Medical and clinical researchers face increased attacks on their reputation and research validity, a trend brought about by a few “bad apples” within their own industry. Most researchers, whether in an academic community or in a practice setting, spend years on clinical trials and investigations in hopes of contributing to their respective fields. Unfortunately, a growing number of cases involving high-profile retractions and research fraud and misconduct have damaged the reputation of the scientific research community as a whole.
Retractions of “Bad Science.”
In August, 2015, one of the world’s largest academic publishers, Springer, confirmed that it had retracted 64 articles for fabricated peer review reports. Other scientific publishers have made similar retractions, with reasons ranging from manipulated data about grizzly bears to plagiarized writing about stem cell research.
Irreproducible research and retractions are “more often due to error than misconduct or fraud,” according to Dr. Jeffrey S. Flier, dean of the Harvard Medical School. He stated that the causes of such research fall into three main categories: (1) deficiencies in the scientific process, such as problems in design and statistical analysis; (2) incentives, such as career advancement and grant funding, that tempt researchers to violate good scientific practice; and (3) problems in the peer review process, such as self-serving and superficial reviews.
Dr. Flier believes that the scientific community could limit the amount of irreproducible research through process-focused solutions, such as encouraging reviewer identification, publishing reviewer comments and editor responses, and facilitating online discussions immediately after publication through platforms like PubPeer. The scientific community must work together to maximize “the results of societies’ investment in the biomedical-research enterprise.”
“A Few Bad Apples Spoil the Bunch.”
In late 2012, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science determined that academic fraud as a whole is quite rare. Only 2,047 out of 25 million biomedical research-related articles published in the National Institutes of Health PubMed database were retracted at some point since their publication, according to that study. As the Smithsonian noted, “[t]hat is less than 0.01 percent of all the papers in the database.”
Nevertheless, the growing publicity of research fraud and misconduct may disproportionally increase public mistrust of science as a whole. Research fraud and misconduct have real consequences for the industry, especially for respectable colleagues of the alleged fraudster. Co-Authors of an irreproducible or fraudulent publication are often caught in the crossfire. Innocent researchers who only make nominal contributions to these publications may face lengthy investigations and disruptive accusations, resulting in serious consequences to their personal and professional reputations.
Accusations Have Serious Consequences: Do Not Face Them Alone.
An accusation, even if later proven to be unfounded, may unfairly tarnish the personal and professional reputation of the researcher, cause the researcher to lose grants, bonuses and promotions, his or her employment may be terminated, or may even face criminal prosecution for fraud, theft or other applicable crimes. In order to combat such destructive accusations and avoid major punishments, it is critical to have a legal representative present on your behalf in an effective manner that does not compromise a legal defense.
Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representation for Clinical Research Fraud and Misconduct.
The Health Law Firm attorneys, through years of experience, have obtained the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate research misconduct cases. Legal guidance and experienced insight are invaluable when it comes to protecting the time and efforts you have put forth in building a sustainable and impacting career.
To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
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thoughtful comments below.
Flier, Jeffrey S. “How to Keep Bad Science From Getting into Print.” Wall Street Journal. A17. (March 2, 2016). Print.
Hu, Jane C. “Why Do Scientists Commit Fraud?” Slate. (August 6, 2014). Web.
Stromberg, Joseph. “How Often Do Scientists Commit Fraud?” Smithsonian. (October 1, 2012). Web.
About the Author: Miles Indest, J.D./M.B.A. candidate, will graduate in May 2016 from Tulane University Law School and the Freeman School of Business.
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