The scientific method defined and described


Fraud in science is a minor problem



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Fraud in science is a minor problem


Fraud is rare

Robert M. Rosenzweig (president, Association of American Universities), “Public Policy Issues in Scientific Fraud and Misconduct,” BioScience, September 1989, p. 552

“Let me quickly say that I stand with those who believe that the incidence of outright fraud in research is low.”
There is no evidence that fraud is increasing

Arnold S. Relman (editor, New England Journal of Medicine), “Fraud in Science: Causes and Remedies,” Scientific American, April 1989, p. 126

“Much depends on how one defines ‘misconduct.’ If the term is applied to all types of poor practices such as carelessness or bias in the conduct or recording of experiments, incomplete reporting of results, and minor mishandling of data, misconduct must be common. But if only deliberate, outright fraud is considered, the incidence is probably low. Fewer than a score of such cases have come to light in the past ten years.”
There is no evidence that ethics are eroding

Arnold S. Relman (editor, New England Journal of Medicine), “Fraud in Science: Causes and Remedies,” Scientific American, April 1989, p. 126

“The recent increase in reported cases of misconduct could be indicative of a trend or might simply reflect increased attention to a long-standing problem. In either case, there is no evidence to support the notion propagated by some critics in the media that there has been an alarming and widespread deterioration of ethical standards in science.”
International standards differ even on the definitions of flawed research

David B. Resnick (staff, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences) et al., “Fraudulent Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research in South Korea: Lessons Learned,” Accountability in Research, Vol. 13 (2006), p. 103-104

“Different countries often have different definitions of ‘research misconduct,’ ‘fabrication,’ ‘falsification,’ ‘plagiarism,’ ‘fraud,’ and other terms related to research integrity, as well as different procedures for investigating allegations of unethical or illegal research. Diversity, which benefits scientific innovation and discovery, can undermine scientific integrity, because it leads to inconsistency and a lack of commonly accepted standards.”
Misconduct rates are declining

K.A. Fackelman (staff writer), “Study details misconduct in drug research,” Science News, May 6, 1989, p. 278

“FDA regularly sends investigators to examine laboratory records and other data kept by researchers hired by drug firms to study experimental drugs. Shapiro and Charrow analyzed data collected from 1,955 such audits conducted by the FDA from June 1977 to April 1988. Auditors found ‘serious’ deficiencies — such as failure to obtain informed patient consent — in 12 percent of audits prior to 1985 but in only 7 percent since that date. ‘It’s nice to see that the rate of serious deficiency has fallen,’ Shapiro says. ‘But I think most people would agree that 7 percent is too much.’”
Fraud is universally condemned

Deborah Runkle (staff writer), “Conflicts of Interest in Science,” Science, December 1, 1989, p. 1117

“Fraud is committed infrequently and is uniformly condemned by scientists, policy-makers, and the public.”
Science imposes serious penalties on the fraudulent

Richard Dawkins (Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford), “The Religion of Science,” from The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, Delivered at Harvard University, November 19 and 20, 2003, p. 74-75; Online: www.tannerlectures.utah.edu/lectures/documents/volume25/dawkins_2005.pdf, accessed May 1, 2008

“I know that bad science is sometimes done, and even fraudulent science. A scientist who is detected in fraud is drummed out of the profession. Unfortunately, because fiddling data is such a heinous offence in scientific eyes, scientists are extremely averse to suspecting it in colleagues, whistle-blowers are given a hard time, and the result is that some fraud gets through. But the procedure of science is such that it will eventually be detected, at least if the fraudulent finding is important enough to arouse attention. And if it is not important, well, perhaps we can regretfully live with it. The point is that a scientist caught falsifying data would be disgraced for life. The same cannot be said even of the aspirations of certain other professions, let alone the practice.”
Science is self-correcting

Reuben Abel (prof. of philosophy, New School for Social Research, New York City), Man Is The Measure, 1976, p. 121

“Scientists have their full quota of bias and prejudice, and we should never fail to take this into account. But we can take it into account. The procedures of science are self-corrective.”
Experimental repeatability is a basic requirement of science

Erwin Schroedinger (Austrian physicist, Nobel winner 1933), “The Not-Quite-Exact Sciences” in The Fate of Man ed. by Crane Brinton, 1961, p. 454

