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The New Academic Environment and Faculty Misconduct.


Faculty members are expected to abide by codes of conduct that are delineated in institutional policies and to behave ethically when engaging in scientific pursuits. As federal funds for research decrease, faculty members face increasing pressure to sustain their research activities, and many have developed new collaborations and pursued new entrepreneurial opportunities. As research collaborations increase, however, there may be competition to get credit as the first person to develop ideas, make new discoveries, and/or publish new findings. This increasingly competitive academic environment may contribute to intentional or unintentional faculty misconduct. The authors, who work in the Dean's Office at a large U.S. medical school (University of California, San Francisco), investigate one to two cases of alleged misconduct each month. These investigations, which are stressful and unpleasant, may culminate in serious disciplinary action for the faculty member. Further, these allegations sometimes result in lengthy and acrimonious civil litigation. This Perspective provides three examples of academic misconduct: violations of institutional conflict-of-interest policies, disputes about intellectual property, and authorship conflicts.The authors also describe prevention and mitigation strategies that their medical school employs, which may be helpful to other institutions. Prevention strategies include training campus leaders, using attestations to reduce violations of institutional policies, encouraging open discussion and written agreements about individuals' roles and responsibilities, and defining expectations regarding authorship and intellectual property at the outset. Mitigation strategies include using mediation by third parties who do not have a vested academic, personal, or financial interest in the outcome.

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