Questionable Research Practices

Public Perceptions of Scientists:
Questionable Research Practices
Nov 21, 2014
Ed Krug
BioE room 101
[email protected]
Lack of integrity leading to findings of research
misconduct are increasingly in the news
An Unwelcome Discovery
“…fabricating more than a decade’s worth of scientific data on
obesity, menopause and aging, much of it while conducting clinical
research as a tenured faculty member at the University of Vermont.”
University Suspects Fraud by a Researcher Who
Studied Red Wine
“A charge of widespread scientific fraud, involving 26 articles
published in 11journals, was leveled by…”
Is unethical behavior in conducting research
getting worse or … is there a greater
awareness of its impact?
Actual incidence of research misconduct (FFP)
is rather low – about 10-15 findings published per
year nationally (out of ~400 investigations) – but
occurrence of at least one “questionable” practice
is quite high – about 25% of all investigators
(includes students, postdocs, and faculty)
Examples of QRP: • Neglecting negative
outcomes • Using inappropriate statistics to
support one’s hypothesis • Inappropriate
research design • Leaving out relevant controls •
Inappropriate re-use of controls • Removal of
‘outliers’ • Conscious bias • Unethical
experimentation • Peer review abuse
Questionable Research Practices Survey
Martinson et al. (2005). Nature 435:737-738.
Self-admission of questionable research
practices by academic psychologists
n = 2,155
LK John et al. (2012). Psychol. Sci. 23:524-532.
Prevalence of doubting the integrity of research by others
LK John et al. (2012). Psychol. Sci. 23:524-532.
The ability to rationalize questionable research
practices … do the ends justify the means?
“Consistent with the notion that latitude for
rationalization is positively associated with
engagement in QRPs, our findings showed that
respondents who admitted to a QRP tended to
think that their actions were defensible.”
LK John et al. (2012). Psychol. Sci. 23:524-532.
“The truth of the matter is that you always know
the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it.”
General Norman Schwarzkopf
Evolution of the AIDS pandemic involved
questionable research practices
“And the Band Played On” Main Characters
Mika Popovic (Alex
Courtney) - Gallo’s colleague
Don Francis (Matthew
Modine) - CDC
Robert Gallo (Alan Alda) NIH chief investigator
Luc Montagnier (Patrick
Bauchau) - Pasteur Institute
chief investigator
Bill Kraus (Ian McKellen) gay activist
Marc Conant (Richard
Jenkins) - physician
Max Essex (Peter McRobbie)
- mentor and colleague of
Don Francis
Jim Curran (Saul Rubinek) CDC head administrator
Harold Jaffe (Charles Martin
Smith) - CDC
Francoise Barre (Nathalie
Baye) - Montagnier colleague
Make two lists as you watch the video:
• Actions by individuals that seem wrong or
• Conflicts between individuals or groups that may
have had the greatest impact on facilitating the
current AIDS epidemic

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