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如何处理学术不端,nature的建议
时间:2009年06月09日 来源:

Nature杂志在6月19号的社论中谈到学术不端行为(misconduct),和大家通常的预想不太一样,学术不端行为在国外的生物医学界也比较多,只是没有我国这么肆无忌惮和不知廉耻。

Nature杂志做了一份调查,接受调查的人中的9%承认在最近的三年有某种类型的学术不端行为,而这些学术不端行为中的37%没有被报道。
越来越多的科研工作者出现学术不端,这就不仅仅是少数人为了某种利益的个人行动。Nature的主编呼吁对待学术不端应该比现有的措施做的更多。

比如说并不是所有的学术不端都罪大恶极,也并不是的所有学术不端者要在整个职业生涯中都背上骗子的骂名。还有一些是诚实的错误和意见的不同。机构需要告诉研究者那些是允许的,那些是被禁止的,但是同时管理者还要有足够的灵活性来根据要求来区分不同的情况,给出合适的解决方法。比如一个年轻研究者犯一次错,应该警告他来帮他改正错误和教育这个研究者。在具体的实验室,应该把那些是能够做的和那些是不能够做的事情具体化,来降低一个单个研究者决定被指控为学术不端的机率。

同时,也应该注意到现在的研究环境是不是造成学术不端的泛滥。比如实验室的压力导致研究者抄捷径,获得终身职位的压力造成学术不端。对学术不端的调查要在私下进行,避免错误的指责对被调查人名誉的影响。研究机构可以从这些调查中吸取经验,改进研究所的管理制度。然而,一些研究机构却试图掩盖学术不端,怕给研究机构带来负面效应。其实这样做是以牺牲研究机构的长期利益来获取短期的利益,这种研究机构早晚还会出学术不端。

这些建议都值得我们中国的同行好好学习。

Many researchers would like to believe that scientific misconduct is very rare. But news reported in this issue (see page 969), and the survey results reported by Sandra Titus and her colleagues on page 980, challenge that comfortable assumption. Titus's team found that almost 9% of the respondents in their survey, mainly biomedical scientists, had witnessed some form of scientific misconduct in the past three years, and that 37% of those incidents went unreported.

The results suggest a research climate in which scientific misconduct, although uncommon, is certainly not an anomaly. Titus et al. outline a number of measures to address this situation, including better protection for whistleblowers, and promotion of a 'zero tolerance' culture in which scientists have just as much responsibility to report others' misconduct as they have for their own behaviour.

However, although these proposals have much to recommend them, they are, at best, a beginning. A more radical change of perspective may be in order — one in which misconduct is no longer viewed as problem that can be solved by identifying and banishing a few unethical individuals. Instead, the problem calls for approaches that are both more nuanced and more far-reaching.

Investigations often fail to diagnose the environment that has allowed misconduct to flourish.

Consider, for example, that not all cases of misconduct are equally egregious, and not all perpetrators deserve to be branded as cheaters for the rest of their careers. There is often room for honest mistakes and differences of opinion. Yes, institutions should develop strong guidelines for what is and is not permissible, but officials should also have the flexibility to compare individual situations to these guidelines, and to develop unique solutions as needed. In some cases — for example, a young researcher who simply yielded to temptation once — a system of warnings might be used to both correct the problem and educate the researcher. Within individual labs, moreover, airing complex matters — such as decisions about when data can be justifiably excluded from analysis, or how images can be ethically adjusted to improve their quality — may reduce the chance that any single investigator's decision will later lead to accusations of misconduct.

Meanwhile, misconduct investigations all too often focus solely on an individual offender, and fail to diagnose the environment that has allowed misconduct to flourish. Instead, institutions should seize the opportunity to learn from the experience, and to address the bigger questions. For example, did the atmosphere in the lab create the pressure to cut corners? Or did the intensity of the tenure chase contribute? One way to address such questions might be through internal departmental discussions, in which everyone is free to admit mistakes, and discuss how to fix the problems instead of apportioning the blame.

More-formal misconduct investigations may need to be kept private, as a necessary safeguard to protect the falsely accused. Nonetheless, institutions can and should share the lessons they have learned from the process. Officials at an institution may learn, for example, that mentoring needs to be improved, or that their system for reporting misbehaviour is flawed. Unfortunately, some institutions may instead feel pressure to bury or cover-up their findings for fear of negative press. But to do so is to gain a short-term reprieve at the expense of long-term loss: such institutions will only be doomed to repeat past mistakes.

This means turning attention away from scapegoats, and focusing on solutions.