Australia must establish a watchdog to police its scientists, an inquiry into one of the country’s worst research misconduct scandals has found.
There is plenty of evidence that the self-regulation of research institutions investigating and adjudicating on the alleged research misconduct by its own researchers is fundamentally compromised by institutional conflicts of interest. This is not the first call for an independent and expert national body, but it does highlight why the current approach is failing. There really is no incentive for transparency, prompt and fearless action. Things need to substantially change.
The finding, by former South Australian Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Bruce Lander, increases pressure on the federal government to finally establish the equivalent of the United States’ Office of Research Integrity.
A review of the Australian Research Council – which the government is still considering – recommended it be given a legislated role in policing research misconduct.
Lander was appointed by Brisbane-based QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute to investigate allegations of research misconduct and bullying by Professor Mark Smyth, one of Australia’s leading cancer scientists.
QIMR referred Smyth to anti-corruption authorities in 2021. He has never responded publicly to the allegations.