Scientific integrity affects us all

The case that I have chosen to blog about is “Anil Potti” from the ORI website which occurred in 2015, a great example of straightforward research misconduct.    According to the Office of Research and Misconduct, research misconduct is defined as “fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results”.  In this case, Dr. Potti was found guilty of reporting data from patients that were never enrolled in clinical trials and changing clinical data to make it fit her conclusions.

To me, as a student, sitting at my computer writing this blog, something like this seems almost unbelievable.  First of all, don’t we all want to be good researchers, and, by default, ethical?  And second, why would such an educated person feel the need to commit such a direct act of . . . well . . . wrongness.  But, the truth is that there is an incredible amount of pressure in the scientific field to publish and produce results.  As I learn more and more about being a primary investigator (either in industry or academia), I realize how much this is true.  In an ideal world, all our experiments would work out and all our grants would get funded, but, that just isn’t true.  And especially with the economy as it is and decreases in grant funding, the competition only gets worse.

Unfortunately, the effects of research misconduct go well beyond the researcher doing it.  Not only do they subject themselves to consequences, but those in their lab as well.  And, on an even broader scale, it effects the whole scientific community.  It not only reduces our credibility as a field, but also puts others’ research at risk.  Other scientists often build their own research off of what has been published.  False data can lead to wasted time and bad results for others.

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