For our assignment to blog about a case of research misconduct listed on the Office of Research Integrity‘s website, I selected a case from 2012 in which former University of Kentucky researcher, Eric J. Smart was found to have falsified and fabricated data included in several manuscripts and grant applications. Through their investigation, ORI determined that in many of the reports, Dr. Smart presented data from mice that never existed in the laboratory at the time the research was supposedly conducted. What I find most intriguing about this is that Dr. Smart was not the sole author of these manuscripts. Several individuals share authorship, yet others listed appear to still have their jobs. While specifics of the investigation were not available, I wonder why other people listed as authors were seemingly not involved with the data collection (aka the lack thereof) to call out this out, as well as why they were not punished as well.
More concerning than the individual cases of research misconduct are the implications for the fields of study as a whole. For instance, the papers which were retracted following the 2012 closing of the investigation were primarily published in the early 2000s. That is 12 years of this data potentially being cited as correct and having implications for medical practice and additional research questions. Furthermore, it is likely that research dollars were wasted in an attempt to replicate the findings of this group without success. While sanctions need to occur when research misconduct is detected, arguably more important is the creation of procedures which prevent deceit from occurring in the first place.
What policies and procedures are in place in your lab group or department which limit the chance of research misconduct occurring?