The term research ethics refers to the ethics of planning, conducting, and reporting research. Concerns with research ethics, and especially the prevention of research misconduct, have grown steadily over the past several decades. Although it can be difficult to derive accurate estimates of the frequency of research misconduct, many serious allegations of misconduct have been widely publicized in recent years, and a number of those allegations were confirmed by subsequent investigations.
Research misconduct includes, but is not limited to, fabrication (making up data or results), falsification (changing or misreporting data or results), and plagiarism (using the ideas or words of another person without giving appropriate credit). Research misconduct can cause many different kinds of harm, including:
- Harm to the basic advancement of scientific knowledge
- Harm to the health and safety of the public (if clinical data are falsified, for example)
- Damage to public trust in science and scientifically grounded policy
- Erosion of public support for financial investments in science
- Damage to the reputations and, often, the careers of the individuals involved in research misconduct
- Damage to the institution in which the scientific misconduct occurred