University finds misconduct behind plastics study
In June 2016 a research article was published in the journal Science describing how fish in early developmental stages consume microplastics. The study attracted considerable attention but was also reported for misconduct in research by a group of researchers. On 6 December 2017, Uppsala University took a decision in the case.
The University finds that the two researchers behind the study are guilty of research misconduct due to a lack of ethical approval for animal experimentation. One of the researchers is also found to have fabricated research results.
The article “Environmentally relevant concentrations of microplastic particles influence larval fish ecology” was published in the journal Science in June 2016 and described how fish fry preferred microplastic particles to their natural food. The article received considerable attention in the media. Some time after the publication, other researchers filed a complaint of misconduct against the authors. They alleged that the experiments could not have taken place as described in the article, that the correct ethical approval for animal experimentation had not been obtained and that raw data from the study were missing. The research article was retracted from Science in May 2017. The case has been investigated and prepared for decision by the Board for Investigation of Misconduct in Research at Uppsala University. Decisions in cases of alleged misconduct are taken by the Vice-Chancellor.
“Misconduct is the greatest threat to public confidence in research. The freedom of research presupposes the exercise of great personal responsibility. This being so, it is good that we have reached a clear decision on the issue of responsibility in this investigation,” says Vice-Chancellor Eva Åkesson. The question of possible sanctions against the researchers will be dealt with by the staff disciplinary board.
“It is important to keep a vigorous discussion of research ethics alive at the University. I have taken an initiative for a regular seminar series at the University, including workshops on different scenarios”
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