Friday, October 7, 2011

Responsible conduct of research in academic medicine

I attended and spoke at a one-day conference "Responsible conduct of research in academic medicine - From neglect to action plan" at the Charité in Berlin today on good scientific practice. The speakers:
  • Jens Georg Reich (Max-Delbrück-Center of Molecular Medicine, Berlin and German Ethikrat) spoke on "Ethic topics in modern biomedical research"
  • Gretchen Brodnicki, J.D. (Dean for Faculty and Research Integrity, Harvard Medical School, USA)
    Coordinated approach to research integrity at Harvard Medical School - Lessons learned
  • Ulrich Dirnagl (Center for Stroke Research Berlin, Department of Experimental Neurology, Charité)
    Why most published research findings are false: GSP to the rescue
  • John C. Galland (Director, Division of Education and Integrity, Office of Research Integrity, US Dept. of Health and Human Services, Rockville MD, USA)
    Implementing and monitoring responsible conduct of research in academic medicine: The ORI experience
  • Sabine Kleinert (Senior Executive Editor, The Lancet, London, UK and Vice-Chair of COPE (Committee on Publication Ethics))
    Plagiarism, duplicate publication and text recycling
  • Hubert Rehm (Freelance Journalist, Freiburg, Germany)
    Research misconduct in the German medical system: Role of whistle blowing and investigative journalism
In the afternoon there were three sessions, one on "Teaching and implementing a culture of responsible conduct of research", one I gave with a colleague on "'GSP - Forensics': Tools and approaches to detect misconduct", and one on "Sanctioning misconduct in academic research".

The plenary sessions were held in the anatomy department in a steep lecture theater in wood with inkwells (!) [I thought all day that this would be a great place to put an electrical outlet]. Along the back row were what one participant noted was the data of the anatomists: a large collection of skulls.

My head is spinning from all the information I took in, here just a few points:
  • The USA is lightyears ahead of Germany on Good Scientific Practice. They have training courses, GSP officers, procedures, national bodies, a cool interactive movie on avoiding research misconduct, great flowcharts on what to do if you suspect scientific misconduct, info material on avoiding plagiarism, etc.
  • A national repository for original data is necessary.
  • Training and procedures for dealing with allegations must be the top priority in Germany at the moment.
  • John Galland had a cool formula for Research Excellence:

    RE = β1T + β2R + β3V +β4 C

    T = does tasks well
    R = builds strong relationships
    V = has a vision
    C = is a person of character

    The coefficients βi are between 0.0 and 1.0. He asserts that most researchers are at a RE factor of 0.8 and exhorts people to strive for 1.0 by working together.
  • Hubert Rehm talked about a number of German scandals, I didn't know all of them: Nazi doctor Sigmund Rascher (the only person ever to be shot for scientific misconduct); Bernhard S*******, called the "P*******or" by Laborjournal (link removed); Austrian incontinence researcher Hannes Strasser accused of fabricating data; Nicolai Savaskan, doctor at the Charité accused of falsifying data.
It is a great start to have so many researchers talking about good scientific praxis!

Update: On 2013-03-20 I changed the wording for the sake of clarification on the last bullet point because of a lawyer's letter. 
Update 2:  The lawyers insist that even linking to the publication that they consider to be illegal is not okay. By linking I am not assuming the position of the items I link to - I am reporting on what what was said and giving my readers the opportunity to decide for themselves. This is covered by the laws governing freedom of speech and the freedom of the press. I am not removing information because I made an error - I am making the changes clear while removing the identifying information because I do not wish to fight a legal battle on this particular issue. 


  1. Debora,
    Based on that formula, either the RE of 0.8 is wrong (should be 3.8 or something similar), or RE needs to be the product of the individual factors, not the sum ... I guess the latter is correct seeing that it makes sense having beta factors between 0 and 1, and TRVC binary. Or do T, R, V, and C somehow combine to this result?

  2. Hmm, you're right. Maybe I mis-heard him and it should be 1.0 for all β. I don't have the slides yet, hope to get them soon!

  3. Plagiarism in a "family" style
    How young ambitious capoes and soldiers from Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) under supervision of a decrepit american don-godfather from Northwestern University are successfully completed their sequential plagiaristic enterprise:


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