As a PhD student and someone who’s entire life is focused around research right now, I am often frustrated by the continuous analysis and iterating that comes from producing quality work. I know though that I want my work to mean something and that I need to do the due diligence whether it be in statistics, experiments, or quality assurance/ quality control and as frustrating as it is sometimes, I do enjoy it. I also continually try to remind myself that falsification, unethical research and practices hurt more than me if I were to engage in it. It hurts my professor, my family, my field and the societies relationship with science and research.
This week, looking at the Office of Research Integrity cases that come up I chose to focus on a recent case of Dr. Li Wang. She is being reported for “research misconduct by recklessly including false data” in grant applications. She did withdraw 3 of them and has been remorseful but still I wonder if her ‘punishment” is justified. For a year, Dr. Wang’s institution has to verify the validity of her published research ( I can get on board with this one), her research must be supervised through what sounds like a lot of paperwork and she cannot serve on any advisory board committees or peer review. I wish I knew how she was found guilty of these things, which, silly as it may sound, would affect the punishment I feel she deserves. If she self reported, which she may, I feel that some of these measures are a bit harsh, especially not being able to serve on any advisory boards. If she was reported, I would say she is not as remorseful as she may have lead on and that these things seem justified. Still, research integrity is a challenging topic. Research does need policing to ensure quality but I have no idea how I would report misconduct if I saw it. I wonder though who decides these punishments, is it mainly one person at their desk doing this all day or is it a committee? How do you get promoted to being the person who is ethical enough to decide if what other people did is ethical? Reading these cases I understand how a researcher may have felt pressured to include false data in a grant proposal, I get it. Research is hard, but at the end of the day you have to realize if what you are doing is right. Maybe we need to take a step back and evaluate the incentives that we place on researchers. If getting grants is what is solely rewarded, we may have created a corrupting infrastructure bound to have more of these events.