Ethical misconduct in research

The office of Research Integrity (ORI) is responsible for supervising public health research misconduct. In my opinion, fabricating data and misleading scientific experiments is very bad, however doing this in the medical field is even worse. It’s worse because the relationship between a doctor and a patient is built on trust. Trust that the doctor, who holds all the scientific knowledge, will make the best decision to treat the patient’s body and mind, and ultimately heal the patient. How is the doctor supposed to make a qualified decision if the science he’s using to back his decision up is fabricated? More importantly, how is the patient supposed to trust the doctor in the same scenario?

For me, this only highlights the importance of the ORI institution. Gladly, while browsing through their website, I could only find 33 of research misconduct cases since 2015, which makes me believe in the integrity of the majority of researchers in the area.

The case I chose to study, referred to a Psychiatric scientist who not only fabricated data, but also lied about the qualification of personnel responsible for conducting the psychiatric analysis in their research, and also used 6 NIH grant money for personal expenses, ultimately misleading the publication of 4 scientific papers. This scientist has agreed to take a 2 year absence of any contracting with the United States government, 4 years absence for serving in any advisory capacity, and removal of the published scientific papers from press. Also, a quick google on his name lead to greater detail of the case, not included in the ORI website. The sentence included the payment of over $70.000 to the government as well as an obligation to play piano in elderly homes for 2 hours a week.

This case is hopefully rare, and studying this case made me believe in the integrity of scientists. Not because of this particular scientist who was sentenced, but because his peers were likely responsible for identifying the misconduct and to inform it to authorities.

Are mission statements in fact applied? – My perspective

Today I’d like to go over the mission statements of two universities from different countries. I chose to compare the mission of these specific universities, because I had the honor to study in both of them, and therefore can provide the insight of someone who’s been able to experience learning in these institutions, as well as to discuss whether their mission statements are in fact implemented to the students experience.

State University of Sao Paulo:

At UNESP, we highly value the principles of free speech and critical thinking as well as ethical and humanistic principles; so, it is our mission to bring you education, research and outreach activities that uphold these principles.

In addition, we promote professionalization which aims to improve: the quality of life of both individuals and society; technological innovation, sustainability, social equity, human rights and democratic access.

Also, through the transformative power of knowledge sharing, we are seeking to incite impactful changes that will help to overcome inequalities as well as to empower citizens to fully exercise their rights.

Virginia Tech:

Inspired by our land-grant identity and guided by our motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech is an inclusive community of knowledge, discovery, and creativity dedicated to improving the quality of life and the human condition within the Commonwealth of Virginia and throughout the world.

In general, both universities have a similar mission of developing their communities and promote diversity and inclusion. In practice, Virginia Tech is highly diverse, as the students in the university come from all over the world (including myself). Virginia Tech also plays an important role in promoting these different cultures to form their own communities on campus, ultimately promoting a very broad cultural environment.

The State University of Sao Paulo is inclusive in a way that it offers great quality teaching free of tuition and fees for all students. Although there is a difficult selective process based on merit, this allows access of education for those who are less fortunate. In addition, the university has 24 campi spread across the state, which ultimately provides education outreach.

Distribution of State University of Sao Paulo campi across the State

The Brazilian university however, seems to have a more political goal as stated “we are seeking to incite impactful changes that will help to overcome inequalities as well as to empower citizens to fully exercise their rights.”, whereas Virginia Tech defines it’s mission broadly as developing the community’s quality of life. In practice, the Brazilian university is, indeed more politically driven. Since it is a public university, not only the institution, but often the students and professors will adopt a political position, which often results in strikes.