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    As you may recall, I posted the following inquiry a few weeks

    "I recently had the opportunity to attend the NIH Midwest
    Regional Seminar at Northwestern University. Of particular
    interest was a discussion focusing upon science misconduct and
    science fraud. Apparently, Congress is beginning to exert a
    great deal of pressure on NIH to develop guidelines for dealing
    with cases of science misconduct and science fraud. I won't
    attempt to present the entire discussion but I would like to
    share the thoughts I presented in hopes of getting feedback from
    the group at large. The discussion began with a case study in
    which a junior faculty member accused an established researcher
    of 'sloppy data collection.'

    The discussion then moved into whether it was the responsibility
    of the university or NIH to deal with accusations of science
    fraud/misconduct. I began by asking if there was a universally
    accepted operational definition of "sloppy data". The
    answer given was no and that point has been brought home in court
    cases won by persons accused of science misconduct who
    subsequently sued. Given that answer, I pointed out that it is
    highly unlikely that anyone within my university has the
    expertise to evaluate my data collection procedures or is aware
    of what may be considered standard practice within my area of
    expertise. I am extremely apprehensive about allowing someone
    not expert in my field make judgements about my procedures.
    Similarly, I believe several conflict of interest issues are
    raised by leaving the responsibility with the university. On the
    other hand, giving NIH the responsibility to conduct such
    investigations will require additional administration,
    administration which would most likely suck money out of research
    funds which are already difficult to obtain.

    My suggestion was to allow either the university or NIH oversee
    or coordinate any investigation but to leave the ultimate
    investigation up to the professional organizations to which the
    accused belongs. In fact, either of those bodies should be
    responsible for compendensating and coordinating the
    investigators. What do you think? While the thought of such
    instances is uncomfortable and highly unlikely, would it be to
    the advantage of ISB, ASB, CSB, etc. to formulate policies for
    dealing with questions of science misconduct within our area of
    expertise? It seems to me that if the professional societies
    have a vested interest, it is in keeping the field pure. How
    would we, as a field, distinguish between idiosyncracies in data
    collection and sloppy data collection? Would standardized data
    collection/analysis methods provide an adequate base for making
    such a distinction?"

    While there were relatively few responses, the responses received
    raise many important points. The issues raised require a great
    deal of thought and discussion. The replies I received accompany
    this note in their entirety. While I am not sure that I am the
    best person to moderate a discussion of the issues raised, I am
    firmly convinced that such a discussion should occur and I will
    follow up after the list has had time to consider the following:

    >> "I think you have raised an important issue. Also it is very
    controversial. It reminds me of investigations of incompetance by
    the engineering professional association that I am licensed by.
    A professional society may very well be given the responsibilty
    for judging whether data is fraudulently obtained or just
    sloppily gathered. You then need some legal legislation to make
    the society responsible for the credentials of the members.

    My wife is involved with a new area, Art Therapy. This is
    psychotherapy using art as part of the communication method and
    there are professional organizations that set up and monitor the
    members qualifications, degrees, diplomas AND internship hours.

    In my own case the Province of Ontario has made the Association
    of Professional Engineers on Ontario responsible for licensing
    engineers. You must have a degree in engineering from an
    accredited school and two years of experience and now may even
    have to write an exam. This is only to work for others. If you
    want to consult as an expert you need another licence and futher

    I also belong to the Canadian Medical and Biological Engineering
    Society. They have special criteria for CLINICAL ENGINEERS that
    also include special exams, degrees, and experience.

    You have opened up a serious matter. Let us know what you find
    out from replies to your posting.

    Good luck,

    Marvin Sherebrin P. Eng.
    Ph. D.
    M. H. Sherebrin
    Associate Professor
    Dept. of Medical Biophysics
    Univ. of Western Ontario
    London, Ontario, Canada N6A 5C1


    ************************************************** ***************

    >> "Two points in response to your posting:

    1) Universities and NIH have, so far, shown themselves to be
    unable, or at least unwilling, to address misconduct issues.
    Blundering response by MIT permitted the Baltimore affair to
    become a circus event in the Congress, although prompt unbiased
    investigation might have resolved the issue completely. An NIH
    case concerning claims of misconduct by V.C. Mow by NIH reseacher
    C. McCutchen, was an example of NIH's own leaden feet in dealing
    with researchers of established reputation and power base in the
    academic/research system. The biomedical engineering field seems
    particularly vulnerable to bad practice, perhaps because there
    are so few competing authorities in any one specific area and the
    system fosters an atmosphere where hard questions are not

    2) On the same theme as my last point, any researcher with
    experience in instrumentation and measurement, even if unrelated
    to your particular area, should be able to make informed
    assessments of your techniques. The fundamental principles of
    instrumentation and measurement are the same. Someone with
    experience would also be able to pose questions and/or respond to
    your defense of practice specific to your field in judging the
    quality of data or presence of deliberate negligence and
    misconduct. Otherwise you seem to imply that no one is capable of
    judging your work. A researcher's job is to be able to defend not
    just the results of his work, but the methods used to obtain
    them. If you are comfortable with your approach, then honest
    inquiry should not be a problem and may even stimulate a new
    avenue of thought.

