Transforming Toxic Research Cultures: Protecting the Future of Medical Students and Early Career Researchers – Part I


  • Hamrish Kumar Rajakumar Medical Student, Government Medical College, Omandurar, Government Estate, Chennai, India.
  • Mihnea-Alexandru Gaman MD, PhD(c), Faculty of Medicine, "Carol Davila" University of Medicine and Pharmacy, 050474 Bucharest, Romania & Department of Hematology, Center of Hematology and Bone Marrow Transplantation, Fundeni Clinical Institute, 022328 Bucharest, Romania. Scientific Editor, IJMS.
  • Juan C. Puyana MD, FACS, School of Medicine, Department of Surgery, Professor of Surgery, Critical Care Medicine, and Clinical Translational Science, Director for Global Health-Surgery, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA. O'Brien Professor of Global Surgery for Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI). Editorial Board Member, IJMS
  • Francisco J. Bonilla-Escobar MD, MSc, PhD, Department of Ophtalmology; University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA. Fundación Somos Ciencia al Servicio de la Comunidad, Fundación SCISCO/Science to Serve the Community Foundation, SCISCO Foundation, Cali Colombia. Grupo de investigación en Visión y Salud Ocular, VISOC, Universidad del Valle, Cali, Colombia. Editor in Chief, IJMS.



Research Culture, Medical Students, Health knowledge, Toxic Environment, Bullying, Harassment, Research Integrity, Publish-or-Perish, Hierarchical Structure, Authorship Abuses, Mental Health, Depression, Anxiety, COVID-19 Pandemic, Ethical Practices, Well-being, Career Development, Misconduct, Collaboration, Inclusivity


Have you ever felt your passion for research slowly erode under the weight of unfair practices and relentless pressure to publish? Or been denied authorship credit for work you tirelessly contributed to? If so, you are not alone. This is the harsh reality for many medical students and early career researchers trapped in a “toxic research culture.” This hidden crisis undermines the integrity of medical research and jeopardizes the well-being and career prospects of those eager to advance science. Despite its prevalence, this issue remains shrouded in silence, propagating cycles of harm and hampering scientific progress.

This editorial explores the evolution of medical research culture, defines the harmful practices that constitute a toxic environment, and highlights the vulnerability of junior researchers to such practices. Manifestations of toxicity, including bullying, harassment, and unethical authorship practices, are analyzed along with their detrimental impacts on mental health. Current policies and strategies for promoting a healthier research environment are discussed. We highlight the urgent need for reforms, including the promotion of whistleblowing without fear, diversifying leadership, revising evaluation criteria, and implementing educational interventions on research ethics as a preventive measure. Additionally, we explore the impact of fake mentors within academia, advising vigilance against individuals who exploit their roles for personal agendas rather than genuine mentorship.

Through a call to action, we urge stakeholders and institutions to safeguard junior researchers and uphold the integrity of scientific research. IJMS plays a crucial role in this transformation by promoting mentorship, ethical practices, and accessible research.


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Features a modern design with red and dark blue hues, depicting a microscope, medical students, and laboratory scenes to symbolize scientific research and emphasize the urgency of addressing toxic research cultures.




How to Cite

Hamrish Kumar Rajakumar, Gaman, M.-A., Puyana, J. C., & Bonilla-Escobar, F. J. (2024). Transforming Toxic Research Cultures: Protecting the Future of Medical Students and Early Career Researchers – Part I. International Journal of Medical Students, 12(2), 128–132.





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