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al., 2012). Worse yet, many research administration staff in major universities suspect that research misconduct is probably underreported. A quick Google search would reveal some startling examples of research misconduct in recent years, with some cases leading universities to pay settlements totaling hundreds of millions of dollars.
Decades ago, scientists could reassure the public that science is by its nature self-correcting, so any misconduct is likely to be quickly discovered and corrected. But a spate of misconduct cases in the biomedical sciences in the late 1970s and 1980s involving medical treatments made the public more skeptical, eventually drawing the attention of the US Congress and leading to the creation of the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) in the 1990s. The ORI, within the Department of Health and Human Services, was tasked with oversight of research misconduct matters involving Public Health Service funds (e.g., National Institutes of Health grants). New regulations were issued, requiring research institutions to adopt a policy for addressing misconduct, and institutions began designating research integrity officers to manage the review of allegations and report the results to the ORI. Other federal agencies took note and developed similar requirements. The ORI also offers extensive guidance and tools for promoting RCR and even publishes the results of research misconduct investigations on their website (see
Still below the radar screen, however, are what is known as “questionable research practices” that undermine the integrity of research and contribute to the problem of irreproducible research (Johns et al., 2012). Such practices as “cherry-picking” data, whether they rise to the level of outright fraud and research misconduct, still clearly run counter to Feynman’s “utter honesty” and undermine the trustworthiness of the scientific enterprise.
Emerging Principles of the Responsible Conduct of Research
In contrast to the precise definition of research misconduct as discussed in The Big One: Research Misconduct, there are a variety of topics in RCR that are best described as a set of emerging principles for how to behave. We touch on the main ones below. Although some are common sense, all of them warrant careful thought and application and are covered in popular research integrity textbooks (e.g., Macrina, 2014).
For instance, it is not appropriate to include someone as an author on a paper who has made no contribution to the work or the drafting of the article, but how to weigh the various kinds of contributions is often quite vague. It is not surprising that most scientific journals now require manuscripts to be signed by all authors and include statements about their relative contributions. There are many good sources of information, some discipline specific, about criteria for authorship (e.g., National Institutes of Health, 2010; American Psychological Association, 2015). Also, unlike research misconduct, authorship criteria can vary more across disciplines and cultures. Today, most journals offer guidelines. Most discussions of the ethics of authorship also include a treatment of the process of peer review, including the criteria for evaluating the merit of the work and the importance of confidentiality and addressing potential COIs when evaluating a manuscript.
It used to be fairly common in academic circles to confuse the word “mentor” with other overlapping roles of faculty members such as sponsors, role models, advisors, and teachers. As many have pointed out (e.g., Institute of Medicine, 1997; Macrina, 2014), mentoring conveys a deeper, more enduring commitment in the relationship than simply sponsoring, advising, or teaching. Recognizing that there are a great variety of personalities and modes of human interaction, there are consequently many successful mentoring styles. Excellent source materials summarize the essential ingredients of a successful mentor-mentee relationship and explain how to nurture and foster those relationships (e.g., NAS, 1997; Gee and Popper, 2017). RCR recognizes that mentors play a key role in instilling good scientific practice both in and out of academia.
Gone are the days when single-authored papers were the norm. Modern science almost demands that scientists work in teams, often across interdisciplinary, institutional, and national boundaries. There is a considerable amount of detail available from a variety of sources describing the components of successful collaborative relationships, both large and small (e.g., National Cancer Institute, 2018). Among the most obvious requirements for successful collaborative relationships are those that
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