Pulp Fiction: Reflections on Scientific Misconduct
40 Pages Posted: 6 May 2012 Last revised: 22 Feb 2013
Date Written: January 5, 2004
The problem of scientific misconduct is alive and well, and is not limited to a few deranged and obscure individuals. Unjustifiably ignored, it is significant and has serious legal implications. In a societal sphere where honesty is one of the cardinal principles, scientific misconduct is a legal issue masquerading itself as peer review. Most reports of scientific misconduct reach the public through news stories. The totality of such cases is much greater, since only the most prominent and disputed cases are considered newsworthy. Because the federally mandated codes and the intra-institutional control have accomplished little in the control of scientific misconduct and the conduct of science has evolved in new directions, there is a need for additional solutions to the control of this deviant behavior. A more rigorous and legalized approach towards the control of the malady of scientific conduct is needed. The law can operate as a complex system of social cues, when the state guides its citizenry toward a new view of morality. This has been exemplified in the past through control of medical malpractice and manufacturing of goods. A similar approach could be attempted in the scientific enterprise. Institutions that conduct research need to comply with a variety of legal rules, which are laxly enforced. Many academic leaders will cry out loud about yet more bureaucracy, will question the effectiveness of these suggestions, and will attempt to find reasons why they are impossible to implement. My answer to them is that, as a matter of policy, guarding research integrity through a vigilant system of adjudication will allow weeding out and deterring the malefactors, achievement of excellence beyond personal gain, and retention of the public's trust. The success of preserving the principles we value will depend on our trust of the procedures put in place, the investment of experience, dedication to the goals of science, grasp of the legal framework, and good judgment.
Keywords: scientific misconduct, research misconduct, science ethics, false claims
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