Library Subscription: Guest
Begell Digital Portal Begell Digital Library eBooks Journals References & Proceedings Research Collections
Ethics in Biology, Engineering and Medicine: An International Journal
SJR: 0.123

ISSN Print: 2151-805X
ISSN Online: 2151-8068

Ethics in Biology, Engineering and Medicine: An International Journal

DOI: 10.1615/EthicsBiologyEngMed.2019032972
pages 1-7

Fostering Ethical Conduct of Research

Adil E. Shamoo
University of Maryland School of Medicine, 108 N. Greene Street, Baltimore, MD 21201


Researchers, like other professionals, commit misconduct in the performance of their research due to the pressure to publish, notoriety seeking, stress in the workplace, and many other reasons. Current understanding indicates that the prevalence of misconduct varies 1%−2% and can be as high as 14%. More than half of retracted papers are due to misconduct. There are many consequences of committing misconduct/scandal, but the most important one is the public's loss of confidence in the profession and its research results. Unethical research is an enormous waste of both funds and public trust. Efforts to prevent/contain misconduct have not been very successful. Estimates of the prevalence of misconduct demonstrate either no change or an increase. Current methods to prevent/contain misconduct, vague, ineffective, insufficient, or poorly implemented, include voluntary compliance with ethical norms, regulations, and standards; education and training; data validation (audit); and whistleblowing. In this paper, these five methods are combined in an individualized tool, the Research Misconduct Risk Factor Index (RMRFI).


  1. Boroush M. U.S. R&D increased by $20 billion in 2015, to $495 billion; Estimates for 2016 indicate a rise to $510 billion [monograph on the Internet]. Washington: National Science Foundation; 2017 [cited 2019 Oct 1]. Available from:

  2. National Science Foundation. Businesses spent $375 billion on R&D performance in US in 2016 [monograph on the Internet]. Washington: National Science Foundation; 2018 [cited 2019 Oct 2]. Available from:

  3. Johnson R, Watkinson A, Mabe M. The STM report: an overview of scientific and scholarly publishing, 1968-2018 [monograph on the Internet]. Washington: National Science Foundation; 2017 [cited 2019 Oct 28]. Available from:

  4. Price A. Research misconduct and its federal regulation: the origin and history of the Office of Research Integrity-with personal views by ORI's former associate director for investigative oversight. Account Res. 2013;20(5-6):291-319.

  5. Tamot R, Arsenieva D, Wright DE. The emergence of the Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) in PHS policy and practice. Account Res. 2013;20:349-368.

  6. Gold BD. Congressional activities regarding misconduct and integrity in science. In: Responsible science: ensuring the integrity of the research process, vol. II. Washington DC: National Academies Press; 1993.

  7. Shamoo AE. Data audit as a way to prevent/contain misconduct. Account Res. 2013;20(5-6):369-79.

  8. Martinson BC, Anderson MS, de Vries R. Scientists behaving badly. Nature. 2005;435:737-38.

  9. Tavare A. Scientific misconduct is worryingly prevalent in the UK, shows BMJ survey. BMJ. 2012;344:e377.

  10. Fanelli D. How many scientists fabricate and falsify research? A systematic review and meta-analysis of survey data. PLoS One. 2009;4(5):e5738.

  11. Fang FC, Steen RG, Casadevall A. Misconduct accounts for the majority of retracted scientific publications. Proc Nat Acad Sci U S A. 2012;109(42):17028-33.

  12. Van Noorden R, The trouble with retractions-a surge in withdrawn papers highlighting weakness in the system of handling them. Nature. 2011;478:26-8.

  13. Resnik DB, Shamoo AE. Fostering research integrity. Account Res. 2017;24(6):367-72.

  14. Foley KM, Gelband H, editors. Improving palliative care for cancer [monograph on the Internet]. Washington: National Academies Press; 2001 [cited 2002 Jul 9]. Available from: books/0309074029/html/.

  15. Baker M. The reproducibility crisis is good for science [monograph on the Internet]. Brooklyn, NY: Slate; 2015 [cited 2016 May 31]. Available from:

  16. Collins FS, Tabak LA. Policy: NIH plans to enhance reproducibility. Nature. 2014;505(7485):612-13.

  17. Ioannidis JP. Why most published research findings are false. PLoS Med. 2005;2:696-701.

  18. McNutt M. Reproducibility. Science. 2014;343(6168):229.

  19. The Economist. Trouble at the lab [monograph on the Internet]. London; 2013 [cited 2016 May 31]. Available from:

  20. Gottmann ES, Kramer B, Pfahringer, Helma C. Data quality in predictive toxicology: reproducibility of rodent carcinogenicity experiments. Environ Health Persp. 2001;109(5):509-14.

  21. Arrowsmith J. Trial watch: phase II failures: Nat Rev Drug Disc. 2008-2010;10:328-9.

  22. Open Science Collaboration. Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science. Science. 2015:349(6251):aac4716.

  23. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM); Panel on Scientific Responsibility and the Conduct of Research. Responsible science: ensuring the integrity of the research process, vol. 1. Washington, DC: National Academies Press; 1992.

  24. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM); Panel on Scientific Responsibility and the Conduct of Research. Integrity in scientific research: creating an environment that promotes responsible conduct. Washington, DC: National Academies Press; 2002.

  25. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM); Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy. On being a scientist. 3rd ed. Washington DC: National Academies Press; 2009.

  26. Anderson MS, Horn AS, Risbey KR, Ronning EA, De Vries R, Martinson BC. What do mentoring and training in the responsible conduct of research have to do with scientists' misbehavior? Findings from a national survey of NIH-funded scientists. Acad Med. 2007;82:853-60.

  27. Funk CL, Barrett KA, Macrina FL. Authorship and publications: evaluation of the effect of responsible conduct of research instruction to postdoctoral trainees. Account Res. 2007;14:269-305.

  28. Wright DE, Titus SL, Cornelison JB. Mentoring and research misconduct: an analysis of research mentoring in closed ORI cases. Sci Eng Ethics. 2008;14(3):323-36.

  29. Riply E, Markowitz M, Nichols-Casebolt A, Williams L, Macrina F. Guiding the next generation of NIH investigators in responsible conduct of research: the role of the mentor. Account Res. 2012;19:209-19.

  30. Klein C. US whistleblowers first got government protection in 1777 [monograph on the Internet]. New York: The History Channel; 2008 [cited 2019 Nov 5]. Available from:

  31. Helmer Jr JB. False claims act: incentivizing integrity for 150 years for rogues, privateers, parasites and patriots. U Cin Law Rev. 2013;81(4):1261-82.

  32. Shamoo AE, Annau Z. Ensuring scientific integrity: correspondence. Nature. 1987;327:550.

  33. Shamoo AE. We need data audit. AAAS Observer. 1988;4:4.

  34. Loeb SE, Shamoo AE. Data audit: its place in auditing. Account Res. 1989;1:23-32.

  35. Glick JL, Shamoo AE. Auditing biochemical research data: a case study. Account Res. 1991;1:223-43.

  36. Doucet S, Bridge A, Grimlund RA, Shamoo AE. An application of stratified sampling techniques for research data. Account Res. 1994;3:237-48.

  37. Davis MS, Riske-Morris M, Diaz SR. Causal factors implicated in research misconduct: evidence from ORI case files. Sci Eng Ethics. 2007;13:395-414.

  38. Holtfreter K, Reisig MD, Pratt TC, Mays RD. The perceived causes of research misconduct among faculty members in the natural, social, and applied sciences. Studies Higher Ed. 2019. DOI: 10.1080/03075079.2019.1593352.