Fraud in science why on the increase?
*** Multiple Articles ***
During this century, science has greatly increased our knowledge of the natural world around us. Its telescopes have revealed the awesome wonders of the starry heavens, just as its microscopes have disclosed the amazing complexities of molecules and atoms. The marvels of design in plants and animals, the wisdom reflected in our own fearfully and wonderfully made bodies—this knowledge also comes to us through the discoveries of hardworking scientists. We are not unappreciative.
But there is another side to science. Not all its practitioners measure up to the image of the objective, passionate pursuers of truth, regardless of where it might lead. There are too many scientists who select the material that supports their theory and discard what doesn’t. They report studies they have never made and experiments they have never performed, and they fake what they cannot establish. They plagiarize the writings of fellow scientists. Many claim authorship of articles they have never worked on and maybe have never even seen!
Flagrant fraud may be rare, but some of the manipulating of data mentioned above is common. Even more common, however, are two additional kinds of fraud, both involving deceitful propaganda. The four articles that follow examine the problem.
*** g90 1/22 p. 3 Fraud in Science—It Makes the Headlines ***
The image of scientists as invariably dedicated to truth has been tarnished, as these headlined items show. ***
“Ethics in Science”
“A fight is building in the U.S. House of Representatives over fraud, misconduct, and conflict of interest in science.”—Science, July 7, 1989.
“Two New Studies Ask Why Scientists Cheat”
“It was an innocent enough question: how do scientists behave when no one is looking? But it has produced an incendiary answer: not too well, reports a paper this month in the British journal Nature.”—Newsweek, February 2, 1987.
“The Case of the ‘Misplaced’ Fossils”
“A prominent Australian scientist has examined two decades of work on ancient Himalayan geology and alleges it may be the greatest paleontological fraud of all time.”—Science, April 21, 1989.
“Now It’s the Journals’ Turn on the Firing Line”
“[He was speaking] specifically about how poorly many [science] journals have handled scientific fraud. . . . The same message previously dispatched to other members of the scientific community has now been addressed to the journals: clean up your act or you may find legislators getting into it.”—The AAAS Observer, July 7, 1989
“Do Scientists Cheat?”
“After the initial inquiry by this [congressional] committee into this subject, the committee has had growing reason to believe that we are only seeing the tip of a very unfortunate, dangerous, and important iceberg.”—NOVA broadcast on PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) on October 25, 1988.
*** w90 2/15 p. 28 Insight on the News ***
Under that title, the French daily Le Monde reported the case of a paleontologist in India who “for 20 years . . . apparently deceived his colleagues concerning the origin of fossils that he submitted to them for their appraisal.” It is claimed that the “hijacking” consisted of sending them fossils obtained in the United States, Africa, Czechoslovakia, and the British Isles, saying they had been discovered in the Himalaya Mountains. This scientist published his findings in over 300 articles. The fraud was brought to light by an Australian scientist via the British scientific journal Nature. He wondered ‘how it could be that such a large quantity of doubtful findings remained unchallenged for such a long time.’
One possible reason, according to Le Monde, was the law of silence heeded by many members of the scientific community. The article noted that this fossil “hijacking” has “made useless practically all the facts accumulated [over the past 20 years] on the geology of the Himalayas.”
Obviously, this new case of fraud in science does not cast doubt on the entire scientific world. It does, however, provide further evidence that arguments of paleontology when pitted against the unfailing accuracy of the Bible record are often nothing more than what the apostle Paul called “the contradictions of the ‘knowledge’ which is not knowledge at all.”—1 Timothy 6:20, The New Jerusalem Bible.
***Fraud in Science—Why It’s on the Increase
“THE competition is savage. Winners reap monumental rewards; losers face oblivion. It’s an atmosphere in which an illicit shortcut is sometimes irresistible—not least because the Establishment is frequently squeamish about confronting wrongdoing.” So opened the article “Publish or Perish—or Fake It” in U.S.News & World Report. To escape perishing, many scientific researchers are faking it.
The pressure on scientists to publish in scientific journals is overwhelming. The longer the list of published papers to the researcher’s name, the better his chances for employment, promotion, tenure in a university, and government grants to finance his research. The federal government “controls the largest source of research funding, $5.6 [thousand million] a year from the National Institutes of Health.”
Because “the scientific community shows little stomach for confronting its ethical dilemma,” “has been strangely reluctant to probe too deeply for hard data about its ethical conduct,” and “isn’t keen about cleaning house or even looking closely for malfeasance,” congressional committees have held hearings and considered legislation to do the job of policing for them. (New Scientist; U.S.News & World Report) This prospect wrings from scientists much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Yet, one science journal asks and answers the question: “Is the house of science clean and in order? The bit of evidence that reaches the public invites serious doubts.”
Some researchers eliminate data that does not support what they want to prove (called cooking); report more tests or trials than were actually run (called trimming); appropriate for their own use data or ideas of other researchers (called plagiarism); and make up experiments or data they never performed or produced (called forging). A cartoon in a science journal poked fun at this last tactic, one scientist talking to another and saying of a third: ‘He’s published a lot since he took up that creative writing course.’
“What’s the major product of scientific research these days? Answer: Paper,” U.S.News & World Report said. “Hundreds of new journals are being founded each year to handle the flood of research papers cranked out by scientists who know that the road to academic success is a long list of articles to their credit.” Quantity, not quality, is the goal. Forty thousand journals published yearly produce a million articles, and part of this flood “is symptomatic of fundamental ills, including a publish-or-perish ethic among researchers that is stronger now than ever and encourages shoddy, repetitive, useless or even fraudulent work.”
That was an awesome podcast
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
The Scienceline Newsletter
Sign up for regular updates.