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Ethics and Scientific Integrity in Public Health, Epidemiological and Clinical Research

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The ethics and scientific integrity of biomedical and public health research requires that researchers behave in appropriate ways. However, this requires more than following of published research guidelines that seek to prevent scientific misconduct relating to serious deviations from widely accepted scientific norms for proposing, conducting, and reporting research (e.g., fabrication or falsification of research data or failures to report potential conflicts of interest). In this paper we argue for a broader account of scientific integrity, one consistent with that defended by the United States Institute of Medicine, involving a commitment to intellectual honesty and personal responsibility for one’s actions as a researcher and to practices consistent with the responsible conduct of research and protection of the research participants. Maintaining high standards of ethical and scientific integrity helps to maintain public trust in the research enterprise. An increasing number of authors have pointed to the importance of mentoring and education in relation to the responsible conduct of science in preventing transgressions of scientific integrity. Just like in clinical research and biomedicine, epidemiologists and other public health researchers have the responsibility to exhibit and foster the very highest standards of scientific integrity.


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Correspondence to Dr. Steven S. Coughlin PhD, MPH.

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Coughlin, S.S., Barker, A. & Dawson, A. Ethics and Scientific Integrity in Public Health, Epidemiological and Clinical Research. Public Health Rev 34, 5 (2012) doi:10.1007/BF03391657

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Key Words

  • Ethics
  • clinical research
  • epidemiology
  • plagiarism
  • public health
  • scientific integrity
  • scientific misconduct