Medical schools call for monitor

October 5, 2001

Leading figures in the Scottish medical Royal Colleges have called for the creation of a national body to investigate fraud and misconduct in biomedical research, writes Caroline Davis.

More than half of biostatisticians who responded to a recent international poll said they knew of fraudulent research projects. These included fabrication and falsification of data, deceptive reporting of results, suppression of data and deceptive design and analysis.

A blueprint outlining a national panel for research integrity, which would investigate "behaviour by a researcher, intentional or not, that falls short of good ethical and scientific standards" was published in the Proceedings of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh .

Gordon Lowe, of the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh, said that although many institutions had their own good-practice guidelines, they should have recourse to external advice.

The proposed body would be government funded but independent, comprised of stakeholders including professionals in science, medicine and healthcare, the public, through lay, legal, government and media representatives, and the healthcare industry. It would aim to promote best practice through education, standards and auditing and coordinating allegations of misconduct.

There has been mounting pressure to create a science watchdog in the United Kingdom, which would bring it into line with countries such as the United States and Denmark.

In 1999, the colleges and their faculty of pharmaceutical medicine held a conference on biomedical research, supported by the General Medical Council, the Medical Research Council and the chief scientist's office. It recommended that a national panel be established, and charged the colleges with creating a blueprint.

Earlier this year, the Wellcome Trust said that from October 2002, it would fund research only at institutions that had published standards for good research practice and procedures for handling misconduct.

After a meeting in October, the group will present its proposals to the government. It hopes to establish the panel in 2002.

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