A research misconduct can be defined as proposing, presenting, or reviewing false information. This information can be fabricated, falsified, or plagiarized. The research misconduct can be done at any phase of the research and is very difficult to know. The three types of research misconduct can be as follows.
Fabrication is the invention of fake ideas that do not exist in reality. In today’s technical advancement there are researchers who try to present or propose ideas through fake experiments and they try to change the data to prove the hypothesis true. It is very difficult to find fabrication in data or its analysis. It is possible for a researcher to present a data that has never been collected. Data that is never been collected or fabricated does have loopholes that expert jury can detect. The jury can check the originality of data by cross-questioning the researcher. Those researchers who truly conduct the research know the answers to every question related to their research. Their confidence in answering the question proves their originality and honesty in research.
The purpose of research is to find truth and to seek knowledge not to present fabricated ideas. In today’s commercial world some people conduct research to get monetary benefits. Such people do not think about the originality, creativity, and genuineness of ideas. Every research should be conducted with an aim for the betterment of society directly or indirectly. When new scientists apply for patents for their innovations the innovation should have to be genuine as well as it should have some utility.
Falsification is distorting and manipulating research in any way at any step of the research. False data can be presented by the researcher to prove the credibility of ideas. This can be done by the researcher to gain monetary benefits or to gain respect in the scientific world. There are strict laws regarding new innovations and discoveries and a scientist a new idea is not approved until the scientist can prove its worth. Regardless of these laws there are scientists and researchers who falsely concoct data and present it to be true.
When several authors are working together on a research they have a responsibility to check the authenticity of the information that each of them is presenting. They should question each other for any loopholes or errors and should make sure that none of them is guilty of falsification of any information in the research. There have been cases in the past where one of the author falsified information while others did not know about it. Later that researcher admitted his falsification. Falsification bring your degree, job, or career at stake.
Plagiarism is presenting someone else’s idea as your own with little or no change. Sometimes researchers do conscious plagiarism while other times it is unconscious. A researcher unconsciously commits plagiarism if the source is not credited properly. Plagiarism is literary theft and punishable by law. A person who commits plagiarism put his scientific career on risk. Plagiarism also threatens the reputation of science and research. Plagiarism is worst breach of scientific standards and lowers trust in science.
What is considered research misconduct?
A research is checked in several ways before considered as research misconduct. Insignificant breaches cannot be considered misconduct. If insignificant errors or false information is found in a research the researcher is asked to correct and present it again. If there is major misconduct in the research the researcher can risk his/her career and can be punished according to law.
- The misconduct should be of major and significant intensity to be considered as a misconduct. Minor errors and misreporting in research can not be considered as research misconduct. Major misconduct may include reporting of someone else’s ideas or altering research results. A major misconduct has significant threat to science and should not be published.
- Misconduct of research is also intentional in nature. An error or problem in research that happens by mistake cannot be considered a misconduct. Errors that occur by mistake are also not major in nature, they are usually small errors that can be corrected by the researcher. Although it is difficult to prove that an error is intentional most researcher in such instances claim that it occurred by mistake and not be intention.
- The misconduct should be proved by evidences. A panel of jury cannot say that a research is misguided and wrongly reported to them until they are able to prove it. The plagiarism is easy to detect than falsification and fabrication of data and results.
- Research misconduct does not include differences of opinion or errors and mistakes in research that are not intentional in nature.
- On Being a Scientist: A Guide to Responsible Conduct in Research. (2009). 3rd Ed. The National Academies Press. Washington D. C. https://www.nap.edu/read/12192/chapter/6#16
- The Office of Research Integrity. https://ori.hhs.gov/definition-misconduct