Skip to main content

Advertisement

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

Article metrics

Abstract

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.

References

  1. 1.

    Soskolne CL, Abbrecht PH, Davidian NM, Price AR. Good conduct and integrity in epidemiologic research. In: Coughlin SS, Beauchamp TL, Weed DL, editors. Ethics and Epidemiology. 2nd edition. New York: Oxford University Press; 2009. p. 264–82.

  2. 2.

    Merlo DF, Vahakangas K, Knudsen LE. Scientific integrity: critical issues in environmental health research. Environ Health. 2008;7:S9.

  3. 3.

    Soskolne CL, Light A. Towards ethics guidelines for environmental epidemiologists. Sci Total Environ. 1996;184:137–47.

  4. 4.

    Tong S, Olsen J. The threat to scientific integrity in environmental and occupational medicine. Occup Environ Med. 2005;62:843–6.

  5. 5.

    Resnik DB. Fraud, fabrication, and falsification. In: Emanuel EJ, Grady C, Crouch RA, et al., editors. The Oxford Textbook of Clinical Research Ethics. New York: Oxford University Press; 2009.

  6. 6.

    Rowe S, Alexander N, Clydesdale FM, Applebaum, RS, Atkinson S, Black RM, et al. Funding food science and nutrition research: financial conflicts and scientific integrity. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;89:1285–91.

  7. 7.

    Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences. International Guidelines for Ethical Review of Epidemiological Studies. Law Med Health Care. 1991;19:247–58.

  8. 8.

    Verweij M, Dawson A. Public health research ethics: a research agenda. Public Health Ethics. 2009;2:1–6.

  9. 9.

    Dawson A. Professional codes of practice and ethical conduct. J Applied Philosophy. 1994;11:145–53.

  10. 10.

    Verweij M, Dawson A. The meaning of “public” in public health. In: Dawson A, Verweij M, editors. Ethics, Prevention, and Public Health. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press; 2007.

  11. 11.

    Sim J, Dawson A. Informed consent and cluster randomized trials. Am J Public Health. 2012;3:480–5.

  12. 12.

    Soskolne CL, Macfarlane DK. Scientific misconduct in epidemiologic research. In: Coughlin SS, Beauchamp TL, editors. Ethics and Epidemiology. New York: Oxford University Press; 1996. p. 274–89.

  13. 13.

    Steneck NH, Bulger RE. The history, purpose, and future of instruction in the responsible conduct of research. Acad Med. 2007;82:829–34.

  14. 14.

    Medical Research Council. Policy and procedures for inquiring into allegations of scientific misconduct. MRC; 2007.

  15. 15.

    Deer B. How the case against the MMR vaccine was fixed. BMJ. 2011;342:c5347

  16. 16.

    General Medical Council Fitness to Practise Panel. Determination on Serious Professional Misconduct (SPM) and sanction: Dr Andrew Jeremy Wakefeld. GMC; 24 May 2010. Available from URL: http://www.gmc-uk.org/Wakefeld_SPM_and_SANCTION.pdf_32595267.pdf (Accessed 19 May, 2012).

  17. 17.

    Office of Research Integrity policy on plagiarism. ORI; updated 9 June, 2011. Available from URL: http://ori.hhs.gov/ori-policy-plagiarism (Accessed 19 June, 2012).

  18. 18.

    Korenman SG, Shipp AC. Teaching the Responsible Conduct of Research Through a Case Study Approach. A Handbook for Instructors. Washington, DC: Association of American Medical Colleges; 1994.

  19. 19.

    International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. Uniform requirements for manuscripts submitted to biomedical journals. ICMJE; 2010. Available from URL: http://www.icmje.org/ (Accessed 19 June, 2012).

  20. 20.

    Stern S, Lemmens T. Legal remedies for medical ghostwriting: imposing fraud liability on guest authors of ghostwritten articles. PLoS Med. 2011;8(8): e1001070.

  21. 21.

    Soskolne CL. Epidemiological research, interest groups and the review process. J Public Health Policy. 1985;7:173–84.

  22. 22.

    Porter RJ, Malone TE. Biomedical Research: Collaboration and Conflict of Interest. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press; 1992.

  23. 23.

    Fontanarosa PB, Flanagin A, DeAngelis CD. Reporting conflicts of interest, fnancial aspects of research, and role of sponsors in funded studies. JAMA. 2005;294:110–1.

  24. 24.

    DeAngelis CD, Fontanarosa PB. Ensuring integrity in industry-sponsored research. Primum non nocere, revisited. JAMA. 2010:303:1196–8.

  25. 25.

    Coughlin SS. Case Studies in Public Health Ethics, 2nd Edition. Washington, DC: American Public Health Association; 2009.

  26. 26.

    International Epidemiological Association European Epidemiology Federation. Good epidemiological practice: proper conduct in epidemiologic practice. IEA; 2004 revision. Available from URL: http://www.ieaweb.org (Accessed 19 June, 2012).

  27. 27.

    Ethics and Standards of Practice Committee. American College of Epidemiology ethics guidelines. American College of Epidemiology; 2000. Available from URL: http://acepidemiology.org/sites/default/fles/EthicsGuide.pdf (Accessed 19 June, 2012).

  28. 28.

    Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Available from URL: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/protocol (Accessed 5 March, 2012).

  29. 29.

    Ott MG. Importance of the study protocol in epidemiologic research. J Occup Med. 1991;33:1236–9.

  30. 30.

    National Academy of Sciences. Responsible Science: Ensuring the Integrity of the Research Process, Volume I. Washington, DC: National Academies Press; 1992.

  31. 31.

    Institute of Medicine. Committee on Assessing Integrity in Research Environments. Integrity in Scientific Research: Creating an Environment that Promotes Responsible Conduct. Washington, DC: National Academies Press; 1992.

  32. 32.

    Goodman KW, Prineas RJ. Ethics curricula in epidemiology. In: Coughlin SS, Beauchamp TL, editors. Ethics and Epidemiology. New York: Oxford University Press; 1996. p. 283–303.

  33. 33.

    Coughlin SS. Ethics in Epidemiology and Public Health Practice, 2nd Edition. Washington, DC: American Public Health Association; 2009.

  34. 34.

    Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development Global Science Forum. Best practices for ensuring scientific integrity and preventing misconduct. OECD; 2007. Available from URL: http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/37/17/40188303.pdf (Accessed 19 June, 2012).

  35. 35.

    Braunschweiger P, Goodman KW. The CITI Program: an international online resource for education in human subjects protection and the responsible conduct of research. Acad Med. 2007;82:861–4.

  36. 36.

    Kalichman MW, Plemmons DK. Reported goals for responsible conduct of research courses. Acad Med. 2007;82:846–52.

  37. 37.

    Geller G, Boyce A, Ford DE, Sugarman J. Beyond “compliance”: the role of institutional culture in promoting research integrity. Acad Med. 2010;85:1296–302.

Download references

Author information

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

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

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

Download citation

Key Words

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