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How Common Is Scientific Misconduct?

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the don't-steal-plutonium-from-terrorists dept.

Medicine 253

Hugh Pickens writes "The image of scientists as objective seekers of truth is periodically jeopardized by the discovery of a major scientific fraud. Recent scandals like Hwang Woo-Suk's fake stem-cell lines or Jan Hendrik Schön's duplicated graphs showed how easy it can be for a scientist to publish fabricated data in the most prestigious journals. Daniele Fanelli has an interesting paper on PLoS ONE where she performs a meta-analysis synthesizing previous surveys to determine the frequency with which scientists fabricate and falsify data, or commit other forms of scientific misconduct. A pooled, weighted average of 1.97% of scientists admitted to having fabricated, falsified or modified data or results at least once — a serious form of misconduct by any standard — and up to 33.7% admitted other questionable research practices. In surveys asking about the behavior of colleagues, admission rates were 14.12% for falsification, and up to 72% for other questionable research practices. Misconduct was reported more frequently by medical/pharmacological researchers than others. 'Considering that these surveys ask sensitive questions and have other limitations, it appears likely that this is a conservative estimate of the true prevalence of scientific misconduct,' writes Fanelli. 'It is likely that, if on average 2% of scientists admit to have falsified research at least once and up to 34% admit other questionable research practices, the actual frequencies of misconduct could be higher than this.'"

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Of course they're not all honest (4, Insightful)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 5 years ago | (#28149641)

Scientists are humans too and a job won't change some humans from being cheats.

Re:Of course they're not all honest (1)

dword (735428) | more than 5 years ago | (#28149753)

The issue here is, when you're doing things like stem cell research, the future of human kind is in your hands. This is like saying "we shouldn't put people in prisons, because they're not animals and being killers or thieves doesn't make them animals". Unfortunately, you're right, because almost anyone can do "research" today.

Re:Of course they're not all honest (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28149755)

During the election, about 95% of African-Americans voted for Barack Hussein Obama due solely to the color of his skin. See the exit-polling data [cnn.com] by CNN.

Note the voting pattern of Hispanics, Asian-Americans, etc. These non-Black minorities serve as a measurement of African-American racism against non-Blacks. Neither Barack Hussein Obama nor John McCain is a non-Black minority. So, Hispanics and Asian-Americans used only non-racial criteria in selecting a candidate. Only about 65% of them supported Obama.

If African-Americans were not racist, then at most 65% of them would have supported Obama. At that level of support, McCain would have won the presidential race.

At this point, African-American supremacists (and apologists) claim that African-Americans voted for Obama because he (1) is a member of the Democratic party and (2) supports its ideals. That claim is an outright lie. Look at the exit-polling data [cnn.com] for the Democratic primaries. Consider the case of North Carolina. Again, about 95% of African-Americans voted for him and against Hillary Clinton. Both Clinton and Obama are Democrats, and their official political positions on the campaign trail were nearly identical. Yet, 95% of African-Americans voted for Obama and against Hillary Clinton. Why? African-Americans supported Obama due solely to the color of his skin.

Here is the bottom line. Barack Hussein Obama does not represent mainstream America. He won the election due to the racist voting pattern exhibited by African-Americans.

African-Americans have established that expressing "racial pride" by voting on the basis of skin color is 100% acceptable. Neither the "Wall Street Journal" nor the "New York Times" complained about this racist behavior. Therefore, in future elections, please feel free to express your racial pride by voting on the basis of skin color. Feel free to vote for the non-Black candidates and against the Black candidates if you are not African-American. You need not defend your actions in any way. Voting on the basis of skin is quite acceptable by the standards of today's moral values.

Re:Of course they're not all honest (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28149837)

Don't pull your leg. It might make your knee grow!

Re:Of course they're not all honest (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28149937)

If African-Americans were not racist, then at most 65% of them would have supported Obama. At that level of support, McCain would have won the presidential race.

Yes, and if "white people" were not racists, then at most 35% of them would have supported McCain. Without any supremacists (and apologists) Obama would still have won with about 65% of the votes according to the statistics you present.

Re:Of course they're not all honest (0, Offtopic)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 5 years ago | (#28149985)

You've posted this a few times and on the off chance you actually believe this then you're a tit.

There are racist people of all colours but black people primarily vote democrat in every election and there's a good chance Obama would have lost as a Republican. Especially when the last government was Republican and complete cocked up the US.

Re:Of course they're not all honest (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28150097)

"black people primarily vote democrat in every election..."

Of course they do! Why would a black person vote to cut off that welfare gravy train? They gots ta have some walkin' around money! Why vote yourself off the ideological plantation when massah takes such good care of you?

Re:Of course they're not all honest (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28150423)

Who was in control of Congress the last two years of Bush's presidency, when things got REALLY fucked up? That's right, the Democrats. Clearly you don't understand the American political system, my European friend, so let me lay out a few basics: Congress controls the purse strings. The President can do nothing without their approval. I didn't see any Democrats in Congress growing a pair and voting to cut off Iraq war funding. Even now, with the most rabidly liberal ideologue this country has seen since FDR sitting in the White House, they refuse to end funding for this war. The more things "change," the more they stay the same. The only thing that did change was that now we have a Chicago political machine thug as a president instead of a country club good old boy. And P.S. - this Chicago thug seems to have a special hatred in his heart for the British, as evidenced by his shitting all over the Queen, the Prime Minister, and most recently the British press. So I hope you're not British, for your sake.

Re:Of course they're not all honest (5, Insightful)

rzekson (990139) | more than 5 years ago | (#28149993)

Moreover, you rarely become a professor at a major university or some other distinguished position only on the basis of being talented; it is much more important that you are skilled at writing and inter-personal politics, manipulative both in terms of being able to sell your research and in terms of luring grad students, junior researchers and funding agencies to work for you or to pay you. Unfortunately, the same manipulative skills you need to acquire to become successful make you potentially more capable of cheating. I don't mean to insult anyone here by implying that it will actually make you more likely to cheat; only that it's easier for you to cheat because you are skilled at manipulating others (this being said, arguably the line between skilled manipulation and outright cheating is not as crisp and well-defined as one might hope). Indeed, sometimes cheating happens unwillingly; I have witnessed it on multiple occasions, when a famous professor would write a pile of an outright bullshit in a paper; not intentionally, but because his bullshitting skills and confidence were orders of magnitude above his raw technical competence.

Re:Of course they're not all honest (1)

kencurry (471519) | more than 5 years ago | (#28150391)

Other factors are ego, an intense desire to feel needed/wanted etc. These emotions along with the points that you made can lead one off the straight and narrow path.

Re:Of course they're not all honest (2, Insightful)

Miseph (979059) | more than 5 years ago | (#28150555)

One could also argue that if one is manipulative politic in many aspects of their life, they are also most likely manipulative and politic in the others as well. If somebody were always drunk at home, drunk at work, and drunk while in public... why the hell would you think they're always sober while driving? If a scientist is always manipulative with their family, their co-workers, and while attending social events... why the hell would you expect they're always forthright while doing research?

Re:Of course they're not all honest (3, Insightful)

syousef (465911) | more than 5 years ago | (#28150147)

Scientists are humans too and a job won't change some humans from being cheats.

I see about half a dozen comments along those lines, but giving up and saying "c'est la vie" isn't constructive. Our scientific systems and institutions should have better checks and balances. Many jobs/professions including monitoring and auditing to prevent corruption as standard. Some are better, some are worse. Regardless, the checks and balances on scientists exist but are antiquated an ineffective. The institutions and traditions are outdated. We can do better!

