This article offers a qualitative analysis of research misconduct witnessed by researchers during their careers, either by research students or fellow researchers, when conducting or supervising research in their respective departments. Interviews were conducted with 21 participants from various research backgrounds and with a range of research experience, from selected universities in Malaysia. Our study found that misbehavior such as manipulating research data, misrepresentation of research outcomes, plagiarism, authorship disputes, breaching of research protocols, and unethical research management was witnessed by participants among junior and senior researchers, albeit for different reasons. This indicates that despite the steps taken by the institutions to monitor research misconduct, it still occurs in the research community in Malaysian institution of higher education. Therefore, it is important to admit that misconduct still occurs and to create awareness and knowledge of it, particularly among the younger generation of researchers. The study concludes that it is better for researchers to be aware of the behaviors that are considered misconduct as well as the factors that contribute to misconduct to solve this problem.
Based on a previous survey by the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) in the USA, a considerable number of foreign research scientists have been found guilty of research misconduct. However, it remains unclear as to whether or not cultural factors really contribute to research misconduct. This study is based on a series of interviews with Malaysian researchers from the local universities regarding their own professional experiences involving working with researchers or research students from different countries or of different nationalities. Most of the researchers interviewed agreed that cultures do shape individual character, which influences the way that such individuals conduct research, their decision-making, and their style of academic writing. Our findings also showed that working culture within the institution also influences research practices, as well as faculty mentorship of the younger generation of researchers. Given the fact such misconduct might be due to a lack of understanding of research or working cultures or practices within the institution, the impact on the scientific community and on society could be destructive. Therefore, it is suggested that the institution has an important role to play in orienting foreign researchers through training, mentoring, and discussion with regard to the "does" and "don'ts" related to research, and to provide them with an awareness of the importance of ethics when it comes to conducting research.
This study found that less than half of the respondents are willing to blow the whistle. The results reveal that a lack of protection with regard to the whistleblower's identity, the tedious investigative process, and the notion of avoiding confrontation, which is more apparent in Asian cultures as compared to the West, are among the reasons why individuals who witnessed misconduct chose to remain silent. Adhering to the Asian cultural upbringing where the young must respect the old, those of lower rank must obey those with higher authority, and subordinates do not question the actions of their superior, has become a norm even in the working environment. Therefore, emphasize the need for better protection for whistleblowers including using experienced individuals with a research ethics background to handle allegations from whistleblowers. In addition, established guidelines and procedures for whistleblowers with regard to voicing their allegations against colleagues engaged in research misconduct is still lacking or, to a certain extent, is still unknown to researchers. Thus, the concern indicates a need for institutions to create awareness among researchers regarding the existing platform for whistleblowers, or to develop a systematic and clear procedure which is reliable and independent to promote professionalism in academia.
The purpose of this study is to highlight the experiences of individuals who participate in the Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) training program held at various universities in Malaysia. In response to a mailing request sent to 40 individuals who had undertaken a RCR training program, 15 participants agreed to be interviewed. The results of the study showed that the three main reasons for participating in the training were as follows: anticipation for knowledge gained; personal experience with research misconduct; and establishing a new network of researchers. In terms of the positive effects gained from undertaking the training, the participants highlighted an increased awareness of the issues and problems related to research misconduct; the need to promote integrity in research conduct; a change in the way they conduct their research; and a change in the way they confront and address misconduct. The findings of this study should be valuable for policy makers and those involved in the management of research programs and ethics, as it demonstrated the importance of RCR training in equipping researchers with the necessary knowledge to conduct research responsibly, and to avoid research misconduct.
The review of clinical trials with human participants in Malaysia is governed by a decentralized control system. The clinical trial protocols are reviewed by 13 registered research ethics committees (RECs) in Malaysia. A governmental body, the National Pharmaceutical Control Bureau, is responsible for the inspection and oversight of these registered RECs to ensure that they comply with the regulatory requirements. However, this study highlights that each REC in Malaysia has a different standard operating procedure and ethical review process. Other procedural challenges identified include inadequate membership, poor mechanism for research monitoring after ethical approval, and insufficient resources. Establishments of a national standard of REC and a central ethics committee are suggested to ensure procedural compliance in the oversight of clinical trials in Malaysia. While there is a growing concern that procedural compliance may not have a direct impact on the protection of human subjects, our key point is that an ethical review system compliant with the national standards could serve as a strong framework to support and enhance the ethical quality of decision-making and judgement. We believe that being aware of how influential procedural compliance can be would help committees improve the ethical quality of their research review.