With an incredible host of information existing in digital form in this day-and-age, the threat of research misconduct and misuse only continues to grow. Research misconduct offenses can include fabricating data and recording it as true, adjusting or omitting research results as a means to support a specific desired result or using another individual’s ideas, words or findings without providing appropriate credit. Below, the digital forensics experts at Atlantic Data Forensics outline the issue of research misconduct and explain how they can aid in the analysis of digital data, images or text involved in a research misconduct investigation.
What is Research Misconduct?
Research misconduct can occur in a variety of fields and industries, including various sciences, medicine or technology. According to The Office of Research Integrity (ORI), research misconduct is defined as fabrication, falsification or plagiarism in either reporting research results or in proposing, performing or reviewing research. Fabrication, falsification and plagiarism are the three subtypes of research misconduct listed by the ORI. Research misconduct may fall under the category of fabrication if the involved data has been made up and subsequently reported under false pretenses. If research falls under the falsification subtype, it has been manipulated, changed, or entirely omitted altogether. Research or data is considered to have been plagiarized if it has been stolen from another individual without their consent or without proper credit attributed to the individual.
It is important to note that research misconduct excludes genuine misunderstanding or difference of opinion, but rather refers to the deliberate mishandling, fabricating or unlawful sharing of data or findings conducted during research.
How Does Digital Forensics Apply to Research Misconduct?
It is vital that any allegations surrounding research misconduct are immediately and extensively investigated, and this process necessitates the use of digital forensics as a means of collecting non-physical evidence or examining questioned media or text. While research misconduct investigations may involve the collection and analysis of physical evidence such as documents, journals or data sheets, often times these documents exist electronically. Digital forensics experts can aid in the collection and analysis of digitally-stored documents that may work as evidence in a research misconduct investigation.
In addition to the collection and review of electronic data and information that may be involved in allegations concerning a research misconduct investigation, digital forensics experts also have the necessary tools to examine text, images and media that may have been altered or wrongfully-used in the event of potential research misconduct. For example, forensic tools such as flow cytometry, x-ray crystallography and Western blot systems are a few tools that can be utilized in the process of an investigation.
Seek Help From a Digital Forensics Expert at Atlantic Data Forensics
The digital forensics experts at Atlantic Data Forensics specialize in the analysis and reporting of research misconduct examinations and have performed forensic investigations concerning medical fields such as neuroscience, oncology and ophthalmology, in addition to having advanced access to data and information systems that can be used to investigate any claims surrounding the misrepresentation, fabrication or plagiarism of conducted research. Entities who require the help of a digital forensics and research misconduct expert are encouraged to contact Atlantic Data Forensics today.