Questions and discussions similar to those which have prompted the recom-
mendations in 1997 were first raised in a broader context in the USA in the
late 1970s after allegations of scientific misconduct had arisen at several well-
known research universities in succession within a few years. They were partly
confirmed after some time, partly pursued controversially for several years with
substantial participation of the public and the courts, and only resolved after a
long time – in one case in the eleventh year after the first allegations.
The cases of alleged scientific misconduct which have become famous in the
USA between 1978 and the end of the 1980s have the following features in
common (38):
The defendants and their institutions had a high reputation; at the least, the
person against whom allegations were raised belonged to a well-known
group. Often, the “whistleblowers” were less prominent.
The clarification of the facts by the institution concerned was conducted
slowly and/or awkwardly.
The public was alerted at an early time through the press or other media. All
following steps were thus accompanied by public attention and controversies.
Most of these cases were also the object of litigation in the courts, and in some
of them, politicians eagerly took part. Public attention was the major factor
which caused a large number of committees to engage both in the phenom-
enology and in fundamental deliberations of “scientific fraud and misconduct”
from the beginning of the 1980s. The widespread impression that the insti-
tutions of science were poorly equipped to handle such problems led to institu-
tional regulations reported below (see section 3.1).
The first attempts at the end of the 1980s to assess the quantitative dimen-
sions of the problem of scientific misconduct did not lead to conclusive results
When the recommendations were drawn up in 1997, reports of the two
most important authorities responsible for dealing with misconduct cases, the
Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the National Science Foundation (NSF),
and the Office of Scientific Integrity (ORI) of the Public Health Service, were
available. In the 1990s, the OIG has received an average of 30 to 80 new cases
per year – compared with some 50,000 projects funded by the NSF – and found
misconduct in about one tenth of these. The ORI’s Annual Report for 1995
mentions 49 new cases lodged with the ORI itself and 64 new cases in insti-
tutions within its jurisdiction in the preceding year, compared to more than
projects supported by the National Institutes of Health (41).
Problems in the Scientific System
Analysis of the Commission in 1997 –