Bioethics Blogs

When is Research Misconduct Research Misconduct

Most of the time when an author submits falsified and
fabricated manuscripts to scientific journals they are considered to have
committed research misconduct. However, sometimes when this happens the authors
seem to be regarded as heroic crusading journalists acting to save us all from
the dishonesty of unscrupulous scientific publishers. So I have to raise the
question, how do we tell the difference? Or is there a difference? In October
of 2013 John Bohannon published his now widely read and discussed sting of open
access journals
. My colleague Zubin Master wrote about this in a previous Bioethics Today.

In that previous sting Dr. Bohannon submitted a faked and flawed
manuscript under assumed names to open access journals and found many
apparently accepted the paper without review. Bohannon’s study was likely
flawed by selection bias being submitted to journals which were considered to
be operating in a predatory manner. Nevertheless he documented this ethically
and scientifically flawed behavior on the part of these supposed peer reviewed
scientific journals. His findings were widely read and by and large his sting
operation was acclaimed for having done so. Largely lost in this acclaim was
the fact that when he submitted these manuscripts under assumed names he was
engaging falsification and fabrication. I grant you he was operating as a
journalist rather than a scientist so it is debatable whether the concept of
scientific misconduct is even applicable. However, he was acting on behalf of
the highly regarded journal Science Magazine published by the respected
American Association for the Advancement of Science and John Bohannon is a

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.