Howard K. Schachman

Professor of the Graduate School in the Department of Molecular & Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley.

Misconduct in Science

December 12, 2013. iBioMagazine.

Dr. Schachman presents a historical perspective of the government’s involvement in issues of misconduct in science, starting with congressional hearings on fraudulent research. He describes misperceptions of the culture of science, the differing views of scientists and lawyers over the definition of misconduct in science, and the requirement for courses on Responsible Conduct of Research. While supporting the teaching of such courses and imposing sanctions for proven cases of fabrication, falsification and plagiarism, he emphasizes that unethical behavior cannot be eliminated completely.

Openness in Academia

August 31, 2012. iBioMagazine.

Schachman asserts that sharing data and material is critical to the advancement of basic research. He argues that allowing commercial interests to restrict academic freedom would seriously undermine the character of the academic environment.

From “Publish or Perish” to “Patent and Prosper”

March 17, 2006. The Journal of Biological Chemistry.

The following pages present my views on various topics such as how careers in science have changed, how federal funding of research in universities was initiated, and how politics interfered with the funding process. In addition, the peer review system is discussed along with the plight of dissatisfied applicants. Finally, I present my impression of the impact of federal funding on universities, the controversy over indirect costs, the burden of government regulations, the enduring struggle over fraud in science, and the major changes in the culture of academia and the commercialization of universities stemming from the Bayh-Dole Act.


On Scientific Freedom and Responsibility

May 31, 2002. Biophysical Chemistry.

In dedicating this article to John T. Edsall, I focus on his positions and contributions in defining Scientific Freedom and Responsibility. I apologize for presuming to predict his possible responses to various agonizing problems facing the scientific community today. Although Edsall wrote about and justified secrecy in science during World War II, I venture to guess that, as we contend with a new and different international crisis in the War on Terrorism, he would vigorously oppose some of the policies now being considered by government agencies. Thus, it may be of value to revisit some of his past statements and place them in the context of 2002.


New Secrecy in Science: Goverment-Imposed to Self-Imposed

March 29, 1999. AAAS Science and Technology Policy Yearbook 2000.

During World War II and for some time following the cessation of hostilities, scientists in American institutions of higher learning were deeply involved in widespread secret research. Many universities and research institutions, which traditionally fostered the free exchange of ideas and information, were subjected to curbs from government, which seemed necessary and were readily accepted. Some graduate students were in uniform, and others had draft deferments because of their research activity. Most of the time we did not know what our colleagues were doing. The requirements for secrecy and the safeguards to impose it had a large impact on the culture and ambience of universities, and it was recognized after the war that such research and the attendant restrictions were antithetical to the openness essential in institutions of higher learning.

In using the term, “New Secrecy in Science,” I refer to any type of restriction that impedes or limits the freedom to pursue research and to disseminate the results of investigations aimed at understanding natural phenomena and improving the quality of life. Thus, “new secrecy” differs from the secrecy during and after World War II, which prevented, not the actual research, but rather the discussion and release of findings derived from the research. Now we have impediments to openness in scientific investigations, the communication of results and even restrictions on certain types of research. These limitations stem from actions of government, industry, universities and the investigators themselves. Thus the title: New Secrecy: Government-Imposed to Self-Imposed.


What is Misconduct in Science?

July 9, 1993. Science.

Answering the question posed in the title depends on one's perspective. One could focus on collegial behavior in an academic setting. In that case the discussion would be far-ranging and might include attempts to formulate ethical principles and guidelines for the conduct of research. It would examine complex problems involving the sharing of data and unusual materials, as well as authorship and publication practices. It would certainly include condemnation of egregious actions such as plagiarism and the fabrication and falsification of data and results. From such an examination one could formulate a definition of misconduct in science that would form the basis for governmental action leading potentially to debarment from federal support. Such a sanction, in effect, could lead to the termination of a career in science. For such an outcome a precise, rigorous, and unambiguous definition of misconduct in science is essential. Governmental oversight over the expenditure of taxpayers' money is legally mandated and clearly proper. It is obligatory for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to investigate allegations of fraudulent acts and to impose sanctions when guilt is demonstrated., In contrast, it is inappropriate, wasteful, and likely to be destructive to science for government agencies to delve into the styles of scientists and their behavioral patterns.

The definitions of misconduct in science currently used by governmental agencies unfortunately intermix these two different aims. In defining misconduct as fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism, NSF and NIH also include an open-ended phrase to encompass "other serious deviation from accepted practices in proposing, carrying out and reporting results." Because these definitions are overly broad and vague, it is appropriate to examine the history of congressional investigations of fraud in research and to consider a definition that is consistent with and responsive to the intent of Congress in establishing oversight of federal funds for scientific research.