In 2019, ORI (Office of Research Integrity) discovered that a faculty member from the University of Washington falsified and/or fabricated data so that it will support his hypothesis. This person was an Acting Assistant Professor at the Department of Pathology in the School of Medicine (he is not working there anymore, which is quite justifiable.). The study in which he engaged in research misconduct was about tumors and cancerous cells, and the manuscript was actually accepted to Nature, the world’s leading science journal for all disciplines. When the problem is revealed, according to the case summary (https://ori.hhs.gov/index.php/content/case-summary-fox-edward-j), he acknowledged that “his research records were poorly maintained and lacked the documentation necessary to support the reported preliminary results”, and he entered into a Voluntary Settlement Agreement with ORI. No need to say, but the article is not published in Nature!
What does this case show us? To me, it shows the dark and cancerous side of research. This manuscript, leave alone its highly relevant topic, must have had very interesting and impactful results to be published in Nature. Being a faculty member in a distinguished university, he probably needed such an important publication to secure his place in his institution. As a result, intentionally or unintentionally, research misconduct happened. Regardless of how it happened, it happened because the scientific approach is not completely followed. And this is what I referred to as ‘cancer’. As institutions create an environment with high publication pressure and increasing competition, researchers struggle to do their best in this unhealthy environment. Eventually, some of them get “cancer” and start misconducting. Some of them are noticed, most of them are not even noticed. As in this study, some of these studies are very relevant and important for human lives that might change very critical things such as how a cancer patient is treated. Incidents like this have a detrimental effect on the reliability of scientific research. Therefore, I think it is crucial for institutions to provide an environment not overly pressuring researchers for research outputs and causing them to have unethical ambition. Of course, it does not mean that this is the only reason – some people have this cancer of research misconduct regardless. However, my hypothesis is that the environment significantly increases research misconduct.