SOURCE: HealthPartners

April 19, 2006 14:42 ET

Scientist Integrity Threatened by Constrained Research Environment, Study Finds

BLOOMINGTON, MN -- (MARKET WIRE) -- April 19, 2006 -- Perceived inequities in career opportunities in science are associated with questionable conduct among scientists, reveals a new study conducted by the HealthPartners Research Foundation and published in the inaugural issue of the Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics. The first issue of the journal can be accessed at http://www.ucpress.edu/journals/jer.

The two recently published articles follow-up on previous findings published in Nature (June 9, 2005) documenting surprising levels of unethical and questionable behaviors in a large national sample of biomedical and social scientists. Although the initial publication reported reasonably low levels of formal misconduct (fabrication, falsification or plagiarism) it indicated that a variety of lesser offenses and questionable behaviors were more commonplace or "normal misbehaviors" in the everyday conduct of science. The newly published findings link these misbehaviors to mundane, everyday problems in the lab and working conditions of scientists. Fierce competition for grants, fear of peer-reviewers stealing research ideas, perceptions of career blockages, and the abundance of rules regarding research subjects are all issues that scientists themselves identify as factors that may lead to less than ideal behavior in science.

"Sustaining the integrity of science requires that we create and maintain working environments for scientists that foster responsible conduct. Ours is one of the first studies to document linkages between perceived problems in the working conditions of science and misbehavior by scientists," said Brian Martinson, Ph.D., Research Investigator with HealthPartners Research Foundation and principle investigator of the study. "Our hope is that these findings will encourage the scientific community to consider what changes may be necessary to improve working conditions for scientists, in order to foster the responsible conduct of science."

Researchers from HealthPartners Research Foundation, the University of Minnesota and the University of Michigan conducted the studies published in the Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics.

HealthPartners Research Foundation

HealthPartners Research Foundation supports and promotes research throughout the HealthPartners family of nonprofit health care organizations. Its mission is to advance scientific knowledge through research to improve the health of HealthPartners members and the community. HealthPartners Research Foundation was formed in 1998 by the merger of the Group Health Foundation and the Ramsey Foundation. It continues to build on the long history of research established by the two previous foundations. Please visit the HealthPartners web site at www.HealthPartners.com.

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