Data Management and Research Misconduct Webinar

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Fabrication, falsification and plagiarism are the three major categories of research misconduct, as defined by the federal government. In a dynamic webinar, Claudia Neuhauser, Ph.D., interim vice president for research, and Santi Thompson, associate dean for research and student engagement in UH Libraries, provided insights into what not to do when conducting research and how proper data management can help stave off missteps in data collection, publication and reproducibility.

The webinar included detailed case studies of researchers who faced fines or other penalties for misconduct based on poor data management practices.

Image Manipulation

The webinar addressed image manipulation as a chief concern and emphasized the importance of avoiding such practices. Neuhauser advised researchers to record all capture settings for reproducibility before taking a clean image. She reminded them to preserve original images while making changes only on copies. Saving images as TIFF files (not JPEG), recording finalized image export settings and documenting any manipulations made in the figure legend were also recommended. (Joshi, Adita. Insights. June 2022).

Super-sleuths whose job it is to detect images duplications and doctoring, along with the rise of AI tools, have been shining a light on these manipulations in recent years. (Katyanna Quach. The Register. September 2022).

Improving the Culture

The presentation highlighted the reasons researchers engage in misconduct, including poor supervision, inadequate training, competitive pressures, personal circumstances and individual psychology, according to the U.S. Office of Research Integrity. Toxic lab environments, where investigators may impose demands for specific outcomes from their postdocs and graduate students, was identified as a significant issue.

Another problem concerns the perils of collaboration with other researchers – some people don’t know that a subject matter expert on their team is engaging in misconduct. Neuhauser also outlined the steps of research misconduct evaluation at a university.

According to Plan

The webinar further focused on data management plans and their role in preventing mistakes and misconduct. Researchers should assess what they are generating, ensure secure handling of the data throughout the gathering and recording process, and maintain long-term data integrity. Storage, backup recording meta data and using tools like DMPTool were covered by Thompson as essential aspects of data management.

The well-attended webinar provided a wealth of information about curating, using, storing and reproducing data, ultimately aimed at avoiding any suspicion of research misconduct. Given the serious consequences of manipulating images and falsifying data, trustworthiness and accuracy are paramount.

More Information: Presentation Slides