Reflection Post on Ethics

For the ethics blog post, I was looking at research misconduct by Dr. Prasadrao Nemani. The case consists of the inclusion of falsified images and fabricated data in a published paper and leveraging the same information in several grants submitted for the U.S. Public Health Services (PHS). On being found guilty, the respondent (Dr. Nemani) entered into a settlement that can be summarized in a few points as follows:

  • Having the research supervised by a committee of 2-3 senior faculty members for a period of 4 years. This committee would be familiar with the area of research but not include any of the direct supervisors. This includes a quarterly review of the research and submission of a report to ORI after every 2 reviews
  • Plan of supervision is submitted to the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) before submission of an application for any grants or funds related to PHS
  • Further, some more restrictions include not being able to serve as an advisor to PHS, restrictions on the employing agency, etc.

I think that for this specific case, a voluntary settlement from a third-person point of view might be considered as an admission of guilt. It would also be helpful to know the circumstances under which the act was performed. If it was willful misconduct under an assumption that no one would be bothered it should be treated severely. However, given the comparatively lighter punishment handed out, I think this could have been a case where the researcher was looking into having publications to establish his credibility for further grants.  Though this behavior can not be termed ethical, an important aspect here is that in certain sectors, the approval of grants is based on prior work. There is a chance that this might have been the case. One solution is the judgment of grants being based on the idea of the proposal itself but that too has certain drawbacks as a new person needs to get used to the types of deadline and having the project deliverables completed on time. Ensuring this might require constant inputs and feedback from some type of committee of the funding agency.

Further, the punishments do not address the mechanism of rectification of past work. Given that the research is pertaining to the health field, I think there should be some mechanism to address this issue. Also, I am not sure of the exact working code of the ORI but I think it would also be beneficial if information related to the repercussions this misconduct has caused would be disclosed in the case summary.