Research wrongdoing among Early Career Doctors

by Ifeanyichukwu Kelvin Egbuchulem

Research misconduct in research (also referred to as ‘research wrongdoing’) remains a significant source of concern in modern biomedical research, and it casts doubts on the integrity of researchers and their work. These concerns have grown in recent times, as the rewards from research have increased. There are also concerns about research wrongdoing in biomedical research in developing countries, where research ethics training and research regulatory systems are just emerging.

Research misconduct is commonly understood to include falsification (altering research processes, or recording or reporting wrong results), fabrication (inventing and recording or reporting results), and plagiarism (taking the words, ideas, or data of others or self and reporting them without giving due credit). The U.S. White House National Science and Technology Council (Office of Science and Technology Policy) and Well come trust defines research misconduct as “fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, reviewing research, or in reporting research results”.(1,2)

In a study in Africa, medical researchers were interviewed on a wide range of research wrongdoings and potential predictors. About 22% admitted to at least one of fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism; the predictors of which were knowledge gaps in research ethics which was a predictor of admitting wrongdoing, as well as pressure to publish enough papers for promotion. (3)

Cases of research wrongdoing are often unreported. However, in the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria, plagiarism by any early-career doctor is a serious offence when caught, and such an individual could be de-registered from the college. In one of the first empirical studies published in this field in this century, 5.7% of newly appointed medical consultants in the United Kingdom admitted past personal research misconduct. (4)

The criteria for sound ethical research has been stated in Nigeria’s National Code of Health Research Ethics. (5) In order to prevent the pitfalls of research wrongdoing among early-career doctors (ECDs), it is recommended that they acquire adequate knowledge of research ethics and methodology. This knowledge will not only provide a sound research footing for the ECDs but also ensure that they are spared the consequences of research wrongdoing which could be injurious to their entire career.


  1. Office of Science and Technology Policy. Federal policy on research misconduct; Preamble for research misconduct policy: Notification of final policy. Fed. Reg. 2000; 65:76260–76264.
  2. Well come Trust. [Retrieved July 1, 2011] Statement on the handling of allegations of research misconduct. 2005. from position statements/ WTD002756.
  3. Omokhoa A.A, Clement A.A. 2012. Factors Associated with Research Wrongdoing in Nigeria. J Empir Res Hum Res Ethics. 2012 December; 7(5): 15–24. doi:10.1525/jer.2012.7.5.15.
  4. Geggie G. A survey of newly appointed consultants’ attitudes towards research fraud. Journal of Medical Ethics. 2001; 27(5):344–346. [PubMed: 11579193
  5. Federal Ministry of Health/National Health Research Ethics Committee of Nigeria. National Code of Health Research Ethics. FMOH/NHREC; Abuja, Nigeria: 2007.

Dr Ifeanyichukwu Kelvin Egbuchulem is a Senior Registrar in Pediatric Surgery at the University College Hospital, Ibadan. He is an active member of the Research Collaboration Network(RCN).

Dr IK Egbuchulem

2 thoughts on “Research wrongdoing among Early Career Doctors”

  1. This write-up sheds a lot of light on research wrong-doings. It’s a must read for all ECDs who intend to have a career in research. Well done Dr Egbuchulem!

    • Thank you for the expository writeup, Dr Egbuchulem.

      However, I would like to know your position on whether publishing more than one paper from a single data is against research ethics.

      Thanks again Sir.

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