RPCI Team Estimates Annual Cost of Scientific Misconduct in U.S. at $110 Million or More

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

BUFFALO, NY — The costs of investigating allegations of scientific misconduct in the United States could exceed $110 million annually, according to research by Arthur M. Michalek, PhD, FACE,and colleagues from Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI). The costs associated with a single investigation of scientific misconduct, Dr. Michalek’s team found, can be as high as $525,000.

Dr. Michalek is a Distinguished Member of the Department of Epidemiology and Prevention at RPCI, and Professor Emeritus. The paper, “The Costs and Underappreciated Consequences of Research Misconduct: A Case Study,” is published in the August issue of PLoS Medicine, a peer-reviewed open-access online journal published by the Public Library of Science and available online at http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.1000318

“Directors of research programs hardly need to be reminded of the short- and long-term damage that can follow an incident of scientific misconduct,” says Dr. Michalek, who was Dean and Senior Vice President for Educational Affairs at RPCI until he retired earlier this year. “But I think it’s important that the research community have some numbers to attach to just how costly these missteps can be — regardless of whether the misconduct is willful.”

Collaborating with Dr. Michalek on this research were Donald L. Trump, MD, FACP, President and CEO; Camille Wicher, RN, MSN, Esq., Vice President of Corporate Ethics and Research Subject Protection; and Alan Hutson, PhD, Chair of the Department of Biostatistics. The researchers devised a statistical model to estimate the costs associated with scientific misconduct, which they divided into three categories: conduct of the fraudulent research, investigation and remediation. They then applied this model to one case study based on an actual investigation, and determined that if the observed costs for this single investigation were applied to all 217 allegations of misconduct reported to the Office of Research Integrity (ORI), a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services,in 2007 (the most recent reporting period), the direct costs would exceed $110 million.

The authors argue that although scientific misconduct may never be eliminated, cases of misconduct that stem from a lack of scientific standards rather than from deliberate misdeeds can be prevented. Most academic institutions, they note, have implemented steps to reduce incidence of misconduct, such as enforcing scientific codes of conduct, providing mentorship training, monitoring and auditing research activities, and implementing procedures for reporting and investigating alleged incidents of misconduct. “The ultimate effectiveness of these approaches may take time to discern,” the authors write. “What is known, however, is that the costs of these proactive activities pale in comparison to the costs of a single case of scientific misconduct.”

The mission of Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) is to understand, prevent and cure cancer. RPCI, founded in 1898, was one of the first cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and remains the only facility with this designation in Upstate New York. The Institute is a member of the prestigious National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an alliance of the nation’s leading cancer centers; maintains affiliate sites; and is a partner in national and international collaborative programs. For more information, visit RPCI’s website at http://www.roswellpark.org, call 1-877-ASK-RPCI (1-877-275-7724) or email askrpci@roswellpark.org.

Media Contact: 

Annie Deck-Miller, Senior Media Relations Manager
716-845-8593; annie.deck-miller@roswellpark.org