As research in many fields becomes increasingly competitive, so does the temptation to violate integrity in research. Misconduct in research is a serious and often career-ending violation. In her article on making the right choices in research integrity, Elizabeth Pain (2008) discusses the pressures and temptations to cut corners and make choices that would call a researcher’s integrity into question. She also provides sound advice for making the right choices when you suspect misconduct in your lab.
Proceed with Care
Reporting suspected misconduct should not be taken lightly,so it’s important to make sure you understand the wrongdoing. When your results aren’t consistent with previously obtained results, ask for more information about how those results were obtained. If you still can’t reproduce similar results or your questions aren’t being answered, there may be a problem.
Your integrity can be called into question when you knowingly allow misconduct to occur. However, you are not solely responsible for reporting transgressions in the lab. You have the support of faculty. If you’re confident misconduct is occurring, start by approaching a trusted faculty member. Experienced faculty should know the proper channels to pursue and how to handle misconduct.
Know the Rules
Integrity in research is not just the responsibility of primary investigators. Everyone in the lab is responsible, and not understanding the rules is not an excuse when misconduct occurs. The Office of Research Responsibility provides a variety of resources that help faculty, students and staff understand research integrity.
There's a 60-minute Responsible Conduct of Research training course (GRDC 098) available through Blackboard. Some graduate students are automatically registered for this training. The Office of Research Responsibility maintains instructions on how to self-enroll.
The Office of Research Responsibility provides a number of online video case studies that illustrate key issues in the responsible conduct of research. These videos can be used to generate discussions about responsible conduct of research with undergraduate students in your lab or with your faculty advisor.
All university faculty, students and staff involved in research involving human subjects are required to complete the Consortium for IRB Training Initiative (CITI) training and renew this training every three years. Optional training in other areas also is available through CITI.
Pain, E. (2008). Research integrity: Making the right choices. sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_magazine/previous_issues/articles/2008_01_04/caredit.a0800001.