I'd like to highlight two paragraphs of that report.
Like all human endeavors, science is imperfect. However, as Robert Merton noted more than half a century ago "the activities of scientists are subject to rigorous policing, to a degree perhaps unparalleled in any other field of activity." As a result, as Popper argued, "science is one of the very few human activities—perhaps the only one—in which errors are systematically criticized and fairly often, in time, corrected." Instances in which scientists detect and address flaws in work constitute evidence of success, not failure, because they demonstrate the underlying protective mechanisms of science at work.All scientists know this, but some of us still get upset when other scientists correct our mistakes. We have learned to deal with such criticism—and dish it out ourselves—because we know that's how knowledge advances. Our standards are high.
The general public doesn't get this. They think that everything that is published in the scientific literature must be correct or it wouldn't have passed peer review. They don't realize that most work has to be repeated and scrutinized before it is accepted by the scientific community. They don't understand that skepticism is an integral and important part of science.
Scientist have to recognize that legitimate debate and discussion is a good thing but they also have to take steps to avoid creating controversy when it isn't necessary. The ENCODE publicity fiasco is a good example. The ENCODE Consortium created a controversy by claiming that 80% of the human genome was functional. They should have known that this extreme statement would be challenged and they should have made sure that they represented the evidence against their claim. Instead, what they did was ignore that contrary evidence and not cite any of the scientific literature that would have weakened their case. That was bad science, even though we all agree that the Consortium members are entitled to express an opinion (even if they are wrong). They are not entitled to abandon skepticism and present only one side of a controversial issue. That's not what scientific integrity is about.
The NAS committee was mainly concerned with fraud and with papers containing results that are not reproducible. However, some of their advice relates to papers that are not fraudulent and the experimental results are valid.
Universities should insist that their faculties and students are schooled in the ethics of research, their publications feature neither honorific nor ghost authors, their public information offices avoid hype in publicizing findings, and suspect research is promptly and thoroughly investigated. All researchers need to realize that the best scientific practice is produced when, like Darwin, they persistently search for flaws in their arguments. Because inherent variability in biological systems makes it possible for researchers to explore different sets of conditions until the expected (and rewarded) result is obtained, the need for vigilant self-critique may be especially great in research with direct application to human disease. [my emphasis LAM]It's all about critical thinking—something that seems to be in short supply these days.
Alberts, B., Cicerone, R.J., Fienberg, S.F., Kamb, A., McNutt, M., Nerem, R.M., Schekman, R., Shiffrin, R., Stodden, V., Suresh, S., Zuber, M.T., Pope, B.K. and Jamieson, K.H. (2015) Self-correction in science at work. Science 348: 1420-1422. [PDF]