The survey of 2700 doctors and scientists found one in seven (13%) had, “witnessedcolleagues intentionally altering or fabricating data during theirresearch or for the purposes of publication”.
That manipulation included, “inappropriately adjusting, excluding, altering, or fabricating data”.
162 respondents (6%) said they were aware of possible misconduct within their own institution that had not been investigated sufficiently.
“UK science and medicine deserve better. Doing nothing is not an option,” said Dr Fiona Godlee, BMJ editor in chief.
“While our survey can’t provide a true estimate of how much research misconduct there is in the UK, it does show that there is a substantial number of cases and that UK institutions are failing to investigate adequately, if at all.”
“The BMJ has been told of junior academics being advised to keep concerns to themselves to protect their careers, being bullied into not publishing their findings, or having their contracts terminated when they spoke out.”
Committee on Public Ethics (COPE) chair, Dr Elizabeth Wager, added: “This survey chimes with our experience from COPE where we see many cases of institutions not cooperating with journals and failing to investigate research misconduct properly.”
BMJ noted the survey mirrored one conducted in 2001 that found similar levels of fabrication awareness.
Dr Godlee and Dr Wager issued a joint BMJ editorial recently that stated: “There are enough known or emerging cases tosuggest that the UK’s apparent shortage of publicly investigatedexamples has more to do with a closed, competitive, and fearfulacademic culture than with Britain’s researchers being uniquelyhonest.”
Resveratrol research scandal
Dr Dipak Das, a longtime researcher of the red wine antioxidant, resveratrol, was accused this month by his former employer, the University of Connecticut, of fabricating data on at least 145 occasions, in 26 research papers published in 11 journals over seven years.
The University had taken part in a three-year investigation before going public this month with its allegations that Dr Das enagaged in systematic alteration of a type of data called Western Blot images which plot data - usually by Photoshop manipulation on his computer.
Those allegations are refuted on the grounds of a racist conspiracy by Dr Das, but aside from a statement from his lawyer, the Dr has remained largely silent on the affair as he recovers from a heart complaint in India.
He did however send a brief statement to NutraIngredients from his sick bed, and statements he sent to the UConn in response to the investigation the summer of 2010 have surfaced. There Dr Das asserts the same racist defence and conspiracy to defraud him by envious academic rivals.
Professor Lindsay Brown,professor of biomedical sciences at the University of Southern Queensland, was at a Free Radical Society conference in Kolcatta, India, where Dr Das spoke two weeks ago on January 13 about Western Blots before being struck down by a stroke and hospitalised.
"This is the end of his career. He will be remembered for this scientific fraud and for little else," Professor Brown told The Australian newspaper.
Commenting on the website Retraction Watch, someone known as Mallika observed: “I am a grad student at UCHC. I did know a couple of people in Dr Das’s lab and interacted with them outside the lab. I was always surprised at how rapidly they seemed to produce data and got tons of publications where we struggle to get our experiments and papers out.”
British Medical Journal
‘Scientific misconduct is worryingly prevalent in the UK, shows BMJ survey’
Author: Aniket Tavare