Lab Certification - Summary

Gregory R. Harriman gregoryh at
Thu Jul 6 14:50:54 EST 1995

In article <95186.013152U27111 at>, <U27111 at> wrote:

> Andrew Chung, MD/PhD wrote on 2 Jul 1995 18:32:48 GMT:
> >The stance that the certification of labs and their personnel will
> >ensure cost-effective valid research is naive.  Unethical persons
> >are just as capable of becoming certified as sincere persons.
> >There is no examination, no professional society, no certification
> >bureaucracy that is going to tell you a priori that a researcher
> >or technician is inclined to fabricate data and pass it off as
> >genuine if significant gains can be obtained.
> True... people who want to commit fraud will find any way around
> anything we purpose.  The only thing I would suggest is to make
> things like this an actual crime... to make some laws in this realm
> which can be enforced... and maybe elongate some statues of
> limitations on current laws which falls within this realm since it
> takes so damn long to discover such frauds!

     You miss the point.  The laws in this country against drug use, drunk
driving, you name it ..., have been ineffective in preventing drug use,
etc.  You can make all the laws you want, regulate all you want and put
people in prison all you want, but it's not likely to have much of an
effect without changing the underlying reasons for such behavior.  The
answer is not more bureaucrats and regulations, but (as Dr. Chung says)
having our universities, medical schools and other institutions do a
better job of teaching students what is proper behavior and what is not. 
Faculty and scientists need to teach by example.  The changes need to come
at the local level not at the federal level.

Stuff deleted!

> >Instead, just as ethics in taught in medicine, it should also be
> >taught to graduate students and post-docs.  Principal
> >investigators (mentors) must be exemplary in their conduct both in
> >the sharing of credit and in the pursuit of research excellence
> >because they serve as examples of proper behavior for junior
> >scientists.  Those that fall short should be summarily dismissed.
> And how are you to enforce such behavior and ensure such behavior
> is being conducted?

     You aren't likely to be successful in "enforcing" such behavior by
having more federal agents looking over everyone's shoulder.

> And how do you 'dismiss' those which fall short... what power can
> you exercise to do such a thing?  What kind of system do you
> purpose to enforce such things or are we to just talk a lot of good
> talk but remain in the honor system approach which has failed us
> thus far?
     While I agree with you that fraud and misconduct in science
definitely do occur, and one occurence is one too many, your inference
that the whole scientific enterprise is essentially corrupt or inept is
wrong IMHO.  I don't know what your personal experience has been, but
based on what you have expressed in your postings, you seem to have been
particularly unfortunate.  I would dare to say the vast majority of people
in research are hard-working, competent and ethical.  Maybe I'm naive but
my experiences, unlike yours, lead me to that conclusion.

Greg Harriman, M.D.

* Gregory R. Harriman, M.D.        -------------------------------  *
* Immunology Section              | Internet:gregoryh at | *
* Department of Medicine          | Phone:    (713) 790-5310      | *
* Baylor College of Medicine      | FAX:      (713) 793-1445      | *
* Houston, Texas  77030            -------------------------------  *

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