Research fraud costs dear
24 August 2010
Researchers have estimated that the direct cost of an investigation into a case of scientific misconduct is $525,000 (£341,000).
Investigating scientific misconduct can be very costly
In the last reporting year, the Office of Research Integrity received reports of 217 cases of alleged misconduct in the US. According to this new model, the direct cost of investigating these would exceed $110 million.
Arthur Michalek led the research primarily as an academic study but hopes his work will encourage institutions to provide a better understanding of academic misconduct for their staff. 'Institutions may not prioritise funding for training [in this area] or may even want to avoid the issue completely,' he says.
University of Basel chemist Andreas Pfaltz chaired the investigating committee into the recent allegations of data falsification made against Peter Chen of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich. Pfaltz does not see the advantage of estimating the monetary costs of academic misconduct. 'Most of the costs discussed in this paper are virtual costs and I do not think that $525,000 is a realistic estimate. I don't see the benefit of doing such a cost estimate - what counts the most is the scientific damage caused by fraud.'
In the case of Peter Chen, the actual costs of the investigation were low but if one translates the time spent by the people involved in the investigation into salary costs, it adds up to vast sums. But the financial consequences aside, Pfaltz believes that dealing with academic misconduct is the obligation of the academic community. 'Such an investigation belongs to the duties of an academic job, just like reviewing grant applications and papers,' he says.
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ReferencesA Michalek et al, PLoS Medicine, 2010, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1000318
Also of interest
15 January 2010
China called on to ensure researchers' scientific integrity after UK-based journal is forced to retract dozens of Chinese papers with falsified data
11 December 2009
US politicians raise pressure on scientists to ensure research legitimacy after email leak suggesting unethical practices at University of East Anglia
24 September 2009
Peter Chen is stepping down as research director of ETH Zurich over allegations of data falsification
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