I write to alert the organic chemistry community to a serious problem related to the integrity of data being submitted for review and publication by Organic Letters and to outline steps that the Journal is taking to address this concern. Recently, with the addition of a Data Analyst to our staff, Organic Letters has begun checking the submitted Supporting Information more closely. As a result of this increased scrutiny, we have discovered several instances where reported spectra had been edited to remove evidence of impurities.
Such acts of data manipulation are unacceptable. Even if the experimental yields and conclusions of a study are not affected, ANY manipulation of research data casts doubts on the overall integrity and validity of the work reported. [snip]
...The Associate Editors and I give notice to the community that Organic Letters will enforce these guidelines and will assess significant penalties for infractions that entail data manipulation.
In some of the cases that we have investigated further, the Corresponding Author asserted that a student had edited the spectra without the Corresponding Author’s knowledge. This is not an acceptable excuse! The Corresponding Author (who is typically also the research supervisor of the work performed) is ultimately responsible for warranting the integrity of the content of the submitted manuscript. [snip]
The responsibility to foster a research environment where all involved can confidently present their results, even if they are not optimal, resides with each research supervisor and Corresponding Author.At times, the inherent power of a research advisor’s position can create an atmosphere that leads some to embellish results. In this vein, I echo the recommendation of the IAP-IAC Committee on Research Integrity (Responsible Conduct in the Global Research Enterprise: A Policy Report, InterAcademy Council / IAP, 2012): “Research institutions need to establish clear, well communicated rules that define irresponsible conduct and ensure that all researchers, research staff, and students are carefully trained in the application of these rules of research. Research institutions also need to create an environment that fosters research integrity through education, training, and mentoring and by embracing incentives that deter irresponsible actions.” (boldface added for emphasis).He goes on to conclude that this is a small percentage of submissions, etc., etc. I believe that this is a big deal, but I'll be interested to see what sanctions (if/when) will be imposed...