April 23, 1997

Improving the Scientific Misconduct Hearing Process

Author Affiliations

From the law firm of Titus & McConomy, Pittsburgh, Pa.

JAMA. 1997;277(16):1315-1319. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03540400065034

The overturning and withdrawal of several of the Office of Research Integrity's (ORI's) findings of scientific misconduct have called its role into question. The contested findings of scientific misconduct that have been tried before the hearing body have been based on lengthy and expensive ORI investigations. How could ORI have failed to prove its findings of scientific misconduct after the commitment of substantial resources that far exceed those devoted during institutional investigations? One reason may be that the current hearing process makes it difficult or impossible for ORI, institutions, or individuals to prove scientific misconduct. The hearing process has been criticized by discouraged whistleblowers who believe that their allegations of scientific misconduct should have been upheld, and by the accused for the expensive and protracted nature of the proceedings. The following article examines problems in the scientific misconduct hearing process and suggests that the process could be improved by letting administrative law judges, patent attorneys, and a scientific majority decide these cases.