Combating Scientific Misconduct

January 10, 1997 • Volume 7, Issue 1
Are government investigations unfair?
By Sarah Glazer

Introduction

(Photo Credit:  © 1992 Charles Gupton, Picture Network International) (Photo Credit:  © 1992 Charles Gupton, Picture Network International)

Increasing concern that some scientists were faking their experiments led the government in 1989 to create a special office to investigate fraud among recipients of biomedical research grants. Recently, however, several of the office's most sensational guilty verdicts have been reversed, raising questions about the fairness of the government's investigations. Critics within the scientific community charge the office conducted witch hunts, denying due process to accused scientists and unfairly tarring careers. Meanwhile, reformers are urging the government to expand its oversight of research misconduct, arguing that untrustworthy data — even if not the product of outright fraud — can mislead other scientists searching for medical cures. Responding to widespread dissatisfaction, a White House panel is developing new guidelines for dealing with research misconduct.

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