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Articles on Law, Science, and Engineering

Scientific Misconduct: Part 5 -
Making Scientific Self-Regulation Work

By Charles Walter and Edward P. Richards, III, 11 IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Magazine #4, pg. 102 (December 1992)

This series of articles discusses the Federal statutes and regulations related to research misconduct. These laws apply to everyone who receives federal funding or works for an institution that receives federal funding. Persons who violate their provisions can be banned from receiving federal funds and are subject to criminal prosecution. Persons who are investigated may lose substantial time from their research, incur large legal fees, and be subjected to public humiliation and epitaphs to their careers.

Part 1 reviewed the applicable laws, the effects of these laws on scientists, and the potential penalties for scientists found guilty of misconduct. Part 2 discussed the constitutional rights to due process for a scientist accused of misconduct. Part 3 dealt with the legal rules for maintaining laboratory notebooks and other research records. Part 4 dealt with the perils of hubris: the potential risks posed by scientific professional organizations that decry the misconduct regulations and seek to blunt their application. In this article we elaborate further on the policies compelling control of misconduct, and propose certain measures that researchers can take to retain professionalism in their field.


Professional Self-regulation
The Failure of Physician Self-Regulation
What Should a Researcher's Code Address?


Few would question the proposition that government has an obligation to exercise fiscal responsibility when it spends public funds. In a democratic society such as ours, government obligation is often compelled in the ballot box. Wherever the media focuses attention on wasted tax dollars, elected officials respond.

Even fewer would suggest that misconduct using tax dollars should be permitted. Thus, if researchers elect to solicit tax dollars for support, misconduct in research cannot be overlooked by government for long. If professional responsibility for misconduct is missing, governmental control happens.

Next - Professional Self-regulation

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