than fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism; hence, the responses of institutions to allegations may vary.
Scientists and their institutions should act to discourage questionable research practices (QRPs) through a broad range of formal and informal methods in the research environment. They should also accept responsibility for determining which questionable research practices are serious enough to warrant institutional penalties. But the methods used by individual scientists and research institutions to address questionable research practices should be distinct from those for handling misconduct in science. In addition, different scientific fields may approach the task of defining QRPs in varying ways. For instance, in some fields the practice of salami publishing—deliberately dividing research results into the “least publishable units” to increase the count of one’s publications—is seen as more questionable than in other fields.
The circumstances surrounding potential violations of scientific standards are so varied that it is impossible to lay out a checklist of what should be done. Suspicions are best raised in the form of questions rather than allegations. Expressing concern about a situation or asking for clarification generally works better than making charges. When questioning the actions of others, it is important to remain objective, fair, and unemotional. In some cases, it may be possible to talk with the person suspected of violating standards—perhaps the suspicion arose through a misunderstanding. But such discussions often are not possible or do not have a satisfactory outcome.
Another possibility is to discuss the situation with a good friend or trusted adviser. The possible consequences of this option need to be thoroughly considered in advance. Concerns about misconduct generally should be kept confidential, so a friend or adviser needs to be able to ensure confidentiality or to be honest about when confidentiality cannot be ensured. Sometimes the broad outlines of a case can be discussed without revealing details.