Responsible conduct in research

The grand majority of scientists strive for sound science and many work to call out bad science. Unfortunately, there will always be examples of research misconduct, such as the confusing story of the Golden Rice trial in China. In some cases, science that clearly has methodical  statistical, and other errors gets published and and even used to decide national policies. While responsible research conduct seems like common sense, these examples show that at least some of us need help.

The InterAcademy Council, an organization of all the world’s science academies, just released a timely report: Responsible Conduct in the Global Research Enterprise. Scientific fraud is a major reason why they decided to focus on this subject. An editorial by the report’s co-chairs goes so far as to specifically call out the Seralini study as exemplar of the problems of blurring lines between science and advocacy (although the report was started before the offending paper was published).

The face of science is changing… More countries and more institutions are getting into research. New fields are emerging and new technologies are merging other fields. Scarcity of resources is causing more governments to try to base their policies on science. For all of these reasons and more, the world needs sound standards for responsible research conduct. The report is well worth a read for scientists as a reminder of best practices and for non-scientists as an explanation of what to look for when determining the trustworthiness of a study.