As heads of funding bodies for medical research, we are concerned that questionable practices among researchers seem to be becoming more prevalent. Although these do not meet current definitions of misconduct, they can still distort biomedical science and cause irreproducibility — with potentially critical consequences for policies and patients.

For example, researchers may cut corners by withholding methodological details or by failing to disclose data for independent scrutiny. Inadequate training can also be responsible for false conclusions arising from flawed experimental design, methodology or statistical analysis. Some countries, including Australia, Canada and the Netherlands, have a category for these — 'poor conduct'. This must be addressed if proved, even though it is less egregious than research misconduct.

International funding bodies, informally convening with heads of international biomedical research organizations, have agreed to undertake a worldwide analysis of definitions of different types of misconduct and the policies used to tackle them. This should help to harmonize standards of research rigour and integrity globally, for the ultimate benefit of patients.