Re:Of course they're not all honest (5, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 5 years ago | (#28150263)

Our scientific systems and institutions should have better checks and balances.

They do: science. While you can game the system (grants, publications, fame and fortune) you can't game science forever. If it's real, it's repeatable. Somebody can do it (if it's important enough). If it's not important enough and the information gets stuffed in some hard drive somewhere - no big deal.

Sure, money can be wasted. People can be injured. Reputations can be trashed. But in the end if it's real and important someone else will look into it and either confirm or deny it. It may take years or decades, but it will happen.

| Patience.

Re:Of course they're not all honest (2, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 5 years ago | (#28150353)

What do you suggest? For the most part they seem to be working, to me. How would you change them?

Re:Of course they're not all honest (2, Insightful)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 5 years ago | (#28150369)

Regardless, the checks and balances on scientists exist but are antiquated an ineffective. The institutions and traditions are outdated.

And...?

I'd be more interested in what you think would fix it rather than another statement that the problem exists, because that's not all that constructive either. I take it that you are saying that peer review isn't a sufficient means of monitoring and auditing?

Re:Of course they're not all honest (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28150315)

I remember getting my ass seriously chewed up for minor lab infraction. This was long ago in my undergrad years. Ground the lesson into my stubborn head.

Science can and must do better - we ain't talking about political "science" or art history here.

Re:Of course they're not all honest (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28150347)

It isn't a matter of honest... in most cases it is because the people concerned have no idea what they're doing.

In the UK the government wants over 70% of school-leavers to go on to university. Then there's the research bodies, most of them charities with an obligation to spend their money on research. This leads to an overabundance of PhD students with little real business doing a medical/biochemical PhD, they simply don't have the skills or common sense to do research, but the money is there and it won't fund medical breakthrough unless they spend it...

As an example, my fiancee recently joined a project at work that had belonged to another girl for three years before hand. My fiancee has spent the last year re-doing all of the previous experiments because the other girl had been using the "best guess" button on the microscope. If these results had been published, they could have been called 'falsified' as the best guess is a bit like photoshop's automatic white-balance... different images will be distorted to varying degrees and the end result is not consistent with anything. The other girl to this day still doesn't realise that this is a problem.

Most scientists aren't dishonest, they're just stupid.

Re:Of course they're not all honest (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28150463)

There's also the case, common among undergrads, where the results of the experiment are already known. Suppose your experiment is testing the law of conservation of momentum. You have a few hours of lab time and they won't let you have more if you make a mistake. You get home and start analyzing your data only to find that *gasp* the law of conservation of momentum appears to have been suspended at your lab bench for a few hours. Neither claiming that you've cracked physics nor that this is obviously a case of human error makes an acceptable lab report.

In the "real" scientific world, maybe scientists aren't under quite so much pressure to find the "right" results, but often, only just a little bit less. They've incorporated a mindset throughout school that the "right" results are important to their superiours and, like the undergrad, their access to lab time is limited.

So you find an excuse to dismiss an inconvenient outlier, you apply a magical fudge factor which you can't explain, or you guess about what human error could have done to the data and you try to compensate for it. It's intellectual dishonesty, no doubt, but it's inevitable in a system where our method of laboratory education emphasizes confirmation of "known" science and punishes students whose data appears to deviate.

Re:Of course they're not all honest (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28150375)

Scientists are humans too and a job won't change *most* humans from being cheats.

Re:Of course they're not all honest (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28150535)

"Scientists are humans too" and "How Common Is Scientific Misconduct?"

That's why a survey of surveys said 127% of surveys were inaccurate.

It's quite common (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28149663)

It's quite common. A number of my friends are scientists and some have told me they bodge the results now and again to match what they were expecting.

Re:It's quite common (2, Insightful)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 5 years ago | (#28149815)

A number of my friends are scientists and some have told me they bodge the results now and again to match what they were expecting.

In that case, they're not scientists. If they fudge results, they are simply invalidating their experimental data by repeating their initial hypothesis as a result without bothering to challenge it.

I can understand commercial pressures for funding and so forth may be important to the researcher, but in many cases it saves everybody a lot of time if negative results are published to start with. Sure, they will rarely earn anyone a Nobel Prize, but we have to accept that a lot of what science is about is repetitious or tedious donkey-work.

Re:It's quite common (1)

rzekson (990139) | more than 5 years ago | (#28150235)

You're right, except it's not what science "is", but what science "should be", and in practice your postulate is infeasible. Science is very much like selling carrot at a vegetable market, you are rewarded for being aggressive, not for being honest. There have been various social systems based on the assumption that people are inherently good and honest, and for all I know, they all failed miserably. The most successful theories are based on assumption that people are selfish, manipulative bastards. We need a system, in which being a selfish, manipulative bastard can benefit the others. For example, what if paper submissions, proposals, and paper reviews were never anonymous, but instead publicly available for scrutiny? I don't know if that would help, but intuition tells me that extreme transparency could go a long way making us all more fair and honest.

Re:It's quite common (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 5 years ago | (#28150519)

There have been various social systems based on the assumption that people are inherently good and honest, and for all I know, they all failed miserably.

There is apparently a management model that illustrates a given system as being like a tree full of monkeys. The monkeys at the top of the tree can look down, and all they see is monkeys. Whereas the monkeys at the bottom of the tree looking up only see assholes.

Sure, self-aggrandising bastards will take a lot of the kudos, perhaps at the expense of others more deserving. There is probably nothing that can prevent that. But my point regarding the actual conduct of research still applies. The application of the scientific method in an attempt to disprove any given hypothesis is what the real work is about. As soon as you discard that and attempt to work from the other direction, you cease to be a scientist and become a marketroid instead.

Re:It's quite common (5, Interesting)

speculatrix (678524) | more than 5 years ago | (#28149999)

when I did chemistry at 6th form college (UK term, in US I suppose you'd call it senior high?), I recall doing a practical test in chemistry (titration) where you had some mystery chemicals and a colour change. the experiment was rigged so that it was somewhat like a reaction we'd already seen, but was in fact something quite different. the instructions were to make accurate measurements first, draw the appropriate graphs and *then* speculate on the mystery ingredients.

it turned out that we'd never encountered the particular reagents before, and if you did the test accurately you'd have realised it wasn't the old familiar reaction, but had to be something new - the figures would simply not add up. however, a significant number of people rejigged their results to match the known reaction and failed the test totally for two reasons, first being for failing to make accurate measurements and secondly for faking the results.

Re:It's quite common (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 5 years ago | (#28150327)

That's how you teach it. Been doing that myself while supervising entry level lab session at university. You tempt em to "modify" their results early and let em face the wrath of their supervisor. Take-home lesson: It is tempting and easy to adapt data to your expectations, but YOU SHALL NOT DO IT.

Pure ignorance and clumsiness are more frequent (1)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | more than 5 years ago | (#28149665)

Of all scientific articles I have read there are no apparent copy-cat actions I could even think of. However, pure ignorance and clumsiness are very very frequent. I can live with typos and errors, if they don't change the big picture.

However, cheating is another thing. I am aware of people presenting facts technically correct, but in deceitful manners which give the impression the background research is well done. However, scrutinze what was actually done, it falls apart. Yet, what can you do about that. If do you call attention to it, you risk becomining a whiner. And, who wants to be that?

