Take punitive measures against academic fraud

The report on academic fraud highlighted the increased risk of doctors and scientists falsifying data in their research and doctoral theses (Greater risk of academic fraud as competition grows: Experts; Nov 13).

The only comfort is that misconduct in academia does not seem to be out of control, with sporadic cases reported.

In the United States, the False Claims Act (FCA ) allows an American citizen to file a suit on behalf of the federal government to recover awarded funds that were fraudulently obtained.

If the suit succeeds, the private party may receive up to 30 per cent of the government's award.

The FCA is an important tool for the US government in fighting fraud in federal-funded scientific research.

Last year, Mr Lim Chuan Poh, chairman of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research, put it succinctly: "We must continue to foster a culture of research integrity, while adopting a zero-tolerance attitude towards breaches.

Since public funds were used, these rogue researchers should be fined and/or imprisoned as a future deterrent.

History has shown that research misconduct happens in the best of institutions."

The recent cases of professional misconduct seem to indicate that the culprits resigned or were sacked without any penalty.

Since public funds were used, these rogue researchers should be fined and/or imprisoned as a future deterrent.

The sad part is that most steps to reduce research misconduct are not very effective.

This is due in part to the tendency of universities to stonewall and deny any wrongdoing.

If universities are made to return up to three times the awarded research-support sum to the state, then perhaps they would take more pains to scrutinise their researchers.

Heng Cho Choon

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 15, 2017, with the headline 'Take punitive measures against academic fraud'. Print Edition | Subscribe