While browsing the Office of Research Integrity’s Case studies, one case in particular stood out to me. Accusations of plagiarism, falsification of data, and fabrication of data combined to create a pretty convincing case. The level of misconduct in this case is extensive and includes fabrication of tables using data from studies performed by others, copying and pasting text word-for-word without citation, and changing reference information in an effort to elude detection. The amount of deliberate action in this case does not leave much open to interpretation. The person in question in this case was an assistant professor in the medical field, and his papers were medically oriented, which I find particularly disturbing.
The other part that I find so distressing is the deliberate nature of the misconduct. You can’t accidentally copy and paste 90% of a text and pass it off as your own work or change details in references without significant thought, but that was not enough to stop him. It makes me wonder what the motivation behind his actions were. As an assistant professor was the pressure to publish and submit grant proposals too great?
I also wonder how the misconduct was discovered considering the extent. Was each incident discovered separately? or was one document that seemed questionable discovered and opened an investigation into past submissions to journals? If that’s the case, I wonder if there is a not-insignificant amount of questionable data being published that is not caught, which is quite a disconcerting thought.