Re:Pure ignorance and clumsiness are more frequent (5, Insightful)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 5 years ago | (#28149717)

True, giving a certain "spin" to you interpretation of correctly presented data is common - but not necessarily a terrible thing. As you said, it it will be scrutinizied and filed in the big "misinterpretation" folder. As for active misconduct - it probably happens more often than reported, but thankfully gets caught internally most of the time before it is published. I can only offer anecdotal evidence, but while doing my PhD work, one of my colleagues tried to get away with made-up results. Head of department smelled a rat, checked the data and promptly fired the guy without hesitation. PhD student one day, unemployed with revoked visum the next day....

Re:Pure ignorance and clumsiness are more frequent (1)

SpcCowboy (1303133) | more than 5 years ago | (#28149783)

However, cheating is another thing. I am aware of people presenting facts technically correct, but in deceitful manners which give the impression the background research is well done. However, scrutinze what was actually done, it falls apart. Yet, what can you do about that. If do you call attention to it, you risk becomining a whiner. And, who wants to be that?

What you can do is read publications with a discriminating eye just the same. If the research is bad, don't believe the conclusions.

Research and Development driven by commerce (5, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 5 years ago | (#28149673)

It is often cited that crappy, broken or incomplete code is often shoved out the door by business in order to meet deadlines. Quality or even truth are sacrificed for business reasons.

Why would R&D be any different? Big business often exhibit quota and other incentives for patent filing and the like. Outside funding sources pressure even pure research activities so that they can get their hands on new technology or even for silly things like a name being recorded as "first to" do something.

I am actually a bit surprised that the numbers aren't a bit higher.

Re:Research and Development driven by commerce (4, Insightful)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 5 years ago | (#28150013)

It is often cited that crappy, broken or incomplete code is often shoved out the door by business in order to meet deadlines.

The reason why R&D is different from software developers is because the latter usually don't need to present conclusions or premises to the community at large. It can (and often does) hide the source and get away with saying "no warranty yada yada..."

By presenting your research in reputable journals, you are exposing it to the examination and criticism of your peers. Thus in theory anyone else can pick up your work and reproduce it. One aspect of Hwang Woo-Suk's work that brought about his demise was that others failed to be able to reproduce his work. Unfortunately for him, his claims were so grandiose that alarm bells rang and people started looking at his work more closely.

The eventual fallout can be seen as evidence that the system works. We have little way of knowing how much dodgy work slips under the radar in the short term, since people don't get paid much for reproducing other scientists' work, but at least there is a mechanism where it CAN happen.

Re:Research and Development driven by commerce (1)

Xaoswolf (524554) | more than 5 years ago | (#28150159)

Well, in R&D, you have to produce a product. If you don't produce something, they the cancel it and move on. If you are just doing research at a university, you can possibly drag it out a bit longer. The business is about results, and if the ROI doesn't look good, your project gets canned. A university or thinktank is still interested in the ROI, but not as much, if you can show some merit, and still get funding from investors or grants, then you will probably be able to continue.

Re:Research and Development driven by commerce (2, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 5 years ago | (#28150393)

Ever heard the phrase "publish or perish?" Trust me, there's just as much pressure in academia to produce results within a specified time frame as there is in industry. The organization's measurement is different -- publications vs. ROI -- but the situation of the individual researcher is much the same.

Re:Research and Development driven by commerce (2, Insightful)

Foggiano (722250) | more than 5 years ago | (#28150265)

I don't quite see how you came to this conclusion, especially given the text of this article. The authors were specifically looking at misconduct in research published in peer-reviewed journals. The vast majority of material published in these journals originates from universities, not industrial research and development.

I would suggest, in fact, that misconduct is probably at least as common if not more so in a university environment than in an industrial one. Tenure-track professors are under enormous pressure to publish and their research projects are operated in an essentially unsupervised environment. The graduate students and post-doctoral researchers who actually do the lab work are generally in no position to correct or even be aware of misconduct by a professor, and are also under the same kinds of pressure to produce results in order to succeed. Couple this with the fact that much research is esoteric and funding, time, and interest to reproduce others' results is nearly non-existent and you have an environment ripe for scientific misconduct.

In the very least, in industry, you're constrained by reality. If you say you can make a product and you can't, there is an economic penalty (and potential loss of employment) which encourages conservatism and honesty in research. In academics, a paper containing falsified data published in an obscure journal which no one reads is still a publication that you can add to your c.v. and really, who will ever notice?

Re:Research and Development driven by commerce (2, Insightful)

shadowofwind (1209890) | more than 5 years ago | (#28150473)

It is often cited that crappy, broken or incomplete code is often shoved out the door by business in order to meet deadlines. Quality or even truth are sacrificed for business reasons.

Why would R&D be any different?

In a sense R&D is worse, in that its farther removed from corrective mechanisms. If you sell consumer tech that doesn't work, chances are fairly good that it will harm your business. Depending somwhat on your field, if you publish research that is arguably correct but meaningless or highly misleading, nobody will care. Your funding source doesn't even care, as long as it looks enough like real science that they can get away with continuing to support it.

Re:Research and Development driven by commerce (0)

MMC Monster (602931) | more than 5 years ago | (#28150485)

1.97% of scientists admitted to having fabricated, falsified or modified data or results at least once.

The rest of them are liars.

We had a high school advanced placement math class (Calculus-2). The teacher was the school's principal. After a student teacher conference, he mentioned that one mother defended her son by saying that he never cheated in school. The teacher then did an anonymous poll to find out how many students in the class had cheated in the past year. It was 100%.

Relative to what? (5, Insightful)

Subm (79417) | more than 5 years ago | (#28149683)

If we accept that scientists are human like anyone else, we accept that scientists, like others, will make mistakes that get bigger and go more wrong than they anticipated. Some may intentionally commit fraud.

How common is scientific misconduct relative to other types of misconduct seems a more relevant question.

Also: What can we do to decrease it and how can we lessen its impact.

Re:Relative to what? (1)

schrodingers_rabbit (1565471) | more than 5 years ago | (#28149711)

Scientific misconduct and other types of misconduct have different effects. If an engineer turned out sub-par work, it would not perform properly, forcing him to correct it. Scientific fraud is much harder to find, though no less important, because it has no real world affects.

Re:Relative to what? (5, Insightful)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 5 years ago | (#28149757)

I respectfully disagree. Falsified data has real world effects. Sooner or later, someone will try to reproduce or modify your experiment, fail to do so and properly mock you at the next conference. Seen it happen, no pretty sight. Science is mostly self-correcting, although some crap can always fall through the system and stick around a long time until it is corrected.

Re:Relative to what? (1)

schrodingers_rabbit (1565471) | more than 5 years ago | (#28149801)

I didn't think about that. Thank you for correcting me. I meant that many types of scientific research are not discussed beyond their own academic communities.

Re:Relative to what? (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 5 years ago | (#28150127)

Scientific fraud is much harder to find, though no less important, because it has no real world affects.

Sure it does. It just takes longer to surface. It ends up costing other people a lot of time and money. The Scientist tends to get away scott free.

 

Re:Relative to what? (1)

thegreatemu (1457577) | more than 5 years ago | (#28150495)

Even outside purely academic circles, there are plenty of real world effects. If I develop a drug which causes blindness but I falsify my data to show that it in fact cures cancer, and some company markets this drug based on my research, you will certainly see an effect. Of course, this is an extreme example, but similar results apply for most levels of falsification.

