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How Common Is Scientific Fraud?


CokeSnortingTory

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A couple of interesting articles on scientific misconduct, that might be interesting for those of you who, like me, tend to suspect that science has pretty much become the new priesthood, far less prone to real scrutiny than other public professions. Try to keep any discussion away from you-know-what and purely on the methodology of science as a whole.

How common is scientific misconduct: http://science.slashdot.org/story/09/05/30/147221/How-Common-Is-Scientific-Misconduct

"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.'"

Scientific fraud and the power structure of science: http://www.bmartin.cc/pubs/92prom.html

ABSTRACT: In the routine practice of scientific research, there are many types of misrepresentation and bias which could be considered dubious. However, only a few narrowly defined behaviours are singled out and castigated as scientific fraud. A narrow definition of scientific fraud is convenient to the groups in society -- scientific elites, and powerful government and corporate interests -- that have the dominant influence on priorities in science. Several prominent Australian cases illustrate how the denunