Research integrity among PhD students within clinical research at the University of Southern Denmark

By Lone Bredahl, Kirsten Ohm Kyvik, Rikke Leth-Larsen, Mette Brandt Eriksen

Published in Danish Medical Journal No. 4/2018

Responsible conduct of research is the basis for the credibility of all research. Sometimes, however, research is carried out in a sloppy or even fraudulent way. We undertook a survey of knowledge, attitudes, and experiences with research misconduct among PhD students in clinical research. Research misconduct was defined as fabrication, falsification or plagiarism, committed willfully or grossly negligently in the planning, performing or reporting of the research. A questionnaire previously used in Swedish and Norwegian studies was distributed to PhD students (n = 330) affiliated with the Department of Clinical Research or Department of Regional Health Research, University of Southern Denmark (50% response rate). 18-34% reported to have heard (within the past year) about researchers who had plagiarized, falsified or fabricated data, or plagiarized publications. None reported this to occur in their own department. Few stated that they had felt under pressure to either falsify data (1%) or present results in a misleading way (3%). However, 22% stated to have felt an unethical pressure (within the past year) regarding the inclusion or order of authors on a publication. Overall, results indicate that, albeit at a low frequency, research misconduct involving PhD students is taking place. Likewise, a high fraction of respondents reported to have been under pressure regarding authorships, which points to questionable research practices in clinical research.

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