Re:Relative to what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28150389)

If we accept that scientists are human like anyone else

Why is there even an "if" there? I work with people who have job titles like "chief scientist" and these are some very sharp folks... in their field. But when you ask some about some current event or topic, you want to run out of the room. To be honest, they seem even *more* susceptible to political ideologies, bizarre ethics and just flat out weirdness because some start to think their expertise in one area makes them infallible and unquestionable in every other area of human existence.

One common fallacy I see is they tend to expect human beings to act like little robots. Humans *will* exhibit response X to stimulus Y, dammit! IMHO, this is where we get the class of "policy wonks" that make up the staff of politicians. They were not smart enough to do a real science, so we get these miserable people who try to program the world through policy and cannot understand why it never works. We get politicians who try to nation build with war or others that spend trillions of dollars that don't exist in their first 100 days. Read some of their papers some time. They use the lexicon of science, but it's all just rubbish.

What can we do to decrease it

CIA mind control chips. :-) Other than that... sorry. Humans will be humans no matter how many lectures on string theory or biochemistry they sat through or how many fossil digs or accelerated particles they witnessed.

This is news? (-1, Flamebait)

schrodingers_rabbit (1565471) | more than 5 years ago | (#28149687)

Scientists have falsified data since the dawn of scientific discovery. The real qualifier is for what reason. Inventing a completely bogus substance with obviously impossible properties and no proof is accepted, even lauded, when it shores up shaky Newtonian proofs in relatavistic physics, but when a a major corporation pays for it it becomes unacceptable. The only way to promote scientific integrity is to have private, biased companies fund all scientific research, so bad ideas are shot down by an angry scientific community. Of course, there is a chronic lack of ability in science to find the bad ideas...

Re:This is news? (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 5 years ago | (#28150129)

Of course, there is a chronic lack of ability in science to find the bad ideas...

In the physical sciences it should be possible. Except under conditions of woolly thinking. The whole point of the scientific method is to make your best attempt to experimentally DISPROVE your hypothesis. You can never prove it, but you can hedge it about with so many conditions that it can be accepted as being true.

Obviously this isn't (I think) necessarily all that helpful in "pure" mathematics, but my maths education is only 1st-year Uni level, so I'm not qualified to expound on this.

Re:This is news? (1)

schrodingers_rabbit (1565471) | more than 5 years ago | (#28150211)

It is possible. But in many occasions it takes a ridiculously long time. Aether, geocentric solar system, aristotles belief in the four elements... the list goes on.

Then how can we know? (3, Funny)

Firkragg14 (992271) | more than 5 years ago | (#28149691)

But if there are so many examples of scientists providing fake data how do i know the results of the survey in the FA are correct?

how does that compare to other profession '? (1)

aepervius (535155) | more than 5 years ago | (#28149703)

corrupt police officer ? corrupt politician ? cooking book finance people ? manager breaking some rules or "making up data" to justify their projects ? And I padd many others. Is it above or below average ? If below average then the reputation is earned.

Re:how does that compare to other profession '? (5, Insightful)

ring-eldest (866342) | more than 5 years ago | (#28149915)

At least in science there is a built-in way of self-correction. Publish all the made up crap you want, but when no one can duplicate the feat don't be surprised when the community calls you out on it. Tell me where you go to find the guy double checking the work of the corrupt police officer or judge when they perjure themselves to ruin your life and your ability to defend yourself. Find me the people replicating every aspect of your grafty mayor's work to make sure he's not full of shit...

I can't think of anywhere else in life that there are as many checks and double checks and accountability as in the field of scientific research. Just because no one catches it immediately means nothing. If it was fake no one will be able to replicate it. A single study proves very little and likewise does very little damage, so if no one cares enough to replicate it chances are slim that it will cause harm.

Really? (5, Funny)

Jeff Carr (684298) | more than 5 years ago | (#28149707)

And how exactly are we supposed to believe her study?

Re:Really? (0)

syousef (465911) | more than 5 years ago | (#28149825)

And how exactly are we supposed to believe her study?

You're not. You're suppose to apply the scientific method and remain skeptical unless you are presented with corroborating evidence.

(I know you're likely aiming for funny, but you actually make a good point).

Questionable research practices? (4, Insightful)

TinBromide (921574) | more than 5 years ago | (#28149709)

and up to 33.7% admitted other questionable research practices.

I wonder if this refers to shortcuts taken because its common knowledge, Such as, if you use water as a control lubricant, you might test its wetness, density, purity, viscosity, etc, to compare against water with a slippery polymer in it. I wonder if these "questionable" practices involved taking distilled water, making sure its pure distilled water, and then pulling the other factors off of charts for distilled water or if "Questionable" means something far worse.

The reason i bring this up is because hindsight is 20/20 and everybody knows every mistake that they've made, if they're smart and that's what they're fessing up to.

Re:Questionable research practices? (1)

SpcCowboy (1303133) | more than 5 years ago | (#28149805)

It would be interesting to know how the questions in the survey were phrased. Wording of survey questions can make a huge difference in the reported outcomes.

Re:Questionable research practices? (1)

SchizoStatic (1413201) | more than 5 years ago | (#28150133)

Like the survey questions I got during the last US election. "Would you vote for Barack Obama knowing he is a muslim?" I just responded "He is a christian. So there is no way to answer your question."

Re:Questionable research practices? (2, Insightful)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 5 years ago | (#28149831)

Aye, I think I go with your interpretation here. I personally would confess to "questionable practices" of that kind - not thoroughly testing each and every factor that might have influenced your experiment, because it is "common knowledge" that the factors in question won't matter. Deadlines looming ahead, supervisor chewing your ass, you take the shortcut. No research is perfect. In hindsight you always find some things that you should have tested to be really sure, but real life is not perfect. I'd file that 33.7% under "maybe questionable, but not malicious". Scientist tend to be overly critical of themselves. I personally could not state that my research was alway impeccable and perfect with a straight face. Who could? We are humans, too.

Yeah... (2, Interesting)

dword (735428) | more than 5 years ago | (#28149731)

... and 78% of the surveys are made up on the spot.

Re:Yeah... (2, Informative)

icebike (68054) | more than 5 years ago | (#28150029)

Meta Analysis does that.

There are more than a few incidents of Meta Analysis including the same data set from multiple places simply because it was shopped around for publication under different names.

Meta Analysis combines vaguely related studies, using data sets of suspect quality, which you don't fully understand, which have already undergone filtering and editing you won't find out about, and which were collected under conditions you don't know, for motives you can't be sure of, by people you don't know, and can't possibly trust, which purport to measure issues only approximately related to the sibling studies with which they are homogenized.

It amounts to rigorous analysis of a turd.

Re:Yeah... (3, Funny)

Epistax (544591) | more than 5 years ago | (#28150111)

Check your math. I got 83%.

not surprising (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28149765)

Disclaimer: I'm a scientist.

Scientist will behave much better as soon as society (or perhaps the government at least) understands that if you want reliable information, you actually have to treat your scientist well.

Now, do not got me wrong, some countries, especially the US, invest quite a lot in science. But the problem is that the whole system is rotten to the core. It makes almost no sense at all for a young graduate to stay in a University/Institute. Pay will be low, and you have (in most countries) no job security. In Europe you either get a nice job at a company, or you go around taking post-docs for 5-10 years, hoping to get lucky. Working crazy hours with no holidays. For most, in the end, they go to a company anyway (having lost quite a lot of money in the process).

Often you are expected to go abroad, and unless you are lucky this leaves you with no good way to take care of your pension. Then if you want to return, somebody else took your place at university.

