Should research misconduct be criminalized?

Rafael Dal-Ré*, Lex M. Bouter, Pim Cuijpers, Christian Gluud, Søren Holm

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

For more than 25 years, research misconduct (research fraud) is defined as fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism (FFP)—although other research misbehaviors have been also added in codes of conduct and legislations. A critical issue in deciding whether research misconduct should be subject to criminal law is its definition, because not all behaviors labeled as research misconduct qualifies as serious crime. But assuming that all FFP is fraud and all non-FFP not is far from obvious. In addition, new research misbehaviors have recently been described, such as prolific authorship, and fake peer review, or boosted such as duplication of images. The scientific community has been largely successful in keeping criminal law away from the cases of research misconduct. Alleged cases of research misconduct are usually looked into by committees of scientists usually from the same institution or university of the suspected offender in a process that often lacks transparency. Few countries have or plan to introduce independent bodies to address research misconduct; so for the coming years, most universities and research institutions will continue handling alleged research misconduct cases with their own procedures. A global operationalization of research misconduct with clear boundaries and clear criteria would be helpful. There is room for improvement in reaching global clarity on what research misconduct is, how allegations should be handled, and which sanctions are appropriate.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalResearch Ethics
Volume16
Issue number1-2
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Jan 2020

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