Scientific inquiry is self-correcting; fabricated or erroneous data are exposed when their irreproducibility or inconsistency with established observations is discovered. Nevertheless, medical research misconduct and instances of alleged fraud in research cannot be dismissed simply as aberrations. The medical community cannot be content with detecting their occurrence; research misconduct should be prevented.
Philip Majerus, MD, president of the American Society for Clinical Investigation, added a useful perspective to this problem in his recent presidential address to the society.1 He examined the role of medical journals, national agencies, and individual clinical investigators and laboratories in preventing and in responding to alleged research fraud.
Dr Majerus argued that medical journals, since they lack an investigative arm, have a limited capacity to deal with potentially fraudulent research. Still, a useful process of scientific scrutiny does take place in peer review. Review may reveal possible inconsistencies or suspicious aspects of a report that