Could ‘write once/read many’ discourage cheating?

TJ O’Neil

In a recent Science editorial, Barbara Redman and our Ivan Oransky called for a boost to the budget and authority of the U.S. Office of Research Integrity (ORI). In this letter, a nephrologist and researcher suggests one potential way to fight fraud.

Bravo on your editorial, which pointed out the pathetic funding level for an agency that is supposed to put a check on self-interested fabrication and distortion in scientific research.  Perhaps universities and influential individuals who feel the threat of censure have collaborated to minimize that risk by throttling the Office of Research Integrity (ORI).  Regardless, billions of dollars each year are probably lost in misdirected efforts based on false information. That is a national tragedy.

During the time I was an undergraduate at Caltech we had an honor code that was very clear: You cheat, lie or fabricate and you are at best heavily censured, and likely out.  We learned that one’s research notes were our reputation, and that our supervising senior researchers would often and unpredictably ask to review them.  It was daunting and occasionally very stressful, but led to a lifelong ethic that stood me in good stead when I went into medicine, where peoples’ lives were at stake based on what we wrote and did.  

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