July 6, 2022

Research fraud troubles UK scientists

“Dishonesty is common and institutionalized in medicine and medical research,” says a UK cardiologist, Peter Wilsmhurst, who has spent years trying to expose research misconduct and has reported more than 20 doctors to the General Medical Council.

“Dishonesty is common and institutionalized in medicine and medical research,” says a UK cardiologist, Peter Wilsmhurst, who has spent years trying to expose research misconduct and has reported more than 20 doctors to the General Medical Council.

Apparently the UK scientific establishment agrees with him. Earlier this month the British Medical Journal and the international Committee on Publication Ethics organised a meeting with representatives from universities, funding groups, journals and lobby groups to discuss the problem.

According to Nature News, Elizabeth Wager, of the international Committee on Publication Ethics, said that one American editor had told her that UK institutions were the worst to deal with if misconduct were suspected. “Our reputation in the world is not looking good.”

A number of factors are at work. The UK government, unlike the US, does not have an effective watchdog for research fraud. There can be conflicts of interest if a university detects fraud by one of its employees. It is much easier to dismiss an erring academic than to publicise his misdeeds. Whistleblowers can be sued for defamation. 

The issue is serious enough for Nature to devote an editorial to it. It proposed more government oversight, collaboration between funders and universities, and reform of the English libel laws. “Sounds ambitious? If the solutions were easy, there wouldn’t be a problem to discuss,” says Nature. “But there is, so we must face it.” ~ Nature, Jan 13

Michael Cook
research fraud
UK