Research ethics include moral principles that every researcher should follow in their works. Research misconduct is deviance from such standards and is considered one of the most serious issues when it comes to research. It puts the reliability of research under the question. According to The Office of Research Integrity, research misconduct is:
Research misconduct means fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results.
(a) Fabrication is making up data or results and recording or reporting them.
(b) Falsification is manipulating research materials, equipment, or processes, or changing or omitting data or results such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record.
(c) Plagiarism is the appropriation of another person's ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit.
(d) Research misconduct does not include honest error or differences of opinion.
As seen from the research misconduct definition, there are three main forms of research misconduct.
It is a process of making up data, taking that data as a basis for research, and reporting the results. To simply put, the researcher uses and reports information that doesn't actually exist. Additionally, researchers may also fabricate false references to go along with their research in order to "prove" the reliability of the data. Researchers who do this see data fabrication as the easiest way of collecting information and try everything to give the research results a valid appearance.
It may not be easy to distinguish between data falsification and fabrication at first. While data fabrication is a process of using information that doesn't reflect anything valid and isn't expressed in any source, data falsification refers to using existing data by twisting some parts of it. In this case, all the data, research participants, experiments, etc., reported in the research result may exist, but the data is altered to meet specific requirements. It includes changing statistical numbers, measurement, using references that don't actually have anything to do with the research, showing a wrong number of participants, etc.
Another form of research misconduct is plagiarism. Plagiarism is a case of taking someone else's words, ideas without acknowledging them. Please, follow the link to our article about plagiarism and how to avoid it.
Reasons for research misconduct
Researchers can commit research misconduct for several reasons.
First of all, as mentioned above, it is easier than actually doing research. Most researchers think they can get away with it. In some cases, it is almost impossible to confirm the data researcher provides. It gives them a chance to manipulate or fabricate the data.
A desire to earn money or prove a point are other reasons that can motivate researchers to falsify, fabricate or plagiarize the data.
Research misconduct can have various negative consequences. It can create severe trust issues between the colleagues, can result in diminishing confidence in researchers. In some important fields such as healthcare and medicine, falsified or fabricated research results can have a disastrous effect on people.
It is worth noting that some forms of research misconduct may result in a lawsuit against the researcher.