Gunsalus CK, Marcus AR, Oransky I.
Institutions have a central role in protecting the integrity of research. They employ researchers, own the facilities where the work is conducted, receive grant funding, and teach many students about the research process. When questions arise about research misconduct associated with published articles, scientists and journal editors usually first ask the researchers’ institution to investigate the allegations and then report the outcomes, under defined circumstances, to federal oversight agencies and other entities, including journals.
Depending on institutions to investigate their own faculty presents significant challenges. Misconduct reports, the mandated product of institutional investigations for which US federal dollars have been spent, have a wide range of problems. These include lack of standardization, inherent conflicts of interest that must be addressed to directly ensure credibility, little quality control or peer review, and limited oversight. Even when institutions act, the information they release to the public is often limited and unhelpful.
As a result, like most elements of research misconduct, little is known about institutions’ responses to potential misconduct by their own members. The community that relies on the integrity of university research does not have access to information about how often such claims arise, or how they are resolved. Nonetheless, there are some indications that many internal reviews are deficient.
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