All too often the efforts of editors to expose misconduct in research and publication come to nothing because the authors' institutions either ignore the problem or fail to act on it. This paper in PLoS Medicine, valuable though it is, may give institutions another reason to shirk their responsibilities: cost. Let's hope the deans and professors also read the authors' conclusions, that the costs of education and prevention of misconduct are worthwhile because they pale in comparison to the expense of investigating a single case.
The authors price up a real investigation into research misconduct at their US cancer institute, accounting for almost $525,000 in direct costs and over $1m in lost grants and other indirect costs. They also present a mathematical model to estimate the costs of future investigations and better understand the relative contributions of the components of an investigation and its sequelae.