    I will concede that in the political climate of today, honest
    assessment may be hard to find. But it also may be more likely
    that you would obtain an unbiased assessment from someone who is
    not and will not be a competitor for funds or publications.


    Mike Murphy
    Mechanical Engineering

    ************************************************** ***************

    >> "I just read a hardcopy of your posting on BIOMECH-L, and I
    would like to thank you for bringing this issue up. This is just
    one of a number of politically driven issues that the
    biomechanics community should be preparing to deal with
    proactively. I have two specific comments:

    1) It is possible to develop community standards for data
    collection and documentation. In areas that have been more
    politically contentious and litigious, such as occupational
    epidemiology, codes of "good practice" have been developed. I
    recall seeing such a guideline in the Journal of Occupational
    Medicine. I think I can find a copy for you if you would like.

    2) We need to think about the problem of whether electronic
    data storage is archival. As the David Baltimore case points
    out, great weight is placed on the dating and forensic analysis
    of laboratory notebooks. Too many biomechanics labs do not
    insist on keeping lab notebooks, and much of the data is left in
    softcopy form in poorly organized fashion. In such an
    environment researchers leave themselves wide open to allegations
    of "sloppy data collection," because they cannot prove otherwise
    with archival materials. It one occured to me that what we need
    is a central repository of biomechanics data where all
    biomechanics researchers would E-mail their data sets immediately
    after data collection. The repository would make tape backups
    and document the date the data were received. Thus,
    participating researchers would be able prove that they didn't
    fudge the data during data reduction and analysis. Although this
    wouldn't address allegations of improper lab procedure, it would
    provide some protection. I have absolutely no idea who would
    fund this service, how it would be administered, or what legal
    status it would have, but it's a random thought.

    Again, thanks for bringing this subject up. I hope the ASB,
    ISB, etc. decide to do something about it. I would be willing
    to contribute if it does.

    Richard Hughes
    Research Fellow
    Orthopedic Biomechanics Lab
    Mayo Foundation

    ************************************************** ***************

    >> "I've just read your recent posting to BIOMCH-L, and I'd like
    to contribute my ten cents to your discussion.

    Although I believe your suggestion of using our professional
    organizations (ISB, ASB, etc) as mediators/judge/jury/whatever in
    cases of professional misconduct is well intended, I'm afraid I
    strongly disagree with your proposal. The "old boy" network is
    far too strong in such organizations--not just in biomechanics,
    but in most fields of endeavor. Surely you can see the potential
    conflicts of interest in this approach ... "Oh! I've known him
    for years, he wouldn't do a thing like that!" ... "Oh, him.
    Yes, he's been doing that for years!" ... and so on. Frankly, I
    don't think you can use people who know each other as a jury, you
    need unbiased, independent thinkers who stand to gain/lose
    nothing by their decision. Just imagine upsetting the "old boy"
    network. You don't have to be a genius to identify the possible

    Let me suggest an alternative. There are several large
    professional organizations of national standing ... the American
    Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), The National
    Academy of Sciences (NAS), Sigma Chi, etc., all with members
    well-versed in fundamental scientific principles. Why not use
    them as independent arbitrators? Sigma Chi, for example, has
    expressed considerable interest in scientific fraud.
    No matter where you go for arbitration, it will cost you. It's
    naive to think that ISB, ASB, ... would be able to perform a
    thorough investigation without an additional source of funding.
    Frankly, I'd rather see government support for an independent
    body, than membership support for local investigations which,
    frankly, could destroy the organization with in-fighting. I
    think our professional organizations should stand back and watch
    the chips fall as they may. If an independent jury needed
    field-specific advice, it could be provided, but the independent
    body would lead the investigation and (hopefully) eliminate
    conflicts of interest among scientists with common interests--and
    personal agendas.

    I appreciate the forthright manner in which you have brought this
    topic to the attention of our membership. It needs discussing.
    I look forward to seeing the other responses you receive.


    Jim Walton

    ************************************************** ***************

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