Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp 161–176 | Cite as

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

  • Nicholas H. Steneck


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.


research ethics integrity misconduct policy science 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    U.S. Congress, House. Committee on Science and Technology. Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight (1981) Fraud in biomedical research. GPO, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    U.S. Congress (1985) Health Research Extension Act of 1985. GPO, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Broad, W.J. and Wade, N. (1982) Betrayers of the truth: Fraud and deceit in the halls of science. Simon and Schuster, New York.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Hilts, P.J. (1981) Science confronted with “crime waves” of researchers faking data in experiments. Los Angeles Times (March 4): 6.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Broad, W.J. (1981) Fraud and the structure of science. Science 212 (April 10): 37.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Broad, W.J. and Wade, N. (1982) Science’s faulty fraud detectors. Psychology Today 16 (November):51.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Broad, W.J. (1982) Harvard delays in reporting fraud. Science 215 (January 29): 478–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Relman, A.S. (1983) Lessons from the Darsee affair. NEJM 308 (June 9): 1415–17.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Culliton, B.J. (1983) Coping with fraud: The Darsee case, Science 220 (April 1): 31–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Chalk, R. (1980) AAAS Professional Ethics Project: Professional ethics activities in the scientific and engineering societies. American Association for the Advancement of Science, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    AAMC (1982) The maintenance of high ethical standards in the conduct of research. Association of American Medical Colleges, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    AAU (1983) Report of the Association of American Universities Committee on the Integrity of Research. Association of American Universities, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Sigma Xi (1984) Honor in science. Sigma Xi, New Haven, CN.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Steneck, N.H. (1984) Commentary: The university and research ethics. Science, Technology, and Human Values 94(4): 6–15.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    U.S. Congress, House, Committee on Energy and Commerce (1985) Health services and research. GPO, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee on Appropriations (1985) Departments of Labor: Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations, FY85, Part 2. GPO, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Culliton, B.J. (1985) Congress passes NIH Bill. Science 230 (November 1): 525.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Wigodsky, H.S. (1984) Fraud and misrepresentation in research—Whose responsibility? IRB: A Review of Human Subjects Research 6(2): 1–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    PHS (1986) Policies and procedures for dealing with possible misconduct in science. National Institutes of Health, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    NSF (1987) Misconduct in science and engineering research: Final regulations. Federal Register 52 (July 1): 24466–70.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Holden, C. (1986) Health Service unveils fraud policy. Science 233 (July 18): 278–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Hanson, D. (1987) Testing lab fraud crimps federal drug plans. Chemical & Engineering News 65(June 29): 19.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Koshland, D.E.J. (1987) Fraud in science. Science 235 (January 9): 141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Anon. (1989) Crack down on sloppy research. Christian Science Monitor (February 21): 20:3.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Greenberg, D.S. (1989) Issue of scientific fraud not easily faced. Chicago Tribune (August 16): See 1, p 17, col 2.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Koshland, D.J. (1989) Zero fraud—Only with zero science. New York Times (August 19): Sec A, p 23 col 2.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Leary, W.E. (1989) Anxiety over the science police. New York Time (May 14): Sec 4, p 6, col 1.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Pollack, R.E. (1989) In science, error isn’t fraud. New York Times (May 2): Sec A, p 25, col 1.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Racker, E. (1989) A view of misconduct in science. Nature 339 (May 11): 91–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Relman, A.S. (1989) Fraud in science: Causes and remedies. Scientific American 260 (April): 126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Rosenzweig, R.M. (1989) Public policy issues in scientific fraud and misconduct. Bioscience 39 (September): 552–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Sarasohn, J. (1993) Science on trial: The whistle blower, the accused, and the Nobel laureate. St. Martin’s Press, New York.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Anon. (1996) Rarely pure, and never simple. Economist 339 (June 22): 79.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Kevles, D.J. (1998) The Baltimore case: A trial of politics, science, and character. W.W. Norton, New York.