Problems in research integrity arising from misconceptions about the ownership of research.

Fields, K L; Price, A R
Academic Medicine: September 1993
Supplement Article: PDF Only

Many allegations of scientific misconduct result from activities that are perceived by the complainants as the "theft" of ideas, experimental results, or other intellectual property. The authors' thesis is that many of these allegations originate in misconceptions about the ownership of publicly supported scientific research. Some universities and medical schools may have their own codes for authorship, and journals and professional societies have codes or guidelines. In the NIH intramural programs, research data are considered to be the property of the institutes, not the individual researchers. In contrast, the training and experience of most scientists lead them to consider research data as being theirs. The paper discusses the origins of this attitude toward data and the ways that the structures of university laboratories and training programs lead to confusion and misunderstandings of researchers' "rights" to data. Also, emotional and personality factors often complicate these issues and lead to confrontations. Other misconceptions widely held among researchers: the false concepts of "my grant" and the "co-principal" investigator, ideas about who is and is not qualified to be an author, and ideas about sharing data. The authors emphasize the importance of scientifically literate legal advisers and the necessity for graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and professors to understand their institutions' and grantors' guidelines and their obligations as scientists. At the heart of these obligations at all levels of research is honesty.

(C) 1993 Association of American Medical Colleges