Background: Most reports of scientific misconduct have been focused on principal investigators and other scientists (e.g., biostatisticians) involved in the research enterprise. However, by virtue of their position, research coordinators are often closest to the research field where much of misconduct occurs.
Objective: The purpose of this study was to describe research coordinators' experiences with scientific misconduct in their clinical environment.
Design: The descriptive design was embedded in a larger cross-sectional national survey. A total of 266 respondents, predominately registered nurses, who answered "yes" to having firsthand knowledge of scientific misconduct in the past year, provided open-ended question responses.
Methods: Content analysis was conducted by the research team, ensuring agreement of core categories and subcategories of misconduct.
Findings: Research coordinators most commonly learned about misconduct via firsthand witness of the event, with the principal investigator being the person most commonly identified as the responsible party. Five major categories of misconduct were identified: protocol violations, consent violations, fabrication, falsification, and financial conflict of interest. In 70% of cases, the misconduct was reported. In most instances where misconduct was reported, some action was taken. However, in approximately 14% of cases, no action or investigation ensued; in 6.5% of cases, the coordinator was fired or he or she resigned.
Conclusions: This study demonstrates the need to expand definitions of scientific misconduct beyond fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism to include other practices. The importance of the ethical climate in the institution in ensuring a safe environment to report and an environment where evidence is reviewed cannot be overlooked.