Medics consider a flying fraud squad

June 19, 1998

Crackdown on clinical cheats

GEORGE Alberti (pictured right) is the man entrusted by the General Medical Council to devise a scheme for sorting out clinical research fraud and misconduct.

He said he isconsidering a "flying squad" of two or three people who could quickly and discreetly enter an institution when a fraud complaint has been made to determine whether there is a case worth investigating. If so,the institution involved would then put the necessary mechanisms in place todeal with it.

"To provide thisflying squad, I think you would need a national panel," said Professor Alberti."The GMC may wantto set up its own."But he added that it would make sense if such a group covered all academic research fraud.

Professor Alberti is uncertain whether there is now more academic fraud than in the past. "It certainly has not been helped in clinical research by the pressures to publish, from the research assessment exercise and to further a career," he said."In part too it's greed, people get paid todo studies." He also thinks misconduct and sloppy research happens because supervisors, who should be teaching good practiceto young researchers, have less time todo so.

"The pressures from the clinical side are enormous. Students are just not learning. I think there is a real job to be done from the beginning. A lot of it should be second nature. But I think you have to teachsecond nature."

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