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Tuesday, 18 December, 2001, 01:05 GMT
Researchers publish anti-fraud plans
Most research is conducted to high standards
Plans for a national body to tackle research fraud have been published by doctors and scientists concerned that foul play is undermining the good name of science.

The Committee on Publication Ethics (Cope) agreed at a meeting in October that concerted action was needed.

It is vital that a national panel for research integrity is established without further delay

Professor Michael Farthing
While fraud is not thought to be widespread in Britain, it is feared that dozens of papers submitted for publication each year to medical journals contain bogus results.

Members warned that unless a national body was set up it will prove extremely difficult to bring cases of research misconduct to justice.

Regulatory agencies tackling research misconduct have been in force for around 10 years in the US and Scandinavia.

Now Cope - made up of a wide ranging group of scientific editors, researchers, doctors and officials from educational and governmental organisations - has published its proposals.

Withdrawal of funding

It suggests the new body should be independent of the government, but answerable to a House of Commons select committee.

Initially it would take responsibility only for biomedical research, but ultimately its remit would be broadened to cover all branches of science.

Its reach would extend beyond the UK by becoming part of the Council of Europe conventions on biomedicine.

It is hoped that the national body would be substantially funded by contributions from UK institutions, research foundations, educational bodies, and the various stakeholders involved in biomedical research.

All those involved will be obliged to comply with the terms of a nationally applicable contractual agreement on a code of conduct.

Breaches of the code would attract disciplinary action and the withdrawal of funding for research.

An annual report, to monitor progress and capture evidence on continuing examples of research misconduct, would be circulated to all the institutions concerned, including all research funding bodies.

Fraud cases

Almost 140 cases of possible breaches in publication ethics have been submitted to Cope over the past three years. Evidence of misconduct has been found in three quarters of the cases.

Its annual report features 26 cases of research misconduct. They include a range of issues, such as cheating at medical school, plagiarism, unethical research and clinical treatment, suspected data fabrication, and duplicate publication.

Professor Michael Farthing, chair of Cope, said: "It is vital that a national panel for research integrity is established without further delay.

"There has been a great deal of talk so far, but little action on moving this forward.

"I believe the perceived leadership void must now be tackled by the key employers - the universities and the NHS."

See also:

15 Oct 01 | Health
Research fraud faces clampdown
23 Feb 01 | Health
Research misconduct warning
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