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    PHS (1989) Responsibilities of awardee and applicant institutions for dealing with and reporting possible misconduct in science. Federal Register 54 (August 8): 32446–51.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    PHS (1990) Scientific integrity activities of the Public Health Service. PHS, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    PHS (1991) Policies and procedures for dealing with possible scientific misconduct in extramural research. Federal Register 56 (June 13): 27383–94.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Hallum, J.V. and Hadley, S.W. (1990) OSI: Why, what, and how? ASM News 56 (12): 647–51.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Wheeler, D.L. (1991) NIH office that investigates scientist’s misconduct is target of widespread charges of incompetence. The Chronicle of Higher Education (May 15): A5.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Zurer, P.S. (1993) Appeals hearing sheds little light on AIDS virus controversy. Chemical & Engineering News 71 (July 5): 16–17.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Crewdson, J. (1993) Panel clears AIDS researcher. Chicago Tribune (November 5): Sec 1, p 1, col 3.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Palca, J. (1996) Scientific misconduct: Ill-defined, redefined. Hastings Center Report 26(September): 4–11.Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Johnson, H. (1991) Policing science. Washington Post (March 29): Sec A, p 2, col 5.Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Woolf, P.K. (1991) Accountability and responsibility in research. Journal of Business Ethics 10 (August): 595–600.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Abelson, P.H. (1992) Integrity of the research process. Science 256 (May 29): 1257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Borman, S. (1992) Misconduct in science: Augmenting traditional safeguards urged. Chemical & Engineering News 70 (April 27): 4–5.Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    Cimons, M. (1992) Tougher pursuit of science fraud urged. Los Angeles Times (April 23): Sec A, p 23 col 1.Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    Maechling, C.J. (1992) Investigating scientific misconduct: The laboratory is not a courtroom. Brookings Review 10 (Summer): 44–47.Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    Nelson, W.D. (1992) Science conduct board proposed. Boston Globe (April 23): 3:5.Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    Anon. (1992) Defining misconduct. Nature 356 (April 30): 730–31.Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    Greenberg, D.S. (1992) NSF fuming over Academy’s misconduct report. Science & Government Report (May 15): 5–6.Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    Greenberg, D.S. (1992) Washington Perspective: Cool response for Academy’s misconduct study. Lancet 339 (May 16): 1219–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. 53.
    Buzzelli, D.E. (1993) The definition of misconduct in science: A view from NSF. Science 259 (January 29): 584–85, 647–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. 54.
    Rennie, D. and Gunsalus, C.K. (1993) Scientific misconduct: New definition, procedures, and office-perhaps a new leaf. JAMA 269 (7): 915–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. 55.
    Schachman, H.K. (1993) What is misconduct in science? Science 261(July 9): 148–49, 183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. 56.
    Zurer, P.S. (1993) Divisive dispute smolders over definition of scientific misconduct. Chemical & Engineering News 71 (April 5): 23–25.Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    Price, A.R. (1994) Definitions and boundaries of research misconduct: Perspectives from a federal government viewpoint. Journal of Higher Education 65 (May): 286–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. 58.
    Zurer, P. (1994) Commission gets earful on scientific misconduct. Chemical & Engineering News 72 (November 21): 41–4.Google Scholar
  59. 59.
    Kaiser, J. (1995) Commission proposes new definition of misconduct. Science 269 (September 29): 1811.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. 60.
    Zurer, P.S. (1995) Commission on Research Integrity reshaping definition of misconduct. Chemical & Engineering News 73 (July 3): 14–15.Google Scholar
  61. 61.
    Kaiser, J. (1996) HHS is still looking for a definition. Science 272 (June 21): 1735.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. 62.
    Hileman, B. (1997) Unending debate over definition of research misconduct. Chemical & Engineering News 75 (August 4): 28.Google Scholar
  63. 63.
    Kaiser, J. (1997) NSF stakes a position on misconduct. Science 276 (June 20): 1779.Google Scholar
  64. 64.
    Kaiser, J. (1997) Storm brewing over misconduct definition. Science 275 (January 24): 467.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. 65.
    PHS, Commission on Research Integrity (1995) Integrity and misconduct in research: Report of the Commission on Research Integrity. Commission on Research Integrity, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  66. 66.
    Medawar, P.B. (1979) Advice to a young scientist. Harper & Row, New York.Google Scholar
  67. 67.
    Zuckerman, S. (1975) Advice and responsibility, Clarendon Press, Oxford, UK.Google Scholar
  68. 68.
    St. James-Roberts, I. (1976) Are researchers trustworthy? New Scientist 71: 481–83.Google Scholar
  69. 69.
    St. James-Roberts, I. (1976) Cheating in science. New Scientist 72: 466–69.Google Scholar
  70. 70.
    Zuckerman, H. (1977) Deviant behavior and social control in science, in: Wagarin, E. (ed.), Deviance and Social Change. Sage Publications, London, pp. 87–137.Google Scholar
