Science Researchers "fabricate results" "frequently"
Science has a dirty secret: research is plagued by plagiarism, falsification and fabrication.
... editor-in-chief of the British Medical Journal, Dr Fiona Godlee...Hammering out an editorial last week at the British Medical Association’s redbrick headquarters off Euston Road in London, she tackled one of the toughest problems of all: science fraud and research misconduct.
“It is difficult to know how prevalent misconduct is,” Godlee wrote, “but there is evidence that it happens frequently.”...
The science establishment’s consensus is that there is no need for outside scrutiny because, apart from the odd sociopath given credence by an “irresponsible” media, science is above the kind of misconduct that has tainted the Roman Catholic church, politics, the press and, of course, the banks.
This is a little like the church saying, as it did, that everything was fine but for a little bit of regrettable priestly paedophilia — or the press claiming that phone-hacking was confined to one “rogue reporter”.
For too long, science grandees have refused to confront the ethical misconduct in their midst, which is driven by the need to generate research funding.
If the mandarins of science shirk a house-cleaning, others will do it for them. In recent months, the quiet, polite voices of traditional science editors such as Godlee have been joined by noisy — and knowledgeable — whistleblowers on the worldwide web.
Science, like other fallen pillars of modern British society, faces a reckoning.
Scientific fraud is classified under three big sins. The first is plagiarism, best exemplified in Britain by the case of Dr Raj Persaud, the celebrity psychiatrist. He cut and pasted others’ work into his books and articles, and in July 2008 was briefly suspended from practising.
The second sin is falsification, such as in the case of Andrew Wakefield, the so-called MMR doctor. He was erased from the medical register in 2010 over what Godlee calls “an elaborate fraud” exposed by The Sunday Times.
And the third is fabrication, admitted only four months ago by Dr Peter Francis, a British ophthalmic geneticist working in the United States. He made up the results of work never done, leading to sanctions by America’s National Institutes of Health.
It is not just in medicine that dishonesty is well recognised. The problem is much the same in every field. Godlee’s editorial includes a reference to a 2009 study by Edinburgh researchers. Trawling surveys, they reported “conservatively” that more than 14% of scientists had said they knew of fakery by colleagues and nearly three quarters knew of other questionable practices.
Godlee is not alone in taking this on. In an editorial titled “Face up to fraud”, the editors of Nature wrote last January: “Some fraudulent researchers might be sociopaths who don’t care about the rules. But many others simply believe that they can anticipate the outcome of a research project, and see no downside to fabricating the required results to save time, or tweaking results to achieve a stronger signal.”
I could swear that rings a bell about some other research I have read about recently, if only I could remember which field of science it was....