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RESPONSIBLE SCIENCE: Ensuring the Integrity of the Research Process
possibly aided by outside mediators, are additional tools to use in addressing these disputes.
The issues associated with conflict of interest in the academic research environment are sufficiently problematic that they deserve thorough study and analysis by major academic and scientific organizations, including the National Academy of Sciences.
The research environment is stressful and yet conducive to the remarkable productivity of researchers. The rewards for successful research are greater now than in the past, but today's rapid pace of development may undermine critical internal checks and balances and may increase opportunities for misrepresentation or distortion of research results.
Misconduct in Science—Incidence and Significance
The panel found that existing data are inadequate to draw accurate conclusions about the incidence of misconduct in science or of questionable research practices. The panel points out that the number of confirmed cases of misconductin science is low compared to the level of research activity in theUnited States. However, as with all forms of misconduct, underreportingmay be significant; federal agencies have only recently imposed proceduraland reporting requirements that may yield larger numbers of reportedcases. Any misconduct comes at a price to scientists, their researchinstitutions, and society. Thus every case of misconduct in scienceis serious and requires attention.
Handling Allegations of Misconduct in Science—Institutional Responses and Experience
Government agencies, congressional oversight committees, and academic institutions generally agree that the primary responsibility forhandling complaints of misconductin science rests with the researchorganization. However, the development and implementation of policies and procedures for handling misconduct in science have been problematic. Some universities, particularly small research institutions, are not prepared to accept responsibility for pursuing allegations of misconduct in science. 5 It is difficult for any institution to investigate members of its own community, especially individuals who hold positions of high esteem. In addition, some research institutions and