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RESPONSIBLE SCIENCE: Ensuring the Integrity of the Research Process
However, the ability of research scientists and their institutions to safeguard the integrity of the research process is now being questioned. Comparatively recent and dramatic increases in the size and influence of the U.S. research enterprise,1 and in the amounts and patterns of funding, have led to changing social expectations about the accountability of scientists and their institutions for research supported by public funds. In addition, the changing nature of collaborative efforts, the quickening pace and increasing complexity of research endeavors, and the growing emphasis on commercialization of research results have combined to exacerbate stresses that have always been apparent to some extent in scientific research. During the last decade, reports of wrongdoing in science have been accompanied by government oversight and continued scrutiny of the conduct of scientific research. All of these developments have profound implications for the research enterprise's system of internal checks and balances, which evolved in a research environment far removed from the forces of the political process.
The Problem of Misconduct in Science
During the period from March 1989 to March 1991, more than 200 allegations of misconduct in science were recorded by U.S. government offices (NSF, 1990b; Wheeler, 1991).2 From this number, about 30 cases have resulted so far in confirmed findings of misconduct in science (NSF, 1990b; DHHS, 1991b). Although the possibility of underreporting needs to be considered, these statistics indicate that the reported incidence of misconduct in science is low—compared, for example, to the 26,000 research awards supported annually by the National Institutes of Health (NIH, 1991).
However, any misconduct comes at a high price both for scientists and for the public. Cases of misconduct in science involving fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism breach the trust that allows scientists to build on others' work, as well as eroding the trust that allows policymakers and others to make decisions based on scientific evidence and judgment, especially in instances when definitive studies are not available. The inability or refusal of research institutions to address misconduct-in-science cases can undermine both the integrity of the research process and self-governance by the research community.
Acting to Ensure Integrity in Research
To respond to the need for more visible, explicit mechanisms to ensure integrity in the research process, and to handle allegations of