Research Integrity Day

Everyone has a role and responsibility to play in promoting a healthy and positive research culture that is conducive to the training of young scientists and the realization of scientific innovations for the benefits of humankind. – National Institute of Health

The IFMSA Research Integrity Day is a chance to keep learning about Research, with a special regard on integrity.

What is Research Integrity?

Why is it so important to have research skills and to have research methodologies integrated in the undergraduate education?The scientific research enterprise is built on a deep foundation of trust: “this trust will endure only if the scientific community devotes itself to exemplifying and transmitting the values associated with ethical scientific conduct”. The concept of Research integrity includes: the use of honest and verifiable methods in proposing, performing, and evaluating research; reporting research results with particular attention to adherence to rules, regulations, guidelines and following commonly accepted professional codes or norms.

In 1974 Dr. William Summerlin at the New York City’s Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research startled the scientific world by reporting that he had discovered a way to avoid the reaction that has resulted in the failure of so many transplant operations: the tendency of the body’s immune system to destroy foreign tissue. But other scientists were unable to repeat Summerlin’s experiments, and skepticism about his results grew steadily. Since when Summerlin was accused by colleagues of painting the skin of some laboratory mice. “Painting the mice” has become a synonym for research fraud, after his deceptive behavior that might have been due to a combination of mental and physical exhaustion, a heavy clinical and experimental workload, and pressure to publicize positive results. This is just a old story but there are many similar ones till nowadays.

In many scientific fields, results are often difficult to reproduce accurately, being obscured by noise, artifacts, and other extraneous data. That means that even if a scientist does falsify data, they can expect to get away with it – or at least claim innocence if their results conflict with others in the same field. There are no “scientific police” who are trained to fight scientific crimes; all investigations are made by experts in science but amateurs in dealing with criminals. It is relatively easy to cheat although difficult to know exactly how many scientists fabricate data.

Ghostwriting is another example of cheating, the phenomenon where someone other than the named author(s) makes a major contribution. This is somethign to hide the drug companies. It incorporates plagiarism and has an additional element of financial fraud.

Career pressure: watch out! Science is still a very strongly career-driven discipline. Scientists depend on a good reputation to receive ongoing support and funding, and a good reputation relies largely on the publication of high-profile scientific papers. Hence, there is a strong imperative to “publish or perish”. Clearly, this may motivate desperate (or fame-hungry) scientists to fabricate results.

Would you like to know more? And share your experiences? Join us! You can find here our Research Integrity Package to participate to the online campaign: http://tinyurl.com/ifmsaresearchintegrityday

You will also find details about what you could do at national level and give your contribution by filling the survey about your personal experience. The IFMSA Working Group on Research Integrity is currently conducting a survey to study the status of medical education worldwide, with a focus on the implementation of research related programmes. It would be great if you could involve as many Universities as you can in your countries, to spread the Research values at local level and to inspire the students to organize initiatives.

Join us also on our Facebook event and please use our official hashtags #IFMSAResearchIntegrity and #ifmsaRI2015 to promote your initiatives on social media!

Entry written by Ivana Di Salvo, IFMSA Liaison Officer for Research and Medical Association (lorma@ifmsa.org)

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