GeneralREVIEW ARTICLE

Research integrity and academic medicine: the pressure to publish and research misconduct

Molly Kearney, MSc; Maren Downing, MEng; and Elizabeth A. Gignac, DO
Notes and Affiliations
Notes and Affiliations

Received: September 14, 2023

Accepted: January 18, 2024

Published: February 27, 2024

  • Molly Kearney, MSc, 

    364432
    Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine
    , Lillington, NC, USA

  • Maren Downing, MEng, 

    364432
    Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine
    , Lillington, NC, USA

  • Elizabeth A. Gignac, DO, 

    Chair of Simulation and Clinical Education and Chair of Emergency Medicine, Leon Levine Hall of Medical Science,
    364432
    Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine
    , Lillington, NC, USA

Abstract

Context: This narrative review article explores research integrity and the implications of scholarly work in medical education. The paper describes how the current landscape of medical education emphasizes research and scholarly activity for medical students, resident physicians, and faculty physician educators. There is a gap in the existing literature that fully explores research integrity, the challenges surrounding the significant pressure to perform scholarly activity, and the potential for ethical lapses by those involved in medical education.

Objectives: The objectives of this review article are to provide a background on authorship and publication safeguards, outline common types of research misconduct, describe the implications of publication in medical education, discuss the consequences of ethical breaches, and outline possible solutions to promote research integrity in academic medicine.

Methods: To complete this narrative review, the authors explored the current literature utilizing multiple databases beginning in June of 2021, and they completed the literature review in January of 2023. To capture the wide scope of the review, numerous searches were performed. A number of Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) terms were utilized to identify relevant articles. The MeSH terms included “scientific misconduct,” “research misconduct,” “authorship,” “plagiarism,” “biomedical research/ethics,” “faculty, medical,” “fellowships and scholarships,” and “internship and residency.” Additional references were accessed to include medical school and residency accreditation standards, residency match statistics, regulatory guidelines, and standard definitions.

Results: Within the realm of academic medicine, research misconduct and misrepresentation continue to occur without clear solutions. There is a wide range of severity in breaches of research integrity, ranging from minor infractions to fraud. Throughout the medical education system in the United States, there is pressure to publish research and scholarly work. Higher rates of publications are associated with a successful residency match for students and academic promotion for faculty physicians. For those who participate in research misconduct, there is a multitude of potential adverse consequences. Potential solutions to ensure research integrity exist but are not without barriers to implementation.

Conclusions: Pressure in the world of academic medicine to publish contributes to the potential for research misconduct and authorship misrepresentation. Lapses in research integrity can result in a wide range of potentially adverse consequences for the offender, their institution, the scientific community, and the public. If adopted, universal research integrity policies and procedures could make major strides in eliminating research misconduct in the realm of academic medicine.

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