Reporting unethical research: the first problem is who to tell

Over half STEMM early career researchers have observed “sometimes or often,” “behaviours likely to contribute to the replication crisis”

Kate Christian and colleagues* report the results of a survey of Australian science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine ECRs, which also found over half did not believe complaints of unethical research practise would be acted on. Plus, many feared “negative consequences” if they complained. 

The results are in surveys taken in 2019 and 2021 which also discovered,
*  20 per cent reported being pressured to engage in “questionable research practises”
* 25 per cent knew of faculty “who dropped datasets without explanation” 
* nearly half knew of faculty who trialled iterative statistical analysis until there was a “significant result.”

The survey finding are in-line with a recent House of Commons committee report, which cited claims of bullying and harassment as the top negative influence on research integrity. As to support for ECRs who want to report research integrity issues, one challenge is finding who to tell.  Adrian Barnett (QUT) and colleagues looked at Australian institutions to find, “multiple institutions where we found it difficult to find anything about research integrity and other institutions where the contact about research integrity was a generic email or generic on-line form,”   * Katherine Christian (QUT), Jo-ann Larkins (Federation U) and Michael R. Doran (AstraZeneca, Gaithersburg Md), Nature Human Behaviour, 



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