Difficult decisions at the end of the term

Published: 2016-12-23

The end of the term has been filled with activities and hard work including the Nobel week, where we celebrate and honor the exceptional contributions of individuals to science and ultimately mankind, to cases of scientific misconduct that constitute a threat to the credibility of medical research and the basis for future medical advances.

The importance of the Nobel Prize and the Nobel week for research in Sweden cannot be overestimated. The Nobel lectures is an inspiration to us all and the Nobel laureates constitute role models for coming generations of scientists. It was a very hectic week but a fantastic celebration in the name of science.

Scientific misconduct is about fundamental issues, about our reliance on research and the foundation for future medical advances.

In relation to current publically exposed cases of scientific misconduct at Karolinska Institutet, I realize that people sometimes experience a lack of information as the cases are being investigated. You might wonder, what is happening in the different cases and why is does the process take such a long time. Regarding the first concern, investigating alleged scientific misconduct is a process with potential legal implications and must therefore follow certain procedures. As for the second concern, investigations of scientific misconduct will in many cases include external evaluators that have to go through extensive material, the involved authors must get reasonable time to be able to respond to allegations, evaluations at several stages of the process. All in all, this can lead to what is experienced as extended time lines.

In the process, we also have to investigate and decide upon not only whether an article constitute scientific misconduct, but also who is responsible and what the consequences and sanctions should be. Our decisions are based on assessment of each individual’s contribution and responsibility. Signing a document does always entail a responsibility, but junior scientists can be in a situation of dependence towards more senior colleagues and this is also taken into account in the assessment.

Scientific misconduct has no place in research and reporting suspected scientific misconduct is welcome. Those being investigated should be confident that our investigations follow a clear, transparent and secure process. And this goes also for those who report – they should feel safe.

And we must all work proactively to make sure each and every researcher knows what makes up a sound research practice. We should work to make it difficult to conduct scientific misconduct by introducing and implementing tools such as electronic documentation, and by reinforcing relevant rules and regulations. But most importantly we should provide a clear and supporting leadership.

The KI acting vice-chancellors blog now closes for 2016. Welcome back in 2017!

 

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