Division of Paediatric Surgery, University College Hospital, Ibadan/Department of Surgery, University of
Date of Acceptance: 30th Dec. 2022
Health research training has been recognized as an important component of medical education because the rapid expansion and progress in biomedical research is expected to transform medical care.1 Studies have shown that research experience during medical school is strongly associated with postgraduate research initiatives2,3 and future career achievements in academia.4 The development of research capacity is imperative at the individual and institutional levels to attain a sustainable improvement in health research.5 Various strategies are being employed for this purpose, which include mandatory and elective research assignments, trainee sections in indexed journals, organization of trainee scientific conferences, reviewing of medical curriculum to integrate capacity building for research and holding of workshops on different aspects of conducting biomedical research.6
With research playing a vital role in improving clinical practice, it is important that medical trainees to include both undergraduate and postgraduate students understand the role of research and what it takes in submitting articles for publication.
Concerns about research wrongdoing in biomedical research are growing in developing countries, where research ethics training and research regulatory systems are just emerging.
Research misconduct is commonly understood to include FFP – falsification (altering research processes, or recording or reporting wrong results), fabrication (inventing and recording or reporting results), and plagiarism (taking the words, ideas, or data of others or self and reporting them without giving due credit). However, recent trends have necessitated a broader definition of the term. In 2000, the U.S.A White House National Science and Technology Department released a policy document that defines research misconduct as “fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing or reviewing research, or in reporting research results.” Other wrongdoings (e.g., stealing, intimidation, and discrimination) are left to be tackled through other official regulatory mechanisms.7 The Welcome Trust’s8 definition includes in addition to FFP, deliberate, dangerous, or negligent deviations from standard research practices, failure to follow established protocol such that it occasions harm, concealment of other researchers’ misconduct, and damage to someone’s research property. It excludes honest error and unskilled research. Research wrongdoing is a term that is becoming more widely used in the research ethics literature as it encompasses all unacceptable acts in research, including FFP.9, 10
In a study in Africa, medical researchers in two states in Nigeria were interviewed on a wide range of research wrong doings and potential predictors. About 22% admitted to at least one of fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism, the predictors of which were knowledge gaps in research ethics and pressure to publish enough papers for promotion. Acknowledging inadequate knowledge of research ethics was a predictor of admitting a wrongdoing.11
Some of several recent instances of research wrong doing illustrate the seriousness of the problem. In 2006, the Seoul National University announced, after an investigation, that Woo Suk Hwang’s research publications on cloned human embryos were fabricated.12 In the same year, Jon Sudbo admitted to fabricating data on 900 fictitious patients. Worse still, most of his more than 30 publications were found to have arisen from fabrication and falsification.13
Cases of research wrongdoing are often unreported. Nevertheless, a few surveys offer some insight into the prevalence of research wrongdoing. A pilot study of some U.S.A based clinical and biomedical research trainees showed that 15.1% of them admitted to past personal misconduct.14 In one of the first empirical studies published in this field in this century, 5.7% of newly appointed medical consultants in the United Kingdom admitted past personal research misconduct.15 A large survey of publicly funded researchers in the United States showed that 33% of the respondents said that they had engaged in at least one of the top ten misbehaviour in their study in the preceding three years.16 While there are differences in the designs and specific variables used in these surveys, it remains important that they set out to measure the occurrence of research wrongdoing directly fromresearchers. However, little is known about research wrongdoing admission rates in developing countries.