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Scientific Research Misconduct: Research Misconduct

Definition of Research Misconduct

Working Definition based on the definitions from Office of Research Integrity & National Science Foundation)

Research misconduct means fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results. 

Research misconduct does not include honest error or differences of opinion.  

  • Fabrication: is making up data or results and recording or reporting them.
  • Falsification: is manipulating research materials, equipment, or processes, or changing or omitting data or results such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record.
  • Plagiarism: is the appropriation of another person's ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit.




Statistics on Misconduct

Final Report: Observing and Reporting Suspected Misconduct in Biomedical Research.” 2008, Apr 8. The Gallup Organization for Office of Research Integrity.

Office of Research Integrity. Annual Reports, 1994-2008

Martinson, Brian C.; Melissa S. Anderson, and Raymond de Vries, Raymond. (2005) "Scientists Behaving Badly." Nature Vol. 435 Issue 7043, p737-738.

Wadman, Meredith. (2005) "One In Three Scientists Confesses to Having Sinned." Nature Vol. 435 Issue 7043, p718-719.

Results of a 205 survey of over 3,000 early and mid-career scientists funded by the National Institutes of Health found that while only 1.5% admitted to falsification and plagiarism, one of every three scientists admitted to indulging in questionable research behaviors.  

Titus, Sandra L.; James A. Wells, and Lawrence J. Rhoades.  (2008) "Repairing Research Integrity." Nature Vol. 453 Issue 7198, p980-982.

Results from a 2006 survey of of scientists holding National Institutes of Health (NIH) extramural research funds at 605 institutions about research misconduct in the United States.

Fanelli, D. (2009) "How Many Scientists Fabricate and Falsify Research? a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Survey Data." Plos One Vol. 4 Issue 5.  doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0005738

  • analysis was limited to behaviours that distort scientific knowledge: fabrication, falsification, “cooking” of data, etc. (i.e., questions on plagiarism and other forms of professional misconduct were excluded)
  • final sample consisted of 21 surveys that were included in the systematic review, and 18 in the meta-analysis.
  • findings
    • Misconduct by surveyed scientist
      • A pooled weighted average of 1.97% (N = 7, 95%CI: 0.86–4.45) of scientists admitted to have fabricated, falsified or modified data or results at least once
      • up to 33.7% admitted other questionable research practices.
    • Misconduct by other scientists
      • In surveys asking about the behaviour of colleagues, admission rates were 14.12% (N = 12, 95% CI: 9.91–19.72) for falsification
      • up to 72% for other questionable research practices

How Scientific Misconduct Hurts

The following articles address a recent example of research misconduct (i.e., plagiarism).  The article "Scientific Misconduct Hurts," gives you the background for the research misconduct.  The "Dear Plagiarist" article is the harmed researchers open letter to the plagiarist.