Only a small fraction of research misconduct ever comes to light. Independent investigative bodies could remedy that.
IN 2016, Sophie Jamal’s career took a turn for the worse. The bone researcher and physician was banned from federal funding for life in Canada after a committee found her guilty of manipulating data, presenting fabricated evidence to investigators, and blaming a research assistant for the fudged data. She was also ordered to pay back more than 253,000 Canadian dollars she had received in funding from the Canada Institute of Health Research. Then, in March 2018, she was stripped of her medical license.
Two years later, Jamal is back on the medical scene. According to The Toronto Sun, her medical license was reinstated after she presented evidence to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario showing that her misconduct was a direct result of her long-term mental health problems. She can now return to practicing as an endocrinologist, as long as she doesn’t conduct clinical research and continues therapy for her mental health problems.
Whether it’s fit for Jamal to return to treating patients is a matter for medical bodies and institutions in Canada to decide. What’s true is that scientists guilty of research misconduct often get away with nothing more than a slap on the wrist — that is, if they’re even caught in the first place. A survey of more than 1,100 researchers at eight European universities published earlier this year found that a large amount of research misconduct goes unreported, with early-career researchers the least likely to blow the whistle.