When we consider ethics in the discipline, one conversational topic that sometimes comes up is a question of accountability: when people are not being ethical, who is able to step-in and holds folks accountable?
When it comes to the sciences the answer, at least some of the time, is The Office for Research Integrity (ORI). ORI is the entity that is tasked with investigating allegations of research misconduct among many other things. For this post I’m going to focus on one of the cases that ORI investigated last year.
In the case at hand, Meredith Forbes, a (now former) graduate student at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine (AECM) is found to have engaged in research misconduct while working on research funded by the NIH and other institutes. Specifically, Forbes fabricated data in both papers and presentations. As a quick example, Forbes photoshopped images that they used in several of their papers. Although there are a lot of other nuances to the case, including the interesting revelation that Forbes told her advisor about the falsification of data of her own volition during a dissertation meeting, I’m going to spend time on the results of the case.
In this instance, Forbes agreed to apply for no grants from government funded agencies, to not work for those agencies, and to not serve in an advisory capacity for the US Public Health Service (PHS). From the case study, I’m assuming that all the papers in question were retracted and in tandem with the other voluntary censures were the formal sanctions.
However, I think that it would be interesting to know if, across the cases, there is a difference in the types of sanctions, and the severity of the sanctions, with respect to various identities including race, gender, ethnicity, institution, etc. While I don’t have enough space in this post to investigate this question, I think it is something that we must keep in mind when looking at the types of sanctions and the enforcement of ethics within various disciplines.