Year : 2012 | Volume
: 28 | Issue : 3 | Page : 247-
Scientific misconduct - Why we must be careful
Nitin S Kekre
Department of Urology, Unit II, Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu, India
Nitin S Kekre
Department of Urology, Unit II, Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu
|How to cite this article:|
Kekre NS. Scientific misconduct - Why we must be careful.Indian J Urol 2012;28:247-247
|How to cite this URL:|
Kekre NS. Scientific misconduct - Why we must be careful. Indian J Urol [serial online] 2012 [cited 2020 Aug 13 ];28:247-247
Available from: http://www.indianjurol.com/text.asp?2012/28/3/247/102689
Recently, three news items attracted my attention. They were related to misconduct by scientific professionals. One famous Professor was appointed as the head of Indian Agricultural Statistics Research Institute despite being investigated for plagiarism.  A researcher in cardiology from the University of Missouri School of Medicine was removed and the article retracted because of scientific misconduct.  A leading social psychologist from Tilburg University has admitted of fabricating the results in several studies.  Obviously it appears that falsification and fabrication of scientific data and plagiarism have become universal phenomena. Why do doctors or scientific professionals take this route? For doctors under tremendous pressures to "publish or perish," the heavy clinical workloads may not allow time for original research or writing. It is often tempting to take a shortcut. When detected, the results can be disastrous. It is therefore extremely important that the people who are beginning their scientific careers and write medical papers should be aware of scientific misconduct.
Education of authors is imperative to reduce genuine errors. Many of us sometimes may not be aware that taking a sentence or a group of sentences from a published text into your own writing may constitute plagiarism. With increasing digitization of archives and the availability of plagiarism detecting software, it has become increasingly possible to detect plagiarism at the review stage. However, despite the precautions, some do slip through.
Falsification of data includes a spectrum ranging from fabrication of a small amount of data to the falsification of entire experiments. This can be very difficult to detect. Retrospective detection of such a paper leads to retraction of several years of published articles.
The incentives for people who cheat are great. Duplication, gift authorship, and salami slicing can result in great rewards. It is therefore natural that all those people who want to attain higher academic positions would sometimes take the shorter route and commit serious crime. For example, the productivity and impact of a scientist is measured today by Hirsch index. This index is considered by various universities or organizations that are responsible for allotting research funds or to appoint the person as a chair in the university. The number of citations is often influenced by the total number of publications, hence the incentive to cheat.
I have recently been involved in conducting workshops on medical writing along with Dr. Rajeev Kumar, Associate Editor, and have found that many of us, especially in India as well as in Asia whose first language is not English, indulge in unintentional inappropriate paraphrasing. The concept of ownership of ideas and words is not very well ingrained in the non-western psyche. It differs from culture to culture. What is plagiarism in a western context may be a sign of deep respect in another. 
The responsibility of the editorial team in these circumstances is enormous. The tolerance for scientific misconduct must be very low. As a scientific journal, we owe it to our readers to ensure that the manuscripts published follow established ethical guidelines in preparation and review. Adequate safeguards during the peer review process must be in place to detect most instances.