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Bad behaviour does not equal research fraud
  1. Bob Williamson1
  1. 1The Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, 10th Floor, Royal Children's Hospital, Flemington Road, Parkville Vic 3052, Australia;

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    I was not impressed by Dr Geggie's article offering a survey of the attitudes of newly appointed consultants towards research fraud (Journal of Medical Ethics 2001;27:344–6). Indeed, by mixing up categories of misconduct from what is at most “bad behaviour” to the very serious, he is not entirely beyond reproach himself. I remind readers that Dr Geggie suggested that 55.7% of the respondents had observed (from the title) “research fraud”.

    If the term “research fraud” is to have any meaning, it must be reserved for conduct that consciously and deliberately attempts to impose a fraud on others. The US National Academy of Sciences' report, On Being a Scientist: Responsible Conduct in Research distinguishes clearly between “misallocation of credit, honest errors, and errors caused through negligence” and “deception, making up data or results, changing or misreporting data or results, and plagiarism”. The former are “ethical transgressions . . . that generally remain internal to the scientific community . . . dealt with locally through peer review, administrative action, and the system of appointments and evaluations”. The latter “strike at the heart of the values on which science is based”. The White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy reached similar conclusions, restricting research misconduct to “fabrication, falsification and plagarism”. I agree with these assessments.

    In Dr Geggie's paper, deception would include deliberate falsification of data (category 3 of Dr Geggie's table 1), cheating (4A) and deliberately plagiarising …

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