The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) recently reported multiple instances of data fabrication in publicly funded experiments. This is a grievous problem that could very well damage trust in Japan’s space exploration program.
The general public, the media and politicians can invest considerable trust and faith in public institutions. This can equate to funding and respect in institution’s research conclusion and publications. This is true of the JAXA (the Japanese public space agency). It can be big deal when there is research integrity problems at such institutions. They can be seen as a breach of public trust in that institution and can do serious harm to its reputation. For this reason, research institutions must have robust research integrity systems and policies that transparently set standards for responsible conduct and take serious action against cheats and charlatans. Beyond research misconduct, an institution’s approach must focus upon research culture at that institution and have the objective of resourcing reflective practice.
However, the research team running the experiments forged and rewrote the interview reports. It also emerged that the evaluation criteria for those reports had not been checked for their scientific validity before the experiments began. The team kept no research notes, and data recording was sloppy, including some simply jotted down in pencil.
JAXA went ahead with a major study, during which large quantities of data and samples were collected, without enough researchers capable of doing it properly.
The space agency stated in its apology over the incident that the researchers “had a dismissive attitude to the sincere collection of scientific data.” Indeed, this is conduct unworthy of a scientist.