There is 2 ways to stay in the system: either you are lucky or you lie like hell.

Now, people may say that if your good you do not need luck. But remember that for high impact publications you need a lot more then good ideas and good skills. In research it is perfectly normal to conclude after 2 years that your hypothesis is false. This is great science, it also is hardly publishable in a good journal. People like positive results, and the reviewer system actually encourages you to confirm generally accepted ideas, not to falsify them.

Well, I could go on but I am sure others will.

To be honest, I do not even get angry anymore when I suspect someone may have done something "questionable". It's just sad.

Re:not surprising (0, Redundant)

hort_wort (1401963) | more than 5 years ago | (#28149925)

I agree with Dr Anonymous here somewhat. I was trying to get a PhD in physics for a while, and some of the requirements were unreasonable. There were 3 requirements at my school:

1) Pass a qualifying exam. This is a really difficult test that shows you understood the material. It took me months of continuous study, but I finally passed it. I thought this was a terrible, but a reasonable requirement.

2) Teach a class. I hate giving speeches and the idea of teaching a class terrified me. I didn't want to get a PhD to teach, I actually wanted to do research and add to the world knowledge pool. I didn't like this requirement, but was willing to do it if I had to.

3) Do a research project and write a paper on it. This is the one where I finally dropped the ball. It was required that I give up everything I know and travel around with an experiment to work on. There was mention of an underground lab under a lake in Russia. NO. The funny thing is, it was my understanding that the project would never have to leave the building for me to get my PhD. But funding likes to move around like that and screw you over. Similarly, I could see someone falsifying information for a report if something like this came up. I think 2% of the people getting upset enough to publish a lie is not surprising. I ended up moving back home and haven't done anything worthwhile since. Who committed the bigger sin?

Re:not surprising (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28150109)

So let me get this straight. You wanted to be a high-level scientist, but felt it was an unreasonable burden to prove you could understand the theory, could perform the practical, and could explain findings to others? And now it's the system's fault you're doing nothing worthwhile?

Re:not surprising (1)

hort_wort (1401963) | more than 5 years ago | (#28150223)

I felt it was unreasonable that I had to travel to the other side of the world and live under a lake. I DID pass every exam. I DID build working experiments. I DID give speeches as necessary to explain my results. Did you even read my post?

Re:not surprising (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28150381)

Unfortunately, I did. You whinged about having to do work, even the bit you could finally be arsed to do, then gave up and moved back home to do nothing. Like the test requirement being "terrible, but reasonable". Really? Really? A terrible requirement cannot be a reasonable one. Spend this time at home to finish growing up. Whinging about the system is just continuing to stunt development, blaming your problems on others.

Time to man up dude! (0, Troll)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#28150537)

you actually have to treat your scientist well.

Dude, you have are crazy. You have no idea how cushy you have it and your whining is an insult to everyone else that pays taxes to support you guys - on everything from student loan guarantees, federal grants, and more. How much does NSF get a year? Plus the right to patent the stuff the gov't pays you to research.

If you think being a scientist sucks, try working on a factory floor. Everyone works crazy hours with no holidays, scientist or no. You talk about having a pension problem with the university? Man, people get no pensions at all. We got worthless 401ks and bogus T-Bills on our end! You talk about working two years on an experiment to find out your hypothesis is wrong? Cry me a river. There's tons of people that work for two years, five years, ten years, pitching in to build up a business, and then they'll get bumped out on the street because some jackass guy in bufukistan can do it cheaper.

To be honest, I do not even get angry anymore when I suspect someone may have done something "questionable". It's just sad

Then you are part of the problem. If you get angry at why the public has lost its faith in science, there's your answer.

It would be interesting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28149773)

To compare to similar statistics for bankers, realtors, politicians, and car salesmen.

Yes, scientists are human and there's always room for improvement of their conduct. That's what the honest scientists are for -- to check the results from their other colleagues.

More news at 11.

hell, i did it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28149793)

i was working for a bullying ar5eh0le who threatened to ruin my PhD chances if i didnt do all this work for him in triplicate in an impossible amount of time with old reagents and second rate kit. guess what. he got his results. but they weren't all from the experiments. i worked for another guy who regularly had pathogens, pathogenic materials and infected tissue in a freezer at a facility with a secure (ie disease-free) animal unit. he didnt give a sh1t and threatened me to keep quiet when i found out. that cost me ajob.

not all scientists are the sweet honest tweed and pipe types off the telly. some are horrible, selfish wankers. whoc will stop at nothing - N.O.T.H.I.N.G - to further their own careers. any amateur psychologist could pick them out a mile off. journals can't because all the correspondence is done in writing. i think a psych evaluation should be part of the submission process, i really do.

I'd guess very very common (4, Insightful)

syousef (465911) | more than 5 years ago | (#28149803)

The truth is the way that scientific institutions are set up isn't very scientific. There is definitely an attempt at oversight and impartiality but it's very easily corrupted by a wide variety of people with a wide variety of interests and ulterior motives. There aren't nearly enough checks and balances.

There are many things wrong with the system. Some include:

- Almost anyone can commission a study, write a book etc. and it's left to the scientific community to place value on that work. Viewed on it's own, without knowledge of the scientific community's opinion it can be difficult to tell how valid the work is. For example Wolfram's "New Science" has been largely debunked as mostly a rehash of old ideas (minus accreditation) but it took some time for this to become clear and in the meantime it was popularized in the press as a breakthrough work.

- The only real form of moderation is whether or not work has made it into a respected journal. Other scientists are then expected to publish corroborating work etc. However, until this is done, it is very difficult to judge the validity of the work, and papers get published that are later discredited. (Cold fusion anyone?) Likewise, work that should be published is often initially rejected. The primary motivation of a lot of the scientific journals is financial gain. In fact the entire publishing system is an antiquated remnant of the last 2 centuries and doesn't belong in an Internet connected world, yet publication is still the primary tool by which a scientist's work gets recognized.

- Speaking of antiquated the institutions, committees and governing bodies of science are about as scientific as a mother's group - it's all professional bitching and posturing for status. Real monkey hierarchy stuff. A lot of decisions get made on the basis of status. It's particularly bad for applied science professions like the medical profession where you hear stories about doctors who should have been prevented from practicing continuing for many years before being disciplined or quietly removed. At the senior level, scientists are often more politician than anything else as then need to secure funding and approval from political bodies. Then you see students who have to work their way up in status being treated like crap "paying their dues" as noted in a story posted a few days ago about a student who died in a chemical fire.

- Speaking of status, there is an emphasis on using scientific jargon to exclude the community at large. Some scientific ideas require complex specialized language and university post graduate mathematics to understand, and so require such specialized language. However even simple concepts must be described in overly complex specialized language to be accepted for journal publication. This is absolutely backward. We should have a system that requires simplified language where possible and a layman's overview attached early in the document. Instead, reading a scientific paper if you're not a specialist in the field is an art that you learn when you do post graduate work. If you assess a published article for readability you'll find the statistics you generate tell you that it's dense and difficult to understand. There are journals and subjects that allow simpler and informal
language but they are the exception rather than the rule and usually apply as addendum publications for applied fields. (Again I'm thinking of medicine. My own post grad work is in astronomy so I'm very much a lay reader when it comes to medicine, and when I've tried to read medical papers it's usually been an interesting excercise). Any real simplified content seems to get presented in slide form at conferences and presentations are often a better way of getting an overview.

I could go on about the shortcomings of various scientific institutions but I won't.

