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RESPONSIBLE SCIENCE: Ensuring the Integrity of the Research Process
generation of new ideas, findings, and theories through experimentation and analysis; timely communication and publication; refinement of results through replication and extension of the original work; peer review; and the training and supervision of associates and students. The traditions of skepticism, openness, sharing, and disclosure that are associated with the research process not only provide a means of identifying theoretical or experimental errors that occur inevitably in science, but also imply an obligation to maintain the integrity of the research process. Errors are often, corrected by later research, stimulated by the skepticism of other scientists. Error, however, is distinct from actions that directly compromise the integrity, of the research process.
Scientists have relied on each other and the traditions of their community for centuries to safeguard the integrity of the research process. This approach has been successful largely because of the widespread acknowledgement that science cannot work otherwise, and also because high standards and reputation are important to scientists. Dishonest or untrustworthy individuals become known to their colleagues through various mechanisms, including word of mouth and the inability of other scientists to confirm the work in question. Such irreproducible work is recognized and discredited through the processes of peer review and evaluation that are critical to making professional appointments, accepting work for publication, and awarding research support.
Changing Circumstances and Expectations
The U.S. scientific community has maintained a high degree of autonomy and self-governance during a period of remarkable successes. But the ability of research scientists and their institutions to safeguard the integrity of the research process is now being questioned as a result of several significant and comparatively recent developments. 3
Among these developments are the dramatic increases in the size of the U.S. research enterprise and in the amounts and patterns of funding. 4 These increases have come in response to the many notable contributions of scientists, engineers, and health professionals, emerging research opportunities, and public demands for solutions to such complex problems as protecting the environment and ensuring economic well-being. Also apparent are pressures related to the quickening pace and use of new developments in science—research results in some areas can rapidly influence public policy, health care services, and the commercial value of new products.