Spurred by a growing belief in the importance of science and technology, public support for research increased dramatically over the course of the 20th century. A century ago, research did not play a major role in the average person’s life. Today, few aspects of life are not touched in one way or another by the information and technologies generated through research.
With growing public support for research has come an understandableconcern about the way it is conducted. Public funds support roughly one-third of all research and development (R&D) in the U.S. and half of all basic research. Many researchers, therefore, spend a significant portion of their time working for the public. As public servants and also professionals, researchers have clear obligations to conduct their research in a responsible manner.
In general terms, responsible conduct in research is simply good citizenship applied to professional life. Researchers who report their work honestly, accurately, efficiently, and objectively are on the right road when it comes to responsible conduct. Anyone who is dishonest, knowingly reports inaccurate results, wastes funds, or allows personal bias to influence scientific findings is not.
However, the specifics of good citizenship in research can be a challenge to understand and put into practice. Research is not an organized profession in the same way as law or medicine. Researchers learn best practices in a number of ways and in different settings. The norms for responsible conduct can vary from field to field. Add to this the growing body of local, state, and Federal regulations and you have a situation that can test the professional savvy of any researcher.
The ORI Introduction to the Responsible Conduct of Research has been written primarily for researchers and research staff engaged in research supported by the Public Health Service but is applicable to scholarly research in general. As an “introduction,” it seeks to provide a practical overview of the rules, regulations, and professional practices that define the responsible conduct of research. The coverage is not exhaustive and leaves room for continued reading and discussion in the laboratory and classroom, at professional meetings, and in any other setting where researchers gather to discuss their work.
The content is organized around two ways of thinking about research. The main sections follow the normal flow of research, from a consideration of shared values to planning, conducting, reporting, and reviewing. The chapters within the main sections cover nine core instructional areas that have been widely recognized as central to the responsible conduct of research. An opening chapter on rules of the road and a brief epilogue on responsible research round out the coverage.
Although designed to follow the normal flow of research, the chapters in this volume are all more-or-less self-contained and can be read in any order. Each opens with a short case in which students and researchers are faced with making decisions about the responsible conduct of research. Throughout the chapters, important points are summarized in bulleted lists. Each chapter ends with a set of closing questions for further discussion and resources for reference and additional reading. The Web addresses given for the resources and elsewhere in this work were current at the time of printing.
While written with all researchers in mind, special consideration has been given to the needs of students, postdocs, and researchers who do not have easy access to responsible conduct of research materials or to colleagues who can explain the intricacies of responsible conduct in research to them. Two or three hours with this book should provide anyone in this position with a better understanding of the reasons for and the scope of the most important responsibilities researchers have.
Many colleagues have generously provided comments on parts or all of this work as it took shape over several drafts, including Ruth Bulger, Tony Demsey, Carolyn Fassi, Peggy Fischer, Mark Frankel, Nelson Garnett, Shirley Hicks, Erich Jensen, Mike Kalichman and his students, Nell Kriesberg, John Krueger, Tony Mazzaschi, Judy Nowack, Chris Pascal, Ken Pimple, Larry Rhoades, Fran Sanden, Mary Scheetz, Joan Schwartz, David Shore, Peggy Sundermeyer, and Carol Wigglesworth. Co-creator, artist David Zinn, patiently produced multiple versions of his drawings as we worked together to turn serious dilemmas into lighter but thought-provoking illustrations. ORI Director, Chris Pascal, and Associate Director, Larry Rhoades, deserve credit for initiating and carrying through on this project. If through promoting integrity and responsible conduct in research this work helps preserve the place of research in society today, it will have been a project well worth undertaking.
Nicholas H. Steneck
Ann Arbor, MI