Misconduct In Science: Progress Or Years Of Controversy?

February 13, 1998

"What Has and What Has Not Been Accomplished?" Nicholas H. Steneck, University of Michigan professor of history

Unless universities and scientists take public concerns about research misconduct seriously, warns U-M Prof. Nicholas Steneck, scientists can look forward to more intervention and oversight of their work by federal agencies in the future.

Since 1985, when Congress mandated federal action in the NIH Reauthorization Act, administrators and scientists have struggled with how best to define and confront misconduct, promote the importance of research integrity, and ensure the integrity of ongoing and future research studies. Steneck maintains that universities have made "significant progress" on confronting misconduct and some progress on promoting integrity, but says "little attention has been paid to ensuring integrity."

While Steneck believes questionable practices exist in research laboratories, he says there has been no serious effort to determine how extensive the problem is. "Careful studies of routine research practices and their impact on the integrity of research as a whole are needed to make sound policy decisions," he says. Among the possibilities he suggests are random audits of studies submitted for publication, exit interviews for graduate students about the research environment they experienced at a university and a nationwide call for research proposals on creative ways to deal with the problem.

University of Michigan
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