Falsifying and Fabricating Data in Scientific Research are Unethical Actions (Case of Briones T.L.).

Most professions follow a code of ethics to provide the best quality service with professional and personal integrity. Professionals violating their code of ethics (e.g. professional misconduct) could face sanctions imposed by an ethics board, or similar entity. For instance, ethical conduct of researchers in the field of health and human services is reviewed and monitored by the Office for Research Integrity (ORI).

The case of Dr. Teresita Briones, a neuroscientist and associate professor in the College of Nursing at Wayne State University, is an example of ethical violation in scientific research and illustrates the consequences of research misconduct.

The ORI investigated Dr. Briones and found research misconduct activities in research supported by federal agencies such as the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR), National Institutes of Health (NIH).  According to the ORI, Dr. Briones misconduct, related to falsifying and fabricating data, was evident in five scientific publications and three grant applications. Specifically, Dr. Briones intentionally and knowingly duplicated, reused, and falsely relabeled images of tests and claimed they originated from different experiments.

As of April-7-2015, the ORI issued sanctions, and both parties agreed on the following:

  • The five scientific publications to be voluntarily retracted from the scientific journals.
  • Dr. Briones agreed to exclude herself (for three years) from:
    • Contracting and subcontracting with any US agency.
    • Any advisory capacity for the US Public Health Service, board, peer-review committee or consultant.

Follow the link below for detailed information regarding this case (http://ori.hhs.gov/content/case-summary-briones-teresita-l)

To date (April-15-2015), I was able to access online all the publications in question. Her publications are in well-stablished journals with restricted and open access. I imagine that the process of removing publications after they are released is very slow. It would be interesting to see how long it takes for the publications to disappear online.

In summary, this case shows the importance of following professional ethical codes and the ability of a regulatory agency to detect and impose sanctions for professional misconduct.

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