Research activity is global, therefore, research misconduct is a global problem. These are the conclusions of two commissioned Essays this week in PLOS Medicine that review the problem of research misconduct across the world and provide a landscape review of the policies and initiatives of government and institutions to manage research misconduct.
In the first Essay, Joseph Ana from the Cross River University of Technology in Calabar, Nigeria and colleagues provide a view from low- and middle-income countries, analyzing the available data on the prevalence of and response to research misconduct in developing countries, where many high-profile cases have emerged. They emphasise that little if any data exist to support the frequent assumption that misconduct is more common in developing countries.
“Studies conducted mostly in high-income countries suggest that 2%-14% of scientists may have fabricated or falsified data and that a third to three-quarters may be guilty of ‘questionable research practices, say the authors. And the few data available from low- and middle-income countries “suggest that research misconduct is as common there as in high-income countries, and there have been high profile cases of misconduct from LMICs.”
However, most low- and middle-income countries have yet to develop policies and initiatives to prevent and manage research misconduct, with the exception of China, the authors say.
In the second Essay, David Resnik and Zubin Master from the US National Insitutes of Health (NIH) and Albany Medical College, respectively, offer a complementary review of research misconduct in high-income countries providing snapshots of the US, Canada, the UK, and Denmark to illustrate that while many countries have developed policies and initiatives to oversee research integrity, they amount to a patchwork of national, institutional, and professional association level efforts.
“Many high-income countries have developed policies and initiatives to address research misconduct, including regulations, ethical guidance, professional standards, journal policies, education in the responsible conduct of research, and oversight by national bodies and research institutions,” say the authors. But more should be done. “Since misconduct is a global concern, international guidelines, such as the Singapore Statement on Research Integrity, are an important step toward international cooperation on research integrity, say the authors.
Essay #1: “Research Misconduct in Low- and Middle-Income Countries”,
Ana J, Koehlmoos T, Smith R, Yan LL (2013)
PLoS Med 10(3): e1001315. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001315
Funding: No specific funding was received for writing this article.
Competing Interests: RS was, as described in the article, much involved in the Singh case. He is also a trustee of the UK Research Integrity Office. All other authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
Essay #2: “Policies and Initiatives Aimed at Addressing Research Misconduct in High-Income Countries”,
Resnik DB, Master Z (2013)
PLoS Med 10(3): e1001406. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001406
Funding: This article is the work product of an employee or group of employees of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), National Institutes of Health (NIH). However, the statements, opinions or conclusions contained therein do not necessarily represent the statements, opinions or conclusions of NIEHS, NIH, Health Canada, the Canadian Research Integrity Forum, or the United States or Canadian governments. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Competing Interests: ZM was previously an employee of Health Canada where he developed Health Canada’s Scientific Integrity Framework and served as secretariat to the Canadian Research Integrity Forum. DR declares no competing interests.