Research Ethics: Ethical Issues of Data Reporting and the Quest for Authenticity
The search for truth and its unbiased reporting are ultimate goals of conducting scientific research. Ideally, the reporting of research data ought to be an objective task. In practice, however, it is fraught with numerous statistical and ethical pitfalls, seldom addressed in formal emergency medicine training. The lure of academic celebrity and related influences may persuade researchers to report results in ways that make data appear more interesting, or worthy of publication. Several examples of potentially misleading data reporting are illustrated, including using inappropriate statistical tests, neglecting negative results, omitting missing data points, failing to report actual numbers of eligible subjects, using inappropriate graph labels or terminology, data dredging, and others. Although potentially inaccurate or inflated methods of data reporting may not constitute overt scientific misconduct, the intentional misrepresentation of data is a form of fraud or deception. Publicly funded academic inquiry is a privilege and honor enjoyed by a trusted few. Regardless of outcome, every effort should be made to report data in the most scientifically accurate method. To this end, the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine Code of Conduct and American College of Emergency Physicians Code of Ethics provide important guidance toward the accurate, compassionate, competent, impartial, and honest conduct of scientific research. Accuracy and authenticity in data reporting are first and foremost a matter of individual integrity, and are crucial to the preservation of academic credibility, the protection of future patients, and the public's trust in the medical research enterprise.
Marco, C. A.,
& Larkin, G. L.
(2000). Research Ethics: Ethical Issues of Data Reporting and the Quest for Authenticity. Academic Emergency Medicine, 7 (6), 691-694.