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ResourcesHuman Research EthicsAre you liable for misconduct by scientific collaborators? What a recent court decision could mean for scientists – Retraction Watch (Richard Goldstein | August 2018)

Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

Are you liable for misconduct by scientific collaborators? What a recent court decision could mean for scientists – Retraction Watch (Richard Goldstein | August 2018)

Published/Released on August 13, 2018 | Posted by Admin on August 19, 2018 / , , , , , , ,
 


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Retraction Watch readers may have followed our coverage of the case of Christian Kreipke, a former Wayne State researcher who was recently barred from U.S. Federal funding for five years. That punishment followed years of allegations and court cases, along with half a dozen retractions. The case has been complicated, to say the least, and led to a 126-page decision by a judge last month. Here, Boston-based attorney Richard Goldstein, who represented the scientist in Bois v. HHS, the first case to overturn a funding ban by the U.S. Office of Research Integrity (ORI), tries to explain what it could all mean.

While this is a US case relating to lab-based research it is a salutary warning for research leaders in Australasia. It is possible to imagine such a case for qualitative researchers out in the field and for other designs and disciplines. When you are in one location and a colleague is elsewhere it is practically impossible to know if they conducted their work responsibly and appropriately. But court actions like this show if you’re the senior colleague you will be held to be accountable, with potentially devastating consequences.

Can you commit research misconduct if you fail to detect false data from another scientist?
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The answer is yes and here’s how it can happen.
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You work in a well-regarded laboratory that receives government funding. You are frequently a principal investigator (PI) and a lead author. The lab suffered from some disorganization so when you took over, you demanded quality work and hired a new lab administrator.
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Things are generally good but life in the laboratory is demanding.  The size of the lab makes it impossible for you to validate every piece of data.  So, you often have to trust that a colleague’s work is reliable and truthful, including from collaborators at other facilities.  Funding, as always, is a problem, which means you can’t buy enough equipment and data security software; tracking who did what is difficult.  Some lab employees (inherited from your predecessor) have professional or ‘personnel’ issues and you suspect some will leave the laboratory. And of course, there is growing pressure to publish, attend conferences, make new findings, and to keep the funding stream going.  There is never enough time.

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