“The first and indispensable condition that we demand of any process of experiment before it can be admitted into the regular procedure of physical research is that it will invariably produce the same results. We do not consider an experiment worthy of scientific consideration or acceptance unless it can fulfill this condition.”
Fabricated data is a minor problem because science is self-verifying

David Baltimore (prof. of biology, Rockefeller Univ.; Nobel Prize in Medicine, 1975), “On Doing Science in the Modern World,” from The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, Delivered at Cambridge University, March 9 and 10, 1992, p. 290; Online: www.tannerlectures.utah.edu/lectures/documents/Baltimore93.pdf, accessed April 30, 2008

“In summary, the publication of false data is morally wrong, disruptive, and eroding of one of the key currencies of science, trust. But its effects are transient and easily absorbed within the ordinary activities of science and, I dare say, most fabrication is probably not unmasked but has little long-term result because the processes of science handle the problem.”
Audits have been suggested

Arnold S. Relman (editor, New England Journal of Medicine), “Fraud in Science: Causes and Remedies,” Scientific American, April 1989, p. 126

“Some critics have suggested audits of raw data or inspections of laboratories as ways of detecting fraud or resolving doubts about the integrity of research. It has been proposed that teams of investigators appointed by journal editors or by government agencies might be available to conduct random inspections on a regular basis when the integrity of a study is questioned. That is a bad idea — and unworkable too.”
Audits would be impractical and ineffective

Arnold S. Relman (editor, New England Journal of Medicine), “Fraud in Science: Causes and Remedies,” Scientific American, April 1989, p. 126

“The red tape and the suspicion and controversy inevitably accompanying such a practice would poison the atmosphere and cast a chill over scientific discussions, and it would also add considerable expense at a time when research support is already being curtailed by budgetary constraints. Moreover, such inspections are unlikely to be effective. As a practical matter any audits would have to be confined largely to inspections of laboratory notebooks — and notebooks can easily be doctored.”
Fraudulent data may still have some value

David Baltimore (prof. of biology, Rockefeller Univ.; Nobel Prize in Medicine, 1975), “On Doing Science in the Modern World,” from The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, Delivered at Cambridge University, March 9 and 10, 1992, p. 288; Online: www.tannerlectures.utah.edu/lectures/documents/Baltimore93.pdf, accessed April 30, 2008

“Fabricated data will not, however, always generate false ideas; in some well-known cases the perpetrator probably had preliminary data that indicated the existence of a new phenomenon and the fabricated data were an approximately correct representation of the truth. This is not to excuse data fabrication — whether it is done in the name of truth or of sheer fantasy, it is anathema to science because it erodes the confidence that science is disinterestedly searching for elusive truths. But fabricated data are actually part of a continuum because nature never speaks to us directly; data are a representation of physical reality, not reality itself.”

Science fraud is pervasive


Publication pressure induces shoddy work

Arnold S. Relman (editor, New England Journal of Medicine), “Fraud in Science: Causes and Remedies,” Scientific American, April 1989, p. 126

“In my opinion there is little doubt that the ‘publish or perish’ attitude has been a major cause of the problem. Nowadays success in a scientific career depends so heavily on number of papers that some overly ambitious investigators come to perceive frequent publication as an end in itself, without sufficient regard for the quality and integrity of their research. This leads them to prepare reports for publication that may be premature, shoddy, or even fraudulent.”
There are many violations of fraud standards

Robert M. Rosenzweig (president, Association of American Universities), “Public Policy Issues in Scientific Fraud and Misconduct,” BioScience, September 1989, p. 553

“Against that background we have had in the last several years public revelation of a series of cases in which scientists failed to meet professional, ethical, or, indeed, legal standards of conduct in their research, and in which their universities had a great difficulty getting at the facts in a timely manner and equally great difficulty in coming to terms with the fact of misconduct by one of their own number.”
The Internet has assisted in the spread of bogus research

Sheldon Krimsky (prof. of urban and environmental policy, Tufts University), “Research Misconduct: Issues, implications, and strategies,” The New England Journal of Medicine, August 20, 1998, p. 568

