Anderson, Christopher. "Misconduct Panel Sets Ambitious Agenda," Science 264 (24 June
1994), p. 1841.
When Congress established a new commission on research integrity last year, it gave it a modest
mandate: Write a new definition of research misconduct for the Department of Health and
Human Services (HHS) and make other recommendations to improve the practice and oversight
of research. But the commission evidently has gar grander plans. Meeting for the first time earlier
this week, the 12-member Commission on Research Integrity made it clear that it wants to
rethink the entire federal role in scientific misconduct, and nothing - not even whether HHS's
Office of Research Integrity (ORI) or the appeals board that has bedeviled it should continue to
exist in its current form - appears to be beyond its purview.
"By now people are starting to realize that [misconduct] is not idiosyncratic and that a lot of
these problems are institutional," said the commission's chairman, Kenneth Ryan, a Harvard
Medical School obstetrician. Fine-tuning the current system isn't enough, Ryan told panelists and
a public audience: "We have to get the scientists' attention. We have to be seen as imaginative."
If that is Ryan's goal, then he's off to a good start. The commission, which includes some of the
most active figures in the world of scientific misconduct policy, has set itself an ambitious
schedule. It plans to meet monthly for the next 2 years and to hold several public hearings. It
plans to solicit the views of the heads of federal agencies, the leaders of the research community,
whistle blowers, scientists who have been accused of misconduct but later vindicated,
congressional aides, defense lawyers, and others. Commission members said they hope to go
beyond a definition of scientific misconduct to a definition of science itself, as well as suggesting
ways to foster research integrity and root out misconduct. The commission wants better statistics
on misconduct, and it may commission a review article on the history of misconduct and
While the commission was preparing to rethink scientific integrity from first principles, ORI was
appealing for some help with its immediate problem of winning cases before the HHS appeals
board. Among the issues ORI wants the panel to address are:
Should the Public Health Service definition of misconduct continue to include the controversial
phrase "other practices that seriously deviate" from scientific standards?
What level of intent should be required, and who should bear the burden of proof when there is a
claim of honest error?
Should there be a national regulation on how long data should be retained?
Should there be a statute of limitations on misconduct claims?
Although the panel agreed to consider these issues, members privately made it clear they were
not interested in simply propping up ORI. Asked whether the panel would act quickly on ORI's
concerns, one panel member explained that "the problem goes a lot deeper than that."