The relationship between grantee institutions and the federal government, a familiar concern apropos alleged misconduct in research, ramifies along conceptual, sequential, organizational, and other lines. It is argued in this essay that the appropriate federal interest in penalizing untruthfulness is the avoidance of future waste. Ineligibility for grants may be justified as an anticipation that one who resorts to untruthfulness betrays lack of distinction, a divergence from a consensus about what is permissible in research, or both, and that these features will be a fatal selective disadvantage in competition for grants. Sequential responsibility-institutions first, government second-characterizes the enforcement system that leads to government determinations of ineligibility. Not as clear is the government's blending of investigation and adjudication, a circumstance that renders more important the availability of hearing rights, not their curtailment. For institutions, confusion may arise whether to adopt more strict proscriptions of misconduct than the government standard that they must enforce. Institutional standards surpass the mere avoidance of wrong. Nonetheless it is argued that a more strict definition of “misconduct” would be imprudent. The federal government may proscribe misrepresentation, plagiarism and misuse of others' ideas, and damage to tangible property used in research; there is then no obvious other conduct to be proscribed. To proscribe other conduct could create a standard for science faculty that does not apply to others and would install a punitive system when mechanisms already obtain for evaluation. The logic is different for research practice rules. These are not intellectually profound, but they sensibly address subjects such as data recordation, data retention, and authorship. It would be incongruous for these to be incorporated by reference into a vague federal concept of “misconduct,” a point that tells against any imprecision in the latter. But practice rules may symbolize commitment to high standards of truthfulness and obviate some specific practices that occasion untruthfulness.
Created Date: 07 May 1997; Completed Date: 07 May 1997; Revised Date: 28 November 2001
© 1996 Association of American Medical Colleges