, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp 161-176

Confronting misconduct in science in the 1980s and 1990s: What has and has not been accomplished?

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Abstract

In 1985, after nearly a decade of inconclusive professional response to public concern about misconduct in research, Congress passed legislation requiring action. Subsequent to this legislation, federal agencies and research universities adopted policies for responding to allegations of misconduct in research. Conferences, sessions at professional meetings, and special publications were organized. New educational initiatives were begun, many in response to a 1989 National Institutes of Health/ Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration requirement to include ethics instruction in training grants. Notwithstanding a few key unresolved issues, such as the lack of a uniform federal definition of misconduct in research, the years since 1985 have witnessed a marked change in the professional response to misconduct in research.

This paper evaluates the change since 1985 from the perspective of three key goals: 1) confronting misconduct, 2) promoting integrity and 3) ensuring integrity. While significant progress has been made in achieving the first two goals, the third remains largely unaddressed. The latter is due to the fact that researchers have not been interested in studying the integrity of their own profession. It is therefore suggested that studies are needed of routine or normal research practices and their impact on integrity for use in making decisions about research conduct policy.

An earlier version of this paper was presented at the symposium entitled “Misconduct in Science: A Decade of Progress or Merely Years of Controversy” held during the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 13 February, 1998.