My point is that when you have a system that is so open to corruption, with so few checks and balances, and so much baggage inherited from institutions that began in the dark ages, it's no surprise that you end up with science that's much less than perfect.

Re:I'd guess very very common (3, Insightful)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 5 years ago | (#28149929)

he primary motivation of a lot of the scientific journals is financial gain. In fact the entire publishing system is an antiquated remnant of the last 2 centuries and doesn't belong in an Internet connected world, yet publication is still the primary tool by which a scientist's work gets recognized.

Let's not go there, lest i shall rant all evening. I am due for a pub-crawl, don't wanna miss it...

Short version of the evil socialist scientists rant.. I do government funded research, then have to PAY a private enterprise to publish my data, peer review is done for free by other scientist, and then I have to PAY again for reprints and the money-grubbbing bastards charge through the nose for the subscription, too, so that the local library can't even afford the online access to the journal I published in. Forjudge the bastards!! Freedom for scientific publication! To the sun, to freedom, comrades!

More seriously, the major flaw with the current publication system, is that you need positive data to even have a chance to publish. I always wished for a kind of "Journal of Negative Results", which basically gives you summaries on "see, we tried this, it did NOT work"-attempts. All the valuable work that did not work out as expected has no chance of getting published today, forcing you to repeat countless mistakes, because you have no chance of reading about previous failures.

Re:I'd guess very very common (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28150227)

I love the idea of a Negative Results journal, or better yet, an online community, all Web two-point-ohie, to share and discuss our mistakes and dead-ends. Unfortunately, I can't see it happening. Too many of us don't want to share our missteps, partly due to pride, but mainly because we WANT other groups to repeat our mistakes, otherwise they have a better shot at scooping us on the positive, big-money results.

Personally, my focus is on teaching. I love finding and sharing good explanations and being a mentor to students (and yes, the laid-back lifestyle rocks, too). Research is a secondary issue, so I'm glad to share errors as well as successes. But the folks in the research track can be more paranoid and suspicious that the tinfoil-iest of conspiracy theorists, and play everything close to the chest until, hopefully, that breakthrough comes. But with the endless days and nights hunting down grants I guess I can't blame them, just pity them.

Re:I'd guess very very common (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 5 years ago | (#28150361)

My point is that when you have a system that is so open to corruption, with so few checks and balances, and so much baggage inherited from institutions that began in the dark ages, it's no surprise that you end up with science that's much less than perfect.

Its also no surprise when you end up with science that is horribly incomplete.

We need to place more emphasis on using the internet as a repository for non-published works. (Like DeepDyve http://www.deepdyve.com/corp/about [deepdyve.com] ).

With this comes the boogie man of the kook "scientist". (Which unfortunately includes any scientist who is not yet published).

We need to start using something like the Web of Trust found in key signing http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_of_trust [wikipedia.org] to document the credentials of scientists without regard to the content of any specific work.

(Scientists A, B, C, and Institution 1, 2, and 5 sign Professor X's credentials certifying that they know him to possess the training and education to conduct studies in his field, without any indication of approval or disapproval of his current work, but with due regard for any past work of which they may be aware).

With a web of trust you would be able to distinguish the kooks (those with closed webs of trust) from the real scientists (those with open and expanding webs).

This would allow us at least some clue as to credentials and knowledge of the scientist under discussion rather than the mere presence of an article in a journal of questionable value. http://blog.bioethics.net/2009/05/merck-makes-phony-peerreview-journal/ [bioethics.net]

Faking the data. (3, Insightful)

wfstanle (1188751) | more than 5 years ago | (#28149807)

Definitely they sometimes fudge their data so that it will support their theories. Scientists are human and not perfect, it's part of human nature. That is where peer review comes in. A true scientist s work has to stand up to peer review and this is where the fudging of data is often uncovered. The problem is that much of the research going on is cloaked in secrecy by governments and corporations and proper peer review doesn't happen.

This brings to mind an incident in history where the scientist was right but his data was just too good. I'm talking about Gregor Mendel and his work on genetics. Later statistical analysis of his data indicates that it was very unlikely that he got that data. He probably got very close to the experiment result that he predicted but it was not good enough so he fudged his results. It wasn't until long after that this inconsistency in the data was uncovered. Was he right? Absolutely he was but his data is suspect nonetheless.

editors and publishers need to be held accountable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28149821)

Every profession has its share of people who cheat. When you raise the stakes, and when their is a perception that many of the top competitors are cheating (as in professional and top amateur sports, for example), then even some of the "honest" people might start cheating.

Someone has to provide the adult supervision, particularly in research areas that attract sensational publicity, such as animal cloning. That responsibility starts with the editors of the journals. They need to ask more questions, demand more documentation, and keep records of their dialogs with authors. They are the counterparts of the commissioners of pro sports leagues and officials of the Olympics.

One in 50 sounds reasonable (2, Interesting)

JanneM (7445) | more than 5 years ago | (#28149855)

2% - one in 50 - committing fraud to get ahead (or simply to keep their job) in a very competitive, volatile career environment. Sounds like it's in the right ballpark, and probably comparable to other professions. Some people are so career and status driven, and so unconcerned with the effects of their actions on other people, that they will break rules and cut corners no matter what the field.

I do question the other figures though, simply because "questionable research conduct" is such a very nebulous kind of categorization. You can delimit it in very different ways, all perfectly reasonable. You could even effectively decide which number you want then define the term in such a way that you reach it (a practice that would most likely be included in the term). Notably, the author excludes plagiarism, even though that is a serious offense in research for good reason, and one that I'd expect most surveys to include, not drop.

Also, the numbers for incidents by colleagues is rather pointless, since there is no indication of how many those colleagues are. If each participant has had a minimum total of eight colleagues altogether in their career up until this point, then the 14% rate fits very well with the self-reported 2% above. But of course, the participants do not know how many incidents they missed, and the number of times the mistakenly thought fraud was taking place is unknown. I would be very hesitant in trying to read anything at all into the numbers about witnessed incidents.

It's common, sadly -- see hockey stick scam (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28149869)

You don't have to go very far to find major misconduct in allegedly scientific circles.

The biggest example by far is still ongoing, and because of the high profile of global warming, it even has a popular name, the Hockey Stick Scam [canadafreepress.com] .

In a nutshell, a bunch of corrupt scientists led by James Hansen tried to rewrite climate history to make it match their theories. Pretty sad.

(Whether their theories are right or wrong isn't the issue, their scientific misconduct is.)

Take research with a grain of salt (1)

JWman (1289510) | more than 5 years ago | (#28149877)

Scientists are humans, just like anyone else. Frankly, I think 1.97% is pretty low considering it is the combined total of all "fabricated, falsified or modified data or results". Notice that all of those aren't quite equal either. "Tweaking" results to tease out the answer you want (while still unethical and damaging to scholarship) is not as bad as outright falsification. Especially since it is not always clear where the line is between "modifying data", and doing valid statistical analysis like throwing away outliers. Yes, there are standards for outliers, but they are not universal, and confounding factors can occur during the experiment that make ethical decisions more difficult (i.e. the tester didn't read part of the script right, test subject's cell phone went off during test, survey answer was ambiguous and hard to read, the list goes on.)

The reality is that no one study should be taken as fact in isolation. It should either be corroborated by existing evidence (i.e. - it shines a new light on existing theories without contradiction), or by similar studies validating the results, or both.

