GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT – Maintaining Scientific Integrity


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“Don’t Do, Because You Will Get Caught”

The American Society for Investigative Pathology hosted a very engaging and informational session on scientific integrity with regards to publishing, intellectual property and conflicts of interest. One might be inclined to think! Well! It’s my work, I should be able to do whatever I want with it Right? WRONG! The need for scientists to be innovative is becoming increasingly challenging! Scientist are now expected to publish more, seek alternative funding mechanisms and all the while discover ways to improve upon their respective research programs. Due to these new strains, it is not surprising to see the incidence of breeches in scientific integrity becoming more of a problem.

It is hard to determine where to draw the line when it comes to issues in scientific integrity. For example, if a principle investigator receives funding from a private institution, he/she may not be able to publish their data. Moreover, there are issues surrounding “Conflicts of Interest” or COI’s. Various questions can arise….Did you skew that data? Did you omit those results on purpose? Are the techniques you used proprietary, the list goes on and on. When you think about it, we all have our own conflicts of interest, but when it comes to the research setting, you better well make sure that you are handling things properly.

This lunch and learn session was engaging and also included the audience acting as a make shift jury, judging if the constituents and their actions were GUILTY or INNOCENT or ??, which means that topic is a tricky one . A case in scientific integrity was presented and covered various aspects listed below. Let’s just say there were very simple take home messages from each topic discussed and they are also included below.


  1. Citation Bias and Reference Accuracy – “Actually read the citations you put in your paper. If something is inaccurate, you risk the chance of increasing that inaccuracy”
  2. Omitting negative results – “Everyone wants a beautiful research story, however if the data solidifies your results, please do not omit. Negative data can be IMPORTANT too geez”
  3. Redundant Data – “Okay people! Don’t try to change the title of your study and resubmit it to another journal or as a research grant, like it is new data”
  4. Plagiarism – “Plagiarism is plagiarism is plagiarism…point PERIOD!

Image Manipulation

  1. Image Scaling – “Add a scale to fluorescent and microscopy images of biological specimens; a good rule of thumb is to add the scale before enlarging the image.
  2. Microscope – “Imaging is NOT the microscope, it is the sample prep. Be sure control for the processing of your sample during its preparation.
  3. Pixilation – Anything that alters the pixels…..JUST STAY AWAY!

Conflicts of Interest

Ultimate take home message is, if you think you have a conflict of interest, it is most likely that you do. To avoid potential issues, you should contact your university’s conflict of interest office to minimize risk and substantiate yourself as a scientist who has integrity!

Remember to DO THE RIGHT THING! Remember that what you do now, does matter. In the process of understanding this complex world around us, make sure you do your due diligence to make those understandings easier. Try not to input your own personal biases and do your best to write with integrity!

“There is no such thing as a minor lapse of integrity” ― Tom Peters

April 27th, 2014 (11:45 AM – 1:45 PM ) – Experimental Biology 2014
XIVth Annual ASIP/AAA Career Development & Mentoring Program and Lunch: GUILTY Until Proven INNOCENT: Scientific Integrity and Getting Published!
San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina, Presidio 
Chaired by Jayne Reuben , Titus Reaves , Jacqueline Jones-Triche 

@ASIPath, #xbio

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