response rates, asked substantively different questions, and employed varying definitions of misconduct. These efforts have not yielded a database that would provide an appropriate foundation for findings and conclusions about the extent of misconduct in science and engineering. 15
The panel found that existing data are inadequate to draw accurate conclusions about the incidence of misconduct in science or of questionable research practices. The panel points out that the number of confirmed cases of misconduct in science is low compared to the level of research activity in the United States. However, as with all forms of misconduct, underreporting may be significant; federal agencies have only recently imposed procedural and report ing requirements that may yield larger numbers of reported cases. The possibility of underreporting can neither be dismissed nor con firmed at this time. More research is necessary to determine the full extent of misconduct in science.
Regardless of the incidence, the panel emphasizes that even infrequent cases of misconduct in science are serious matters. The number of confirmed incidents of misconduct in science, together with the possibility of underreporting and the results presented in some preliminary studies, indicate that misconduct in science is a problem that cannot be ignored. The consequences of even infrequent cases of misconduct in science require that attention be giv en to appropriate methods of treatment and prevention.
1. Reports of cases involving findings of misconduct in science were provided to the panel by DHHS and NSF. These reports indicate a total of 15 cases of findings of misconduct in science by DHHS in the period from March 1989 to December 1990 and 3 cases of findings of misconduct in science by NSF in the period from July 1989 to September 1990. See NSF (1990b) and DHHS (1991b). Information was also provided in a personal communication from Donald Buzzelli, staff associate, OIG, NSF, February 1, 1991.
Congressional testimony by and telephone interviews with NIH and ADAMHA officials indicated that in the period from 1980 to 1987, roughly 17 misconduct cases handled by these agencies resulted in institutional findings of research misconduct, some of which are included in the Woolf analysis discussed below. During this same period, NSF made findings of misconduct in science in seven cases. See the testimony of Katherine Bick and Mary Miers in U.S. Congress (1989a); see also Woolf (1988a).
The report by Woolf (1988a) identified 40 publicly reported cases of alleged misconduct in science in the period from 1950 to 1987, many of which involved confirmed