Ethics in Research

I found a case from ORI’s website about Dr. Gareth John, a researcher at Mount Sinai’s medical school. I didn’t understand the technical details of the case, but in summary, he falsified a few medical samples and fabricated a set of corresponding data that he used in his publications. After being investigated, Dr. John entered into a settlement agreement with ORI. His research must be supervised for 1 year and his institution must submit certification that any of his research-based findings, procedures, and other related items are legitimately discovered. Another aspect of his punishment is correcting his falsified data in the journal hosting his publications.

Ethics is a critical aspect of one’s career; while publishing misleading data can benefit a researcher immediately, the long-term effects are not worth the risk. Dr. John’s reputation was most likely smeared. The link to his lab’s website is broken, and he holds a different job title on LinkedIn. Although I’m speculating, these changes are most likely the result of his misconduct. ORI’s website has many case summaries related to research misconduct. Frankly, I’m surprised to learn that this much tampering exists–and this is just within the medical field. One question I’ve always had is how one becomes accused of misconduct. My best guess is that someone reads the published (and falsified) paper in a journal, performs a similar experiment, obtains radically different results, investigates the falsified article in-depth, and reports the article via the proper channels.

I also wonder what happens if someone in a lab group reports internal misconduct to an authority. This is a crude example, but in the recent Marvel movie Venom, researcher Carlton Drake performs underground experiments on humans that end horribly. Dora Skirth, a scientist who works in Drake’s lab, disapproves of these experiments and reports them to journalist Eddie Brock, who publicizes the human trials. If this scenario happened in reality, would Dora Skirth be granted amnesty if the lab was dissolved? Even so, she would still be associated with the lab within the research community, so her reputation would still be damaged…unless she was granted anonymity as a means of protection. Does ORI have protocol for similar situations? I plan to read more into ORI’s procedures; they have detailed documents pertaining to handling protocol.

One thought on “Ethics in Research”

  1. So there was a case of a group of graduate students reporting their advisor for research misconduct a while back. This led to a lot of backlash to the students even though they reported it anonymously (somehow words got out). By the end of everything, some of the graduate students had quit and did not pursue an academic career anymore. Some did stay but switched field. The professor in question did lose her job, but it also costed her students their career lives.


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