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ResourcesResearch IntegrityStopping the slide to research fraud – CMAJ News (Miriam Shuchman | January 2017)

Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

Stopping the slide to research fraud – CMAJ News (Miriam Shuchman | January 2017)

 


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Young researchers may feel unspoken pressure to ensure their data fit a hypothesis

During a 2016 department research retreat in Ontario, a medical school professor described cases of research fraud that had received international attention. Several students came up afterward to say they connected personally to his topic. During discussions with their research supervisors, they “felt an unspoken expectation to ensure their data fit with the hypothesis,” said the professor. “Like, if there are any outliers, get rid of it, that kind of thing.”

The professor, who declined to be named to protect the students’ identities, was surprised that he’d struck a chord. But surveys over the past several years show it’s not rare for scientists to cut corners in their work. In a 2009 meta-analysis of 18 large surveys, Daniele Fanelli of Stanford University found that up to 34% of scientists — including medical researchers — admitted “dropping data points based on a gut feeling” or other questionable research practices, and as many as 72% had seen questionable behaviour by a colleague.

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