“The explosion in the number of electronic resources means more information can be disseminated faster, more cheaply, and to a larger audience than ever before. It also means there will be more opportunities for fraud and error on the information highway. The compression of time, which has been emblematic of the computer age, enables both errors and corrections to move more rapidly to the end user. But in the anarchistic system of the Internet, we lack responsible gatekeepers. The peer-review system, which has served as one of the safeguards for reducing error in published work, has not been very effective in preventing fraudulent data from getting into print. More far-reaching for the vast majority of honest researchers is the trend in electronic publishing established by physicists who publish preprints on the World Wide Web without peer review. These preprints are then cited as credible sources in the peer-reviewed literature. If this practice is adopted by the biomedical sciences, the increased opportunities for sloppy research and misconduct will make the role of editors, reviewers, and information specialists even more difficult.”
Peer review does not effectively identify misconduct

David B. Resnick (staff, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences) et al., “Fraudulent Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research in South Korea: Lessons Learned,” Accountability in Research, Vol. 13 (2006), p. 105

“The peer review process almost always fails to detect research misconduct (Shamoo and Resnik, 2003). For example, in the 1980s Harvard cardiology researcher John Darsee fabricated or falsified over 17 published papers and 53 abstracts (LaFollette, 1992). In 2005, University of Vermont researcher Eric Poehlman, a well-known expert on menopause, aging, and metabolism, admitted to falsifying data in 17 peer-reviewed publications (Kinitsch, 2005). In 2002, a panel found that Jan Hendrick Schön, a Bell Laboratories physicist, fabricated or falsified data in 17 published papers. Some of the papers had been published in top journals, such as Science, Nature, and Applied Physics Letters (Service, 2002).”
Peer review lacks the tools to identify research misconduct

David B. Resnick (staff, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences) et al., “Fraudulent Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research in South Korea: Lessons Learned,” Accountability in Research, Vol. 13 (2006), p. 103-104

“While it is important for reviewers and editors to be vigilant and thorough in their assessment of scientific publications and to be on the alert for fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism, the peer review system was not designed to detect misconduct (Shamoo and Resnik, 2003). To detect misconduct, one usually needs access to research materials that are usually not sent to reviewers, such as laboratory notebooks, standard operating procedures, biological samples, and scientific instruments. Peer reviewers usually only examine manuscripts to determine the novelty and significance of the research, the soundness of the research methods, the consistency of the data, the validity of the analysis and interpretation of the data, and the quality of the writing.”
Scientific misconduct has become common in the United States

Sheldon Krimsky (Professor, Department of Urban and Environmental Policy, Tufts University), “When Science Falls from Grace,” Nature Medicine, Vol. 11, Number 6: June 2005, p. 591

“Allegations and investigations into fraud and misconduct have become a major activity of the US Office of Scientific Integrity. Within the decade ending in 2002, two government agencies investigated over 200 allegations of scientific misconduct.”
Ethical lapses extend beyond those identified by the Office of Research Integrity

Sheldon Krimsky (Professor, Department of Urban and Environmental Policy, Tufts University), “When Conflict-of-Interest is a Factor in Scientific Misconduct,” Medicine and Law, Vol. 26 (2007), p. 447

“According to the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) of the United States (U.S.) Department of Health and Human Services, scientific misconduct is defined by three terms: fabrication, falsification and plagiarism. Scientists found guilty of fabricating, or making up data or results and reporting them, who falsify or consciously manipulate research results, or who appropriate other people’s ideas, processes or results without giving them credit could, under ORI’s definition, be found guilty of scientific misconduct. These breaches in scientific ethics, however, are not the only ones. Among others are fabricating one’s credentials, taking credit in a publication without personal contribution, and failure to disclose a conflict of interest.”
Tougher rules are needed

K.A. Fackelman (staff writer), “Study details misconduct in drug research,” Science News, May 6, 1989, p. 278



“FDA must get tough with researchers who repeatedly flout scientific standards, the authors argue. They propose suspending researchers immediately after an audit reveals substantial misconduct. Under the current system, such scientists may continue their studies pending a hearing. To weed out incompetent researchers, Shapiro and Charrow suggest that FDA give would-be investigators an examination, certifying those who pass to conduct clinical drug trials.”



Prager’s LD Vault: Science · Revised July 2010 © 2010 John R. Prager


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