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Thursday, June 4, 1998 Published at 08:54 GMT 09:54 UK


'Lives at risk' from research fraud

Not all scientific research is based on genuine investigation

The BBC's James Westhead on fraud in scientific research
Doctors have warned that medical researchers who fake evidence are risking lives.

A major new report has concluded that fraud and fabrication is widespread throughout medical research. The practice has potentially devastating implications because doctors base treatment on published research.

The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) was set up last year following mounting concern among editors of scientific publications that research studies contained faked results.

It is thought that increased pressure to achieve results to obtain scarce funding resources has pushed many scientists into acting dishonestly. The COPE report cites 25 cases of scientific fraud.

Felt-tip pen

In one case a scientist who claimed to have transplanted black skin onto a white mouse had in fact simply coloured the mouse with a felt-tip pen.

[ image: Scientists will go to extraordinary lengths to fake results]
Scientists will go to extraordinary lengths to fake results
A British Medical Association spokesman said that members of the committee had been approached by a "phenomenal" number of people revealing cases of fraud and misconduct, and that the problem was far more widespread than was first thought.

"There is no doubt that there is phenomenal evidence to show that there is a lot of this occurring," the spokesman said.

The committee has recommended that a national regulatory body be set up to monitor standards in scientific research.

"The trouble is that there are a huge amount of people involved in research who are not doctors or medical people, and who are not registered with any professional body," the spokesman said.

"Therefore there is no recourse."

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