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Prior to initiating some research projects, researchers may be asked (e.g., by an Institutional Review Board) to complete research ethics / compliance training courses, such as CITI Program's Research Ethics and Compliance Training.

Does completing research ethics / compliance training courses reduce the incidence of ethics or compliance breaches?

I'm looking for studies/surveys, not guesses.

  • 5
    +1 I've wondered about this myself, or whether it's (just) a CYA tactic from the institution (or company, for that matter). – Anyon Oct 28 '18 at 18:54
  • This is really a chicken and egg type thing. I am not sure anyone can be compliant with CITI training without having taken the training. – StrongBad Oct 28 '18 at 19:29
  • @StrongBad maybe you could compare with places where Citi training isn't mandatory? – Franck Dernoncourt Oct 28 '18 at 19:32
  • The training isn't done because it's effective, it's done because it meets a regulatory requirement set by a funding agency. – Anonymous Physicist Jun 5 at 2:17
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Most studies have focused on the effectiveness of training programmes in impacting surrogate outcomes such as the knowledge and attitudes of participants after compared to before attendance at the said programme. Study designs are generally weak, as is usually the case in education research in general, I suppose.

I am aware of a single study conducted in Nigeria that attempted to answer the question you posed, but only secondarily. In their amazing study, Okonta and Rossouw [1] managed to survey 133 Nigerian researchers, 91 (69%) of whom admitted to have ever committed scientific misconduct. When they cross-classified whether these respondents had "education in ethics" in the past, they found no statistical significant association. Furthermore, prior education in ethics was not associated with having had committed the following specific actions:

  • plagiarism
  • falsifying data
  • intentional protocol violation related to subject enrollment
  • intentional protocol violations related to procedures
  • selective dropping of data from 'outlier' cases
  • falsification of biosketch, resume, reference list
  • disagreements about authorship
  • Pressure from study sponsor to engage in unethical practices

Take from it what you will.

Reference: [1] Okonta P, Rossouw T. Prevalence of scientific misconduct among a group of researchers in Nigeria. Dev World Bioeth. 2013 Dec;13(3):149-57. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-8847.2012.00339.x.

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    You know, on reflection, it's likely that the people who get away with scientific misconduct are only able to do so because they're well educated in the principles of responsible conduct of research. Go figure. – St. Inkbug Oct 29 '18 at 1:37

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