Alberts, Bruce and Shine, Kenneth. "Science and the Integrity of Research," Science 266 (9

 

Alberts, Bruce and Shine, Kenneth. "Science and the Integrity of Research," Science 266 (9
December 1994), pp. 1660-1661.

(B. Alberts is the president of the National Academy and K. Shine is president of the IOM. This
document then may be considered something of a "policy statement" and should be seen as a
continuation of previous statements on misconduct emanating from the Academy.)

Alberts has it that in the past, "...scientists learned the ethics of research largely through informal
means - by working with senior scientists and watching how they dealt with ethical questions.
This tradition, while important, is no longer sufficient to meet the needs of the scientific
community..."

Scientists, while busy doing the many things they do, must take the time to restore public
confidence in science. Internally, scientists must do something about the competition for funds
which has generated the bizarre behavior made so much of in the press. "Public attention tends to
focus on dramatic instances of misconduct - the occasional cases of fabrication, falsification, and
plagiarism that all agree violate the ethical norms of science. But even more damaging to the
integrity of science are those behavior that do not rise to the level of misconduct but nevertheless
violate values held in common by the scientific community. These questionable research
practices arise in areas such as allocation of credit, the treatment of research data, respect for
intellectual property, and mentorship responsibilities. By eroding the ethical foundations of
research, the questionable behavior can create an environment in which blatant misconduct in
science becomes more likely." (p. 1660)

At the meeting last June of the National Academy complex issues of scientific conduct were
discussed. At that meeting, "convocation participants focused even more attention on
questionable research practices... Because questionable research practices are generally not
appropriate targets for governmental or legal investigations, the scientific community itself must
take responsibility for determining which practices are serious enough to warrant institutional or
professional responses and what forms these responses should take." (p. 1660)

How to integrate ethical issues and the research enterprise? Properly designed educational
programs are suggested. Such discussion establishes a commitment to high standards of ethics.
Examples of programs at UCSF, at UCLA and Pittsburgh are provided. Examples of issues are
provided.

A third issue of the June convention was the best way for institutions to respond to allegations of
misconduct. It is very clear that institutions must learn to deal with misconduct issues as it is at
the institutional level that government expects action to be taken.

Involving outstanding scientists in these ethical issues is critical and several questions are posed
for those scientists: "(i) Are we setting a good example? Do we go out of our way to give credit
to others on whose findings and ideas we build? Are we explicit about the contributions to our
own work by students? (ii) Do we reward scientific quality rather than the quantity of
publications? Do we reward faculty who contribute to the scientific community through
outstanding public service, teaching, and monitoring? (iii) When allegations of misconduct arise,
are the scrupulously examined regardless of the rank or status of the scientist in question or the
financial implications for the scientist or the institution? (iv) Are we contributing to the
mechanisms that spread appropriate values? Do we support educational efforts that promote the
high ethical standards of science?" (p. 1661)

Every scientist has a stake in the current enterprise: getting the public to trust scientists else the
result could be a "scientific enterprise that is increasingly constrained by legal strictures,
financial oversight, and bureaucratic provisions... If scientific research is beset with paperwork
and regulation, much of the joy and creativity in doing science could disappear." (p. 1661)