science, if not properly addressed, can undermine the reasons for doing and supporting science itself.
Misconduct in science wastes time and resources. Misconduct can mislead scientists and waste the efforts of those who try to build on reported results. It requires substantial effort to correct false claims. Plagiarism can discourage scientists who see their contributions stolen or misrepresented by others and can damage honest reputations and the intellectual audit trail that affects the history of science.
Misconduct can lead to injuries and harmful consequences. Significant harm can result if false claims influence public health or technical or political decisions. Although mechanisms of self-correction may expose false claims, they are not designed to detect or deter misconduct in science. False information relating to medical procedures, for example, may lead to mistreatment of patients. Falsehoods should be publicly corrected, as soon as possible, to prevent such damage. We should not wait for the slow corrective action of further research. Similar comments apply in other areas of science in which false reports may have adverse practical consequences.
The time interval between the release and application of initial research reports in medical treatment, commercial products, services, and public policy decisions is diminishing. Resources for replicative research may not be available in some areas of research. Thus correction of research results, through replicative or related research efforts, is not a panacea; neither is it always timely.
Misconduct by scientists, and weak institutional responses to these incidents, can lead to counter-productive regulation and control. The image of scientists cheating in their laboratories is deeply disturbing to scientists themselves and to members of the public who have generally held scientists in high esteem. Even a few well-publicized cases of misconduct in science, particularly when such cases involve prominent individuals at respected institutions, have stimulated legal and administrative demands for accountability that divert funds and attention from scholarly purposes, interfere with the traditional autonomy granted to science, and malign the status of reputable scientists and their institutions.
Misconduct in science can undermine public support of science. Misconduct is one part of a larger public examination of scientific and educational institutions. Public confidence in the methods by which scientists maintain the integrity of the research process can be eroded when misconduct occurs in a social environment that is already disturbed by, for example, reports of misuse of the indirect costs associated with research funds, and other behaviors that violate public trust.