KSJ Tracker September 14, 2012

Science fraud and misconduct: the threat to science

A 3,000 word story by Alok Jha in The Guardian is a stark examination of how seriously fraud and misconduct are threatening the scientific enterprise.

We've been told that misconduct is on the rise, but when Jha starts with the laundry list of recent offenses, he shows us how common it is becoming. He leads with the retractions and fabrications of the Dutch researchers Dirk Smeesters and Diederik Stapel, two separate cases in the last year, which probably attracted more attention to Dutch research than any legitimate research that's been done there in recent years. 

He also looks at measures of malfeasance, such as a study in which 1.97% of researchers admitted to having "fabricated, falsified or modified data or results at least once." In 2006, an analysis of images in the Journal of Cell Biology determined that 1% "had been deliberately falsified."

Jha looks at other, related problems, such as journal editors' interest in publishing positive studies, and their reluctance to publish studies that refute questionable claims.

By putting so many examples and issues together in one story, Jha makes plain that the problem of deceit and misconduct is far more serious than we might have thought.

-Paul Raeburn

Comments

comments powered by Disqus