Nutrition is a perfect example. How many studies have come out in the past 20 years that directly contradict (or seem to) prior studies done in that area? If someone followed each new "discovery" intently, they'd be so screwed up in their eating habits they'd probably end up being malnourished. However, looking back over a series of seemingly contradictory studies, we can see patterns which we've been able to make more sense of. We now have a greater understanding of "good" vs. "bad" cholesterol and the idea that fats aren't necessarily the root of all evil, and many similar findings. We still don't know all the answers, but we know lots more than any one study told us. This is how research works. It is also why graduate students writing dissertations are required to include a large section on "related work" so that they can get the full appreciation for where their research fits into the big picture, rather than basing their entire hypothesis on just one study or finding which might be contradicted in the next conference.

Earth is flat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28149881)

They all lie, Earth is flat i tell you!

We all live on top of a tortoise.

Go to the very beginning of 'Evil' (1)

Ektanoor (9949) | more than 5 years ago | (#28149885)

It starts while you are graduating.

A big chunk, quite a huge piece of graduation diploms, certificates etc. (depends on each country) are based in the most rabid form of falsifications - "copy/past". They are presented as something new, at least as a "new" variation of a well known theme, however there is nothing new on it. Just the same stufff written in different words.

The sad fact is that faculties and science departments accept it.

The good thing is that the large majority of these graduates will stay well away from science. Yes, they still will make damage, ex. CEO I had to deal with. He claimed in every possible corner he finished Oxford in finances (he did study in Oxford) but was unable to calculate an average. The guy sent the company 2 million dollars directly under the bottom and we had a great time, full of all sorts of fun, to recover the damage.

But some of these people do enter science! And that's where things start to go boost. I saw some people getting high positions on faculties just for one fact - they write too much and speak a lot. Really, nothing else. A seminar costs money, you send this bla-bla-bla over there. It is not a big matter that he hasn't found nothing new except a new way to describe gravity in words and funny pics. He goes there, makes his new discovery a literature best-seller, puts everyone wondering about his colorful PowerPoint diagrams. That's all folks! Seminar's monny is in the safe. And your bla-bla-bla will be published in the next Annals. So, more monny-monny may come.

Really I think that analysis are terribly skewed. My belief is that we have a lot more crap going around, desguised in small and very specific publications that no ones take into account. Why? Because it's crap from the very start! So why to take the task to read it? But such attitude hides the real dimension of the problem.

Re:Go to the very beginning of 'Evil' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28150231)

It starts while you are graduating.

A big chunk, quite a huge piece of graduation diploms, certificates etc. (depends on each country) are based in the most rabid form of falsifications - "copy/past". They are presented as something new, at least as a "new" variation of a well known theme, however there is nothing new on it. Just the same stufff written in different words.

The sad fact is that faculties and science departments accept it.

The good thing is that the large majority of these graduates will stay well away from science. Yes, they still will make damage, ex. CEO I had to deal with. He claimed in every possible corner he finished Oxford in finances (he did study in Oxford) but was unable to calculate an average. The guy sent the company 2 million dollars directly under the bottom and we had a great time, full of all sorts of fun, to recover the damage.

But some of these people do enter science! And that's where things start to go boost. I saw some people getting high positions on faculties just for one fact - they write too much and speak a lot. Really, nothing else. A seminar costs money, you send this bla-bla-bla over there. It is not a big matter that he hasn't found nothing new except a new way to describe gravity in words and funny pics. He goes there, makes his new discovery a literature best-seller, puts everyone wondering about his colorful PowerPoint diagrams. That's all folks! Seminar's monny is in the safe. And your bla-bla-bla will be published in the next Annals. So, more monny-monny may come.

Really I think that analysis are terribly skewed. My belief is that we have a lot more crap going around, desguised in small and very specific publications that no ones take into account. Why? Because it's crap from the very start! So why to take the task to read it? But such attitude hides the real dimension of the problem.

What the heck language is this comment written in?

Re:Go to the very beginning of 'Evil' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28150251)

Martian... Tokein-allet

reproducible (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 5 years ago | (#28149899)

I see plenty of comments here of folk expecting some scientists will do bad things for gain/fame/award. However, science demands reproducible results and peer review. That's a safety net that catches a lot of bad science.

peer review (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28150025)

Can we please put a stop to all these people citing peer review as a sort of wonder cure?

I peer review a lot of papers. And yes, it catches a lot of bad science. But most of that is just, bad experimental design, bad writing skills, wrong conclusions, uninteresting stuff, etc.

There is nothing I can do against some smart guy who makes up all the numbers, but knows enough of statistics to make it look plausible. It is often not feasible, or even impossible to redo the experiments. I never heard anybody do that anyway (maybe because you get 2-3 weeks to do your review, whereas the work would take half a year at least).

Re:reproducible (1)

dwguenther (1100987) | more than 5 years ago | (#28150513)

Peer review may not catch all errors or outright fabrications, but reproducibility usually does. That's how those famous examples cited in the posting, and many others, were eventually caught and corrected. Scientists may be only human, but the repeatability and testability of the scientific method works and is one of the few cornerstones we have available for public debate on many issues like health and environment. There is relatively little bad science; there is a whole lot of bad political science (no offense, PS majors...).

Who could possibly be surprised by this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28149931)

Take a look at anthropology and the educational system with respect to "Lucy". She was finally admitted to be completely fraudulent because the group needed results. However, instead of these results being thrown out by both the scientific and educational system "Lucy" is being used to teach evolution. "Lucy" was still being taught as truth at the college level as she was included in text books on anthropology after she was admitted to be fraudulent.

So, scientists being corrupt/dishonest? Why not? It's well with the possibilities of human nature to be corrupt. In fact it's probably more likely than not that in today's society that any person chosen at random is corrupt/dishonest.

Re:Who could possibly be surprised by this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28150183)

Troll score: 2.1 out of a possible 10. You got a point for a reliable flame war start, the evolution-creation "controversy." Then you got a second point for declaring that one of the most famous and important discoveries in hominid evolution is a fake. However, you failed to link to any pseudoscientific organizations and did not clearly make out what you were referring to: only somebody conversant in evolution or relevant pseudoscience would immediately pick up on the main object of the troll. Additionally, not only did you fail to post this in a reply to a score 5 comment for maximum visibility, you compounded your error by posting as an AC with a starting score of 0. Lastly you did not use any of the typically ignorant, mentally unstable hallmarks of fundamentalism. You had only one punctuation mistake (duly included in your score for a tenth of a point), no spelling errors, and no random capitalization. The last two items no true trolling artist would ever think of omitting, and no inbred, knuckle-dragging, snake-handling, cousin-marrying, sheep-fucking, drooling, idiot, ignorant, Bible-worshiping fucktard creationist could ever avoid.

Meta analysis - Kettle Black (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 5 years ago | (#28149939)

I find it odd that this is all based on Meta Analysis, which itself is still highly suspect.

Not always on purpose (1)

Evoluteur (1565933) | more than 5 years ago | (#28149947)

4 days ago on that same forum was a post about "Mars robots may have destroyed evidence of life". Scientists didn't fabricate false proofs there but simply made an unconcious mistake to prove their own preconceptions...

Re:Not always on purpose (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 5 years ago | (#28150027)

That wasn't a mistake to "prove their own preconceptions". It simply was a flawed methodology. And what happened? Later analysis revealed the flaw and a better experiment was proposed. That's how it is done, as nobody's perfect. Science. It works, bitches!

