Welcome to the Rigorous Reproducible Responsible Research Integrity at UF (R4I@UF) website!  Please visit each month for a new case that may be used as a framework for a brief conversation about best research practices in your lab meeting, research conference, journal club, or any research meeting.

Introducing – NEW Rigor & Reproducibility Seminar Series!

This seminar series is jointly hosted by the UF Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration Program and the UF Health Science Center Libraries. Hear from leading national and international experts on rigor and reproducibility topics.  Seminars will generally take place at 9:00 am ET on the second Friday every month.  To register, please use the links in the seminar schedule, after which you will receive information about joining the zoom meeting and participating in Q&A discussions.  This program and seminar series is funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) through T32 NS082128, awarded to PIs Dawn Bowers (College of PHHP) and David E. Vaillancourt (College of HHP).

April 9
9:00 am
Using data to drive research improvement” presented by Dr. Malcolm Macleod, Professor of Neurology and Translational Neuroscience, Academic Lead for Research Improvement and Research Integrity, University of Edinburgh
June 11
9:00 am
TBA” presented by Dr. Maryann Martone, Professor Emeritus, Neurosciences, University of California San Diego
September 24
9:00 am
“Building a culture of computational reproducibility” by Dr. Russ Poldrak, Professor of Psychology, Stanford University, Director, Stanford Center for Reproducible Neuroscience

See the RESOURCES link for a new poster series on research integrity issues!

R4I Case of the Month – April 2021 – Genome Data Breach

This role play discussion involves an assistant professor who places his/her data on NIH’s database of genotypes and phenotypes (dbGaP); a leading researcher who violates the one-year embargo on use of the data and published an article using the assistant professor’s data before s/he had the opportunity to do so; and an NIH official who is in charge of the dbGaP database. Talk through the scenarios and how you believe the situations should be resolved.

“Consistent with the NIH mission to improve public health through research, the NIH believes that the full value of GWAS [Genome-wide Association Studies] to the public can be realized only if the genotype and phenotype datasets are made available as rapidly as possible to a wide range of scientific investigators.”

If you work in another discipline, feel free to change the scenario to involve any large database used in your field of research.

Character Description: Assistant Professor

You are an assistant professor who has prepared extensively for a career as a geneticist.  You have spent recent time sequencing data and are exploring it to search for genetic bases of addiction.  The research is funded with an NIH grant. In accordance with the grant’s requirements, you have placed your data in the NIH database of genotypes and phenotypes (dbGaP), which enables other qualified scientists to eventually use your data as well. This data-sharing arrangement is designed to hasten discoveries. The initial researcher who gathers and shares the data is motivated to work diligently to publish the findings, and other researchers are also able to work with the data and may begin to publish them as soon as the embargo period of one year has ended.

You value the NIH database. Sharing data enables multiple researchers to analyze and publish studies based on each other’s work.  Thus, you know that you will foster more research on your data than you yourself would actually have time or resources to do.  You will be cited by those who use your data. They have to get permission from NIH to use your data and must sign an agreement pledging not to submit any paper before the end of an embargo of one year.

Your project has gone well, and you are excited to be preparing an article for publication.  This has been a huge and important project, and you hope that it will be the accomplishment for which you will be tenured and promoted.  As you are putting the final touches on your manuscript, you go online to look at genetics papers published in the journal to which you plan to submit your article. To your horror, you find an “online first” paper based on the data you have gathered!  Someone has obviously broken the embargo on your data.

Character Description: Lead Author

image credit

You are the researcher who published the data before the embargo had ended. You and your colleagues signed a promise not to publish until the embargo period was over, yet your paper was published 1 month before the end of the embargo. As of yet, no one other than you knows whether the violation of the embargo was intentional or simply and oversight. It is also unclear who, on your team, was most responsible for this breach whether intentional or not. In any event, you are not too pleased to hear from the Assistant Professor who provided the data.  You are non-committal. You are not rude, but you are not helpful either. In short, you stonewall the Assistant Professor. You are certainly not interested in retracting a paper that involved a lot of original data analysis by your team. You are not even convinced the assistant professor has sufficient knowledge to fully analyze his/her own data.

Character Description: NIH Official

You are the Program Officer who directs the National Human Genome Research Institute.  As the official in charge of the dbGaP database, you feel some responsibility for what happened.

Scenario One

The Assistant Professor picks up the phone and calls the Lead Author and demands that the author immediately—today—contact the journal and have the paper retracted.

Lead Author: “We certainly never meant to violate an embargo period. I’m sorry. But we put in a lot of work analyzing that data. You did not do the analysis, we did—it was very sophisticated work done by one of the best biostatisticians in the nation. There is no way we’re going to retract the paper—that’s what you do with falsified data. Our data are great—even if we did lose track of our publication timeline.”

Assistant Professor: How do you respond?

Scenario Two

image credit

After an unproductive phone conversation with the Lead Author, the Assistant Professor phones his/her NIH Program Officer. The Assistant Professor identifies herself and explains the problem to the NIH Official.

Assistant Professor: “You need to change your policy on data sharing. I want you to pull down my data, and to change your policy. This should never happen again.”

NIH Official: How do you respond?

This role play is based on a published case: Holden C. Paper retracted following genome data breach. Science 2009; 325(5947):1486-1487.

Thank you to Sripriya Nannu Shankar, Graduate Research Assistant in Environmental Engineering Sciences, for assistance with this month’s case scenario. This case study was adapted from the ORI RCR Casebook

For more information about data management, please see the Data Management Practices resources web page. 

This website is a service of UF Research and the RCR on Campusworking group. We believe that research integrity is not achieved by simply taking an RCR course and “checking the box” that training is done. Our vision is to maintain a research culture in our everyday lives as UF researchers and research trainees in which we naturally follow best practices to ensure that the research we do is responsible, rigorous, and reproducible.

To submit a “Case of the Month” for the R4I@UF website, please contact Wayne T. McCormack, PhD (mccormac at ufl.edu).