I would like to start with defining the three “cardinal sins” of research conduct: falsification, fabrication, and plagiarism (resource: Link):
- Falsification is the changing or omission of research results (data) to support claims, hypotheses, other data, etc.
- Fabrication is the construction and/or addition of data, observations, or characterizations that never occurred in the gathering of data or running of experiments.
- Plagiarism is using or representing the work of others as your own work, even if committed unintentionally.
Following is the case summary of a research misconduct done by Maria Cristina Miron Elqutub, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (resource: Link). The Office of Research Integrity (ORI) found that Ms. Maria Cristina Miron Elqutub, Research Interviewer at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC), was engaged in research misconduct in research supported by National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), National Institutes of Health (NIH), grant U01 DE019765-01. ORI found that Respondent engaged in research misconduct by intentionally and knowingly falsifying and/or fabricating data that were included in the following two (2) published papers and two (2) grant progress reports submitted to NIDCR and NIH. As the result, Dr. Elqutub agreed to have her research supervised for a period of three (3) years, and exclude herself voluntarily from serving in any advisory capacity to the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS).
Author’s Opinion: While there are quite few number of research misconduct reports on ORI scholarly integrity website, I believe there should be more of them based on the increasing number of publications around the world. Therefore, I did some research on this topic and found a great paper titled “How Many Scientists Fabricate and Falsify Research? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Survey Data” by Daniele Fanelli. The paper argues how difficult it is to measure the frequency with which scientists fabricate and falsify data, or commit other forms of scientific misconduct. With some assumptions on around 20 surveys, a pooled weighted average of 1.97% (N = 7, 95%CI: 0.86–4.45) of scientists admitted to have fabricated, falsified or modified data or results at least once. The good news is that recently some statistical tools have been introduced to detect potential data fabrication automatically (resource: Link). From my point of view, such tools can have a key role to stop research misconduct in the future.