UK survey finds science misconduct "alive and well"

Thu Jan 12, 2012 11:11am EST
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By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) - More than one in 10 British-based scientists or doctors have witnessed colleagues intentionally altering or fabricating data during their research, according to a survey by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) on Thursday.

The survey, which collated more than 2,700 responses, also found that 6 percent of scientists said they were aware of possible research misconduct at their institution that had not been properly investigated.

The results suggest "research misconduct is alive and well in the UK," the BMJ said in a statement, and highlights the need for better systems to deter, detect, and investigate it.

According to BMJ editor-in-chief Fiona Godlee, who wrote a commentary about the findings, high profile cases of misconduct have led many other countries, including the United States, Canada, Sweden, Norway and Poland, to create formal mechanisms for overseeing research integrity.

"Why does the United Kingdom have no plans to do the same?" she wrote.

The survey, which was conducted via email and is ongoing, has so far received responses to 31 percent, or 2,782 of the 9,036 emails delivered to researchers.

The doctors were asked whether they had "witnessed or have first-hand knowledge of UK-based scientists or doctors inappropriately adjusting, excluding, altering or fabricating data during their research or for the purposes of publication," - to which 13 percent said yes.

Godlee, whose journal has long been campaigning for greater scrutiny of scientific research and greater transparency in clinical trials, said the results exposed as myth the idea that research misconduct was very rare in Britain.   Continued...