Research misconduct is committed by general practitioners and hospital and academic doctors, the young and inexperienced, and those at the very top of the profession. Rennie suggests that the bestowal of a scientific or medical degree is not accompanied by a guarantee of honesty.27 In a review by the US Office of Research Integrity, it was found that half of the biomedical researchers accused of scientific fraud and formally investigated were found guilty of misconduct. These cases of misconduct were mostly of falsification and fabrication of data, but also included plagiarism. Researchers of all grades commit fraud, but the more senior people are, the more likely they are to get away with it: assistant professors seem to attract most allegations of misconduct.28
It is very worrying that 36% of medical students said they would be prepared to falsify patient information, plagiarise other people's work, or forge signatures.1 More recently, the editor of the British Medical Journal drew attention to a case of cheating in exams,29 which was followed by a very large number of electronic responses on the acceptability or otherwise of cheating. It has been argued that scientists must be taught about good and bad research practices and about research ethics, and that, if senior scientists make efforts to become close mentors to their juniors, this will raise standards considerably.27 That assumes, of course, that mentors are not fraudulent themselves.
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