  71. 71.
    Weinstein, D. (1979) Fraud in science. Social Science Quarterly 59 (March 4): 639–52.Google Scholar
  72. 72.
    National Academy of Science, Committee on the Conduct of Science (1995) On being a scientist, 2nd ed., National Academy Press, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  73. 73.
    Guston, D.H. (1992) Mentorship and the research training experience, in: Responsible Science. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, pp. 50–65.Google Scholar
  74. 74.
    PHS, NIH & ADAMHA (1989) Requirement for programs on the responsible conduct of research in national research service award institutional training programs. NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts 18:1.Google Scholar
  75. 75.
    PHS, NIH & ADAMHA (1990) Reminder and update: requirement for programs on the responsible conduct of research in national research service award institutional training programs. NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts 19:1.Google Scholar
  76. 76.
    Berg, K. and Tranoy, K.E. (1983) Research ethics. Progress in Clinical and Biological Research. Vol. 128. A.P. Liss, New York.Google Scholar
  77. 77.
    Elliott, D., and Stern, J. E., eds. (1997) Research ethics: A reader. University Press of New England for the Institute for the Study of Applied and Professional Ethics at Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH.Google Scholar
  78. 78.
    Hook, S., Kurtz, P., and Todorovich, M., eds. (1977) The Ethics of teaching and scientific research. Prometheus Books, Buffalo, NY.Google Scholar
  79. 79.
    Macrina, F.L. (1995) Scientific integrity: an introductory text with cases. ASM Press, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  80. 80.
    Penslar, R.L., ed. (1995) Research ethics: Cases and materials. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN.Google Scholar
  81. 81.
    Sieber, J.E. (1992) Planning ethically responsible research: A guide for students and internal review boards, Applied Social Research Methods Series, Vol. 31. Sage Publications, Newbury Park, NY.Google Scholar
  82. 82.
    ORI (1995) Annual Report, 1994. DHHS, PHS, OASH, ORI, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  83. 83.
    ORI (n.d.) Scientific misconduct investigations, 1993–1997. [Online] Scholar
  84. 84.
    ORI (1999) Findings of scientific misconduct: 1996–99. [Online] Scholar
  85. 85.
    NSF, Office of the Inspector General (1989 ff.) Semiannual report to the Congress. National Science Foundation, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  86. 86.
    Rennie, D. (1990) Editorial peer review in biomedical publications: The First International Congress. JAMA 263 (March 9): 1317.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. 87.
    Swazey, J.P. (1993) Ethical problems in academic research. American Scientist 81 (November/December): 542–53.Google Scholar
  88. 88.
    National Academy of Sciences. Panel on Scientific Responsibility and the Conduct of Research. Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy (1992) Responsible science: Ensuring the integrity of the research process. 2 Vols. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  89. 89.
    Gardner, M.J. (1990) An exploratory study of statistical assessment of papers published in the British Medical Journal. JAMA 263 (March 9): 1355–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. 90.
    McNutt, R.A., et al. (1990) The effects of blinding on the quality of peer review. JAMA 263 (March 9): 1371–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. 91.
    Stelfox, H.T., Chua, G., O’Rourke, K., and Detsky, A.S. (1998) Conflict of interest in the debate over calcium-channel antagonists. NEJM 338 (January 8): 101–06.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. 92.
    Anon. (1998) Correspondence: Conflict of interest in the debate over calcium-channel antagonists. NEJM 338 (June 4): 1696–98.Google Scholar
  93. 93.
    Campbell, E.G., Louis, K.S., and Blumenthal, D. (1998) Look a gift horse in the mouth: Corporate gifts supporting life sciences research. JAMA 279 (April 1): 995–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. 94.
    Gold, M. (1986) A conspiracy of cells. SUNY Press, Albany, NY.Google Scholar
  95. 95.
    Friedman, P.J. (1990) Correcting the literature following fraudulent publication. JAMA 263 (March 9): 1416–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. 96.
    Pfeifer, M.P. and Snodgrass, G.L. (1990) The continued use of retracted, invalid scientific literature. JAMA 263 (March 9): 1420–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  97. 97.
    Garfield, E. and Welljams-Dorof, A. (1990) The impact of fraudulent research on the scientific literature. JAMA 26 (March 9): 1424–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  98. 98.
    Kalichman, M.W. and Friedman, P.J. (1992) A pilot study of biomedical trainees’ perceptions concerning research ethics. Academic Medicine 67 (November 11): 769–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  99. 99.
    Eastwood, S., Derish, P., Leash, E. and Ordway, S. (1996) Ethical issues in biomedical research: Perceptions and practices of postdoctoral research fellows responding to a survey. Science and Engineering Ethics 2 (1): 89–114.Google Scholar
  100. 100.
    Ehlers, V.J. (1998) The future of U.S. science policy. Science 279 (January 16): 302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Opragen Publications 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicholas H. Steneck
    • 1
  1. 1.History DepartmentUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

Personalised recommendations