The year in review: the 2011 top 10 cases involving misconduct in science

Top 10 lists are ubiquitous this time of year. The media loves to compile lists and we love to read them. One can find lists to please all the tastes, ranging from popular subjects including; top 10 movies, top 10 music albums, and top 10 books and some less conventional topics, like National Geographic’s top 10 list of the weirdest life-forms of 2011, editor’s picks.
The past year was, sadly, a big year for research misconduct. Here it is our contribution to the top 10 lists: the major acts of scientific misconduct in 2011.

10. Sangiliyandi Gurunathan, professor of the Kalasalingam University in India was asked to resign, accused of data manipulation.

9. Salon, an award-winning online news and entertainment Web site retracted a controversial 2005 story by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. linking a mercury-based preservative, formerly used in vaccines, to causing autism in children.

8. Oklahoma University puts professor accused of scientific malpractice under unpaid leave of absence.

7. Charles Monnett, a wild-life ecologist who studied polar bears is under investigation for scientific misconduct.

6. Scientist of Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam was fired for violation of academic integrity.

5. Judy Mikovits, formerly the research director at the Whittemore Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune Disease in Reno, Nevada, was fired for duplicating data in a study linking a virus to the chronic fatigue syndrome.

4. Former MIT researcher, Luk van Parijs was sentenced to house arrest, community service, and financial restitution.

3. Marc D. Hauser, a psychology professor, was found guilty of 8 cases of scientific misconduct will not return to teach at Harvard University.

2. Editors of 16 peer reviewed journals retracted Joachim Boldt’s papers based on “unethical” research.

1. Diederik Stapel, of Tilburg University, admitted falsifying data for dozen of papers that were published in the last decade.

The past year was a bad one for scientific integrity. Divulgation of cases of scientific misconducts used to be restricted to academic media, but the past year, many cases caught the attention of popular media outlets and the whole scientific community; researchers, journals, and editors took the heat.
We hope cases of scientific misconduct are reduced in 2012. The preoccupation with research integrity is increasing and many institutions and research foundations are working diligently to spread best practices in research and prepare scientists to be responsible and ethical contributors to the world of science. Never before have we seen so many people involved in promoting scientific integrity. Let’s make 2012 the year of ethics in science.

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