Federal Agency Proposes Survey on How Research Ethics Are Taught

December 12, 2007

A federal agency that monitors scientific fraud is seeking comments on a proposed survey of how faculty members train doctoral students to become “responsible researchers.”

The Office of Research Integrity, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, noted in today’s Federal Register that studies have shown that faculty members can play key roles in educating students about avoiding improper research practices, which the government defines as plagiarism and fabricating or altering data. However, “little is actually known about the qualities and activities of effective mentors,” the office said.

The office is proposing to conduct a Web-based survey of 10,000 randomly selected scientists who have received grants from the National Institutes of Health or the National Science Foundation.

Scientists reported a high incidence of research misconduct in a separate survey by independent scholars published in 2005. In recent years, some universities have stepped up formal training programs in the responsible conduct of research. —Jeffrey Brainard