Effectiveness of research guidelines in prevention of scientific misconduct

Science and Engineering Ethics 1 (4):383-387 (1995)
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In response to a series of allegations of scientific misconduct in the 1980’s, a number of scientific societies, national agencies, and academic institutions, including Harvard Medical School, devised guidelines to increase awareness of optimal scientific practices and to attempt to prevent as many episodes of misconduct as possible. The chief argument for adopting guidelines is to promote good science. There is no evidence that well-crafted guidelines have had any detrimental effect on creativity since they focus on design of research studies, documentation of research findings, assignment of credit through authorship, data management and supervision of trainees, not on the origin and evolution of ideas. This paper addresses a spectrum of causes of scientific misconduct or unacceptable scientific behavior and couples these with estimates of the potential for prevention if guidelines for scientific investigation are adopted. The conclusion is that clear and understandable guidelines should help to reduce the chance that flawed research will escape from our institutions. However, they cannot be relied upon alone to prevent all instances of scientific misconduct and should be regarded rather as one means of bolstering the integrity of the entire scientific enterprise.



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