Scientific Research Needs Oversight
Written by Editor   
Sunday, April 16, 2017 12:38 PM

A recent report encourages improved management of scientific research. It is necessary for all involved in performing, managing, funding, and communicating research to commit to improving practices.

Scientific research needs to be better managed to reduce the incidence of fraud, retractions of research papers, and undue influence of industry, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine said.

Serious cases of research misconduct — including some that have gone undetected for years — continue to emerge with disturbing regularity in the United States and around the world. Increases in the number and percentage of research articles that are retracted and growing concern about low rates of reproducibility in some research fields raise questions about how the research enterprise can better ensure that investments in research produce reliable knowledge.  It is necessary for all of us involved in performing, managing, funding, and communicating research to commit to improving practices in our own organizations and disciplines as well as more broadly, the report notes.

New forms of detrimental research practices are also appearing, such as 'predatory' journals that do little or no editorial review or quality control of papers while also charging authors substantial fees, and predatory conferences that charge researchers to speak at conferences that subsequently are cancelled," the report continued. It also cited the problem of "ghost authorship" of industry-produced papers.

The national academies last wrote about this issue in 1992, the report author noted.  It was long overdue to come back and look at this again. Our original intent was an update of the 1992 report; the fact of the matter is that things have changed so much ... it really needed a fresh look.

To address these problems, the authors made several recommendations, including:

  • All stakeholders in research should improve and update their practices and policies to promote integrity.

  • Research institutions should maintain the highest standards for research conduct, going beyond simple compliance with federal regulations.

  • Research institutions and federal agencies should ensure that good-faith whistleblowers are protected and that their concerns are addressed quickly and thoroughly.

  • A Research Integrity Advisory Board (RIAB) should be established as an independent nonprofit organization to work with all stakeholders.

  • Societies and journals should develop clear standards on authorship.

  • Research sponsors and journal and book publishers should ensure that information sufficient for reproducing the reported results is made available at the time of publication or as soon as possible after publication.

  • Federal funding agencies and other research sponsors should allocate sufficient funds for long-term storage, archiving, and access of datasets and code needed to replicate published findings.

  • To avoid unproductive duplication of research and to permit effective judgments on the statistical significance of findings, researchers should routinely disclose all statistical tests carried out, including negative findings. 

  • Researchers, research sponsors, and research institutions should continue to develop and assess more effective education and other programs that support the integrity of research.