Standards to Foster Research Integrity

Top Scientists Revamp Standards To Foster Integrity In Research: Shots – Health News : NPR -April 11, 2017 – Heard on Morning Edition

It’s been 25 years since the National Academy of Sciences set its standards for appropriate scientific conduct, and the world of science has changed dramatically in that time. So now the academies of science, engineering and medicine have updated their standards.

The report published Tuesday, “Fostering Integrity in Research,” shines a spotlight on how the research enterprise as a whole creates incentives that can be detrimental to good research. 

“We’re not just talking about misconduct here, which is formally defined in the U.S. as fabrication of data, falsification or plagiarism,” said committee member

Brian Martinson, from the HealthPartners Institute in Minneapolis. “We recognize there’s a fuller range of behavior that we refer to as detrimental research practices.”

These can include

  • cutting corners,
  • using dubious statistics, or
  • not fully sharing what you’ve done so other scientists can reproduce your results.

The previous report called some of these “questionable” practices, but the new committee decided that word was inadequate.

“Sometimes these detrimental research practices can be as damaging as actual misconduct,” Nerem said. They can undercut the validity of findings and make them not reproducible in other labs. Other scientists can spend a long time chasing dead ends.

These practices are far more common than outright fraud, and that adds up. How big a problem is this? That’s hard to say, Nerem told Shots. That’s why the report calls for more effort to study these issues.

Scientists are called upon to share their data and methods as rapidly as possible.

And funders should make sure data and computer code are archived, Nerem’s committee said, to make it easier for findings to be reproduced by independent scientists.

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