Sat, Dec 16, 2017

Staple Affair: EFPA Board on Scientific Affairs Statement about Scientific Fraud in Research

4 Sep 2013

In recent times, there have been several reports about scientific fraud in science, including the area of psychology. Scientific fraud takes many forms, from data fabrication to “domesticate” analyses, omission of non-confirmatory findings, and so on.

Scientific research contributes not only to the development of knowledge but also to the application of such knowledge for intervening on, and improving, the life of individuals and society. Thus, scientific fraud has profoundly negative effects for both the psychological community and the society at large.

For these reasons, EFPA

  • condemns scientific fraud;
  • expresses concerns about fraud that has remained unnoticed;
  • calls for sanctions against researchers engaging in fraud;
  • calls for better education of researchers in methods and ethics.

 

Therefore, EFPA makes the following statement:

1.Scientific fraud is loathsome on ethical grounds, and incompatible with basic principles of science. For psychology, these principles constitute the grounding values of the EFPA Metacode of Ethics, i.e. Respect for a Person’s Rights and Dignity, Competence, Responsibility, and Integrity (http://efpa.eu/ethics/ethical-codes).

2.Scientific fraud undermines public confidence in psychologists and the trustworthiness of psychologists applying scientific knowledge; it is an infringement of trust within the community; it lessens the credibility and the respectability of the community;

3.Scientific fraud is educationally negative as it offers examples of unacceptable practices and misleading behaviors to students and scientists entering the research arena (see point 5 of the EFPA document on Doctoral degrees - http://science.efpa.eu/information-/proposed-minimum-standards-for-the-doctorate-degree-in-psychology-in-europe/).

4.Scientific fraud erodes the effectiveness of procedures and applications in the professional practice and thereby harms the wellbeing of psychologists’ clients. This consequence is particularly loathsome as it lessens the credibility and the respectability of the community in outsiders' eyes and may invalidate intervention with negative effects on people’s health.

5.Measures are needed to prevent and counteract fraud and neutralize its effects. There are several measures that can be taken, all of which should be known to researchers by being part of their education curricula and training. Apt statistical analyses and replication of studies, among other means, are needed (see, e.g. Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman proposal - http://www.nature.com/news/nobel-laureate-challenges-psychologists-to-clean-up-their-act-1.11535). However, all measures will prove effective if the researchers operate in a framework that stress science development rather than individual rewards.

As a consequence, EFPA calls for:

  • improved institutional control over scientific research, as to prevent, discover, and reveal fraud (incl. separation of responsibility for data collection and analysis);
  • equirements for replications studies by research institutes and scientific journals;
  • changes in the reward system as to end excessive benefits for extra-ordinary performance of individual researchers;
  • mechanisms to revoke publications as to neutralize the harmful effects of fraud;
  • protection of (junior) researchers against the effects of other (senior) researchers engaging in fraud.

 

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