Re:Not always on purpose (1)

Evoluteur (1565933) | more than 5 years ago | (#28150503)

Hey, I'm an engineer, I believe in science too. I simply think that with a little help from psychology, science can make progress even faster... Same problem. Why did they pick a flawed methodology then?

Re:Not always on purpose (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 5 years ago | (#28150557)

Can't answer to the "why" as I have not been there. It happened and the flaw got identified later. I am all with you there. A little psychology might sure help in identifying why the flaw was there in the first experiments, and avoiding such flaws later on. We can't expect perfection, but we sure have to try to get better as we go along.

It is demonstrably MORE common when... (2, Interesting)

Jawn98685 (687784) | more than 5 years ago | (#28149971)

The funding for the "research" is provided by an entity with an agenda other than pure research, e.g. having a vested interest in a particular outcome or finding. Nowhere is this more common that in the U.S. pharmaceutical industry, where entire ersatz journals have been published to provide the appearance of well-documented and peer-reviewed research.
Beyond jailing those involved in such grand misconduct, I don't know where to draw the line, but I believe that separating profit from research, as far as possible, is a good first step. And yes, I am indeed advocating that medical research be "socialized". I have nothing against corporate profits, but when truth, not to mention the public good, takes a back seat to profits, the system is broken when viewed from any impartial perspective.

More common than it should be. (1)

drdaz (994457) | more than 5 years ago | (#28149989)

nt

As a scientist... (1)

cleojo42 (573624) | more than 5 years ago | (#28150007)

I am surprised it is this small. I am sure part of the liars (which is what they are) are doing it for fame and to be the one. Others (liars too) are doing it to keep their jobs, whether that be to get money to do science, or just to cling on. And forget turning someone in. It will ruin your career.

gray area (5, Interesting)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 5 years ago | (#28150053)

There's a big gray area. For instance, the Millikan oil drop experiment [wikipedia.org] , which established quantization of charge, was arguably fraudulent. Millikan threw out all the data he didn't like, and then stated in his paper that he had never thrown out any data. His result was correct, but the way he went about proving it was ethically suspect.

Vice Provost of Caltech from 1994 said it best (4, Interesting)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | more than 5 years ago | (#28150135)

From:
    http://www.its.caltech.edu/~dg/crunch_art.html [caltech.edu]
"""
The crises that face science are not limited to jobs and research funds. Those are bad enough, but they are just the beginning. Under stress from those problems, other parts of the scientific enterprise have started showing signs of distress. One of the most essential is the matter of honesty and ethical behavior among scientists.

The public and the scientific community have both been shocked in recent years by an increasing number of cases of fraud committed by scientists. There is little doubt that the perpetrators in these cases felt themselves under intense pressure to compete for scarce resources, even by cheating if necessary. As the pressure increases, this kind of dishonesty is almost sure to become more common.

Other kinds of dishonesty will also become more common. For example, peer review, one of the crucial pillars of the whole edifice, is in critical danger. Peer review is used by scientific journals to decide what papers to publish, and by granting agencies such as the National Science Foundation to decide what research to support. Journals in most cases, and agencies in some cases operate by sending manuscripts or research proposals to referees who are recognized experts on the scientific issues in question, and whose identity will not be revealed to the authors of the papers or proposals. Obviously, good decisions on what research should be supported and what results should be published are crucial to the proper functioning of science.

Peer review is usually quite a good way to identify valid science. Of course, a referee will occasionally fail to appreciate a truly visionary or revolutionary idea, but by and large, peer review works pretty well so long as scientific validity is the only issue at stake. However, it is not at all suited to arbitrate an intense competition for research funds or for editorial space in prestigious journals. There are many reasons for this, not the least being the fact that the referees have an obvious conflict of interest, since they are themselves competitors for the same resources. This point seems to be another one of those relativistic anomalies, obvious to any outside observer, but invisible to those of us who are falling into the black hole. It would take impossibly high ethical standards for referees to avoid taking advantage of their privileged anonymity to advance their own interests, but as time goes on, more and more referees have their ethical standards eroded as a consequence of having themselves been victimized by unfair reviews when they were authors. Peer review is thus one among many examples of practices that were well suited to the time of exponential expansion, but will become increasingly dysfunctional in the difficult future we face.

We must find a radically different social structure to organize research and education in science after The Big Crunch. That is not meant to be an exhortation. It is meant simply to be a statement of a fact known to be true with mathematical certainty, if science is to survive at all. The new structure will come about by evolution rather than design, because, for one thing, neither I nor anyone else has the faintest idea of what it will turn out to be, and for another, even if we did know where we are going to end up, we scientists have never been very good at guiding our own destiny. Only this much is sure: the era of exponential expansion will be replaced by an era of constraint. Because it will be unplanned, the transition is likely to be messy and painful for the participants. In fact, as we have seen, it already is. Ignoring the pain for the moment, however, I would like to look ahead and speculate on some conditions that must be met if science is to have a future as well as a past.
"""

Ah yes, but indubitably the science is all... (1)

Milkweed73 (1305969) | more than 5 years ago | (#28150301)

in agreement on Global Warming being caused by humans. Gee for a topic that actually isn't agreed on by all scientists, and that apparently could be riddled with faked or misinterpreted data we get told all day long that we are heathens if we don't believe the empirical scientific evidence. In fact if we don't tow the scientific line we must be dolts and shoved to the side as nutcases. Matter of fact we are about to make trillion dollar "Green" Cap and Trade laws all based on this Scientific Evidence, the heck with the evidence to the contrary.

"How Common Is Scientific Misconduct?" (1)

mathcam (937122) | more than 5 years ago | (#28150341)

According to a rigorous scientific study I just conducted, 7.

...Definitely not... (1)

Damn The Torpedoes (1279448) | more than 5 years ago | (#28150441)

The survey percentages given are obviously fabricated

This proves religion science (-1, Flamebait)

Nexus7 (2919) | more than 5 years ago | (#28150501)

Not even 1% of priests have admitted to misconduct. Not only that, they are certain in their laws. These laws don't even need proving or experimentationalistic thingies where numbers can be fudged. It is exactly 6000 years!

Temptation (1)

drolli (522659) | more than 5 years ago | (#28150633)

I am an experimental physicist in solid state physics. I think this subject in low to medium-prone to misconduct. Lets analyze the different aspects of it:

a) Motivation: getting your thesis/paper finished quicker/better, getting research money

b) Control Is there a control actually considering scientific behavior to be a fundamental good or is it just important that nothing is uncovered?

c) Ways of misbehaviour (i only write down what happened in the range of what i have seen/recognized(e.g. in other groups papers) or friends told me what they saw. I exclude friends of friends stories): Unclear formulation of experimental hypotheses *before* the experiment ("fishing in the dark"), not noting all people involved as authors, mentioning people not involved as authors, post-selection of experimental data supporting a hypothesis. incorrect labeling of data (e.g. different sample of same type etc), sabotage of co-workers experiments, beautification of data (the line between nonlinear filtering and faking is a thin one).

d) Ways of reporting without shooting yourself in your foot: ????? None?

e) Education towards it: negative (if you report results in lab courses which dont match the supervisors expectation, you get in trouble instead of turning the device on an measuring again. This educates people to copy last years results.

So let me summarize: the subtleness of some ways of manipulation coming together with a lack of control, education, and ways of reporting without getting damaged while seeing a good expected reward for bending the rules of science a little has turned many good people bad. Imagine a Bank where the money in the evening is not counted, the people are eductaed to just take a little bit, nobody is interested if some money is missing.

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