In the world of research, there is a lot of pressure to go around.
For graduate students keen to work within academia, there’s pressure to receive scholarships, publish papers, complete degrees, and ultimately, to find a job in their career of choice. For faculty members who conduct independent research, there’s pressure to secure external funding for their research, and once completed, publish research in peer-reviewed journals.
In the current era in which scholarships and research grants are increasingly competitive and financial commitments from funders (public and industry) are questioned for relevance and value, and the rejection rate of manuscripts submitted to leading medical journals is incredibly high, it is not surprising that some researchers make decisions to cut corners….decisions that can be small-scale (e.g., remove an outlier or two from a dataset) or large-scale (e.g., falsify data; plagiarize someone else’s work). There’s even a group of people who maintain Retraction Watch, a site dedicated to documenting instances when academic journals retract papers that were published previously, but have been called into question because of intellectual fraud, in some way, shape, or form.
Researchers are judged by a number of criteria, but arguably, the most important are academic reputation and methodological (quality) approaches to their work. Once these are called into question, there’s no going back, so it’s ideal to cultivate a high level of trust, confidence, and rigour within your community of colleagues.