Research needs an authoritative forum to hash out collective problems, argue C. K. Gunsalus, Marcia K. McNutt and colleagues
When it comes to fostering rigour and scientific integrity, US research institutions are stuck. Working out best practice is far from straightforward, and faculty members can be resistant to top-down directives. So, on a day-to-day basis, the conventions that research groups have for documenting methods and results, conducting analyses and allocating credit are often less than optimal. At worst, they can encourage dishonesty and scandal. For example, in April 2017, Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, and its health-care network agreed to pay US$10 million to settle fraud allegations in stem-cell research funding. (Researchers contest who is at fault.) The hospital has requested retractions of more than 30 papers, and a clinical trial involving more than 100 participants has been paused while data are reviewed. Resources that might have brought better medical care have been squandered.
Calls in the US for a Research Policy Board (RPB) describe an approach that warrants serious consideration in Australasian countries. It has the potential to address problems that have haunted governments and frustrated institutions, researchers and research offices.
In the United States, a fractured, inefficient, inconsistent system has built up over the past 70 years to protect research quality and integrity. Separate and sometimes overlapping mechanisms focus on distinct areas, such as oversight of trial participants and animal subjects, data management, financial transactions and declarations of interest.