud is convenient to powerful groups and those who want to keep things under wraps. The cases of Baltimore (and also Gallo) as individual examples and the industrial ones.

 

Blogger Aubrey Blumsohn said ... (October 16, 2007) : 

Thank you Rachel

Yes I agree about the reasons. the things that fall between the cracks are many.

There is also the inverse problem - "If it's not fraudulent then it's OK" - a bit like the problem of regulation in general "If the FDA approves it then it's OK". We end up setting a very low bar, which then becomes the standard to aim for.

 

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