Integrity of Science: An Overview
Robert M. Nerem
In 1992 the National Academies released a report entitled “Responsible Science: Ensuring the Integrity of the Research Process.” The panel responsible for this report defined research misconduct as “Fabrication, Falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reporting research,” what is sometimes simply referred to as “FFP.” In 2000 the definition of research misconduct as FFP was adopted as a unified federal definition. The framework developed by this earlier panel also introduced two other categories. These are “questionable research practices” and “other misconduct” with the latter defined as “forms of unacceptable behavior clearly not unique to the conduct of science.” This 1992 report provided a very valuable service; however, with all that has happened over the past several decades, the National Academies a few years ago decided that this issue of ensuring integrity in the research process needed to be revisited and appointed a new panel. This panel has considered a variety of changes in the U.S. research enterprise that has occurred. These include the increasing prevalence of multi-investigator interdisciplinary research, the globalization of research to an unprecedented extent, changes in the funding of research, technological changes, and many others as well. From these considerations it is clear that the research enterprise is a social network that requires the various components of this system to uphold their respective responsibilities. The discussion that ensued among the panel members has resulted in a new report, one that not only identifies best practices and makes specific recommendations but also describes the incidence and consequences of misconduct and detrimental research practices. Furthermore, of interest to this panel is the understanding currently of the causes and the behavior that leads to misconduct and other detrimental practices. The report of this panel has been submitted for internal review using the normal process of the National Academies and thus is not yet ready for public release. Once made public, the hope of the panel is not only that their report will be of significant service, but also that it will add substantially to the ongoing conversation within the community that needs to continue. The further stimulation of this dialogue is hopefully helped by this AAAS session as it is clear that the research community including its various components/constituents need to ensure the integrity of the research process, operating with the highest standards possible.