Scientific misconduct refers to an intentional demonstration of an unethical behavior in the area of scholarly research. Its ramifications can be harmful for both researchers who commit intellectual theft and any individual who is exposed to it. Additionally, unethical behavior may presuppose public health implications associated with falsified and/or fabricated data. Thus, the purpose of the following paper is to discuss the incident of Felig and Soman analyzing their unethical actions and scientific misconduct in professional scientific research.
Description of the Incident
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The New England Journal of Medicine sent a scholarly article written by an endocrinology researcher, Helena Wachslicht-Rodbard, for peer reviewing. The study ''Insulin Receptors in Anorexia Nervosa'' was evaluated by professionals in the relevant fields as to its scientific credibility and validity. Philip Felig, a well-respected medical scholar, passed this article for reviewing to his junior collaborator at Yale, Vijay Soman. A couple of months later, the reviewers recommended complete disapproval rather than revision of the research, enclosing appropriate comments and critiques. Consequently, Soman and Felig were accused of plagiarizing some ideas and findings presented in the study conducted by Wachslicht-Rodbard, which they had recently reviewed and rejected (Gross, 2016). Afterwards, Soman admitted that he had borrowed some phrases from the researched article written by Wachslicht-Rodbard claiming that he felt under the pressure of the deadline (Epstein, 2010).
Additionally, the original author questioned the credibility of the data reported in the article, claiming that the scholars had never actually conducted the experiments demonstrated in it. Dr. Wachslicht-Rodbard discovered that the conclusions of Felig and Somans paper were accurate but yet similar to hers with insertion of their own discoveries, which bear minor academic value (Epstein, 2010). Furthermore, the scientists provided neither the names of psychotherapists nor the health care organization where the research question was investigated, which seemed rather suspicious to the original author. Another finding that appeared to be a clinically improbable result was the fact that all six patients, who were observed, had no menses when they were diagnosed with anorexia but, suspiciously, reported menses when an increase in body weight was observed (Hunt, 1981). Finally, the Soman-Felig data illustrated on a graph seemed increasingly precise forming an ideal curve, which is extremely difficult to achieve in the research settings.
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The Soman-Felig incident of scientific misconduct and unethical behavior involved plagiarism, fabrication, falsification, and peer-reviewed violation. More specifically, a number of passages as well as Wachslicht-Robards formula were completely plagiarized. Fabrication consisted of manipulating research findings to make them look more accurate and scientifically valuable. This type of misconduct occurs when the scholars attempt to report the study that was never conducted (Sassower, 2015). Thus, the sixth participant was intentionally labeled as anorexic to make the research seem more credible and correct (Epstein, 2010). Soman and Felig also failed to provide the graphs for each patient but instead demonstrated pieces of paper with raw numbers. Fabrication of the paper was long left unnoticed, since the scholars achieved correct findings by illegitimate means (Hunt, 1981). Another ethical violation is that Soman and Felig selected the data that corresponded to their scientific hypothesis and disregarded those that did not. In fact, they omitted the valuable data, so that the study was not correctly presented in the research record (Gross, 2016). Ultimately, Soman and Felig did not abide by ethical norms and standards of peer review conduct to ensure that impartial decisions are rendered with the purpose of contributing to public good. Instead, the reviewers presented the findings of another author as their own, thereby raising the conflict of interest.
Personal Opinion of the Incident
The incidents of scientific misconduct attract much media attention and powerfully promote distrust in science in both the general public and the government. Since the modern medicine heavily depends upon clinical discoveries and evidence-based practices, such cases have serious adverse effects on the society now and then. Health care providers may refrain from using best available scientific evidence and, therefore, do not contribute to broadening the research base through clinical experience and judgement unintentionally causing the overall scientific decline.
In view of such grave consequences, I believe that serious challenges faced in the professional field actively encouraged the discussed case of unethical behavior and misconduct. The scholars were forced to fiercely compete for grant money and thus continually experienced the pressure of publishing papers first. This competition was aggravated by the fact that Felig and Soman might lack financial resources to support their laboratories. As at that time many programs and initiatives were at high risk of ending, the researchers were likely to be tempted by the desire to make their findings more meaningful and impressive. Therefore, ethical control should be implemented at the federal level by introducing the regulations and guidelines aimed to reduce deadline pressure in the scientific field.
The case of Philip Felig and Vijay Soman brought important ethical issues to the surface, such as editorial peer-review violation, conflict of interest, and plagiarism. The researchers demonstrated gross scientific misconduct not only through plagiarizing the conclusions but also manipulating the results in order to add scientific value to the study. Furthermore, they intentionally selected the data that fitted their scientific assumptions while ignoring the results that seemed inconsistent with the hypothesis. Such unethical behavior and malicious intent are often caused by deadline pressure and the lack of financial incentives, and may eventually result in increasing distrust of the public and clinical staff in scholarly studies, thereby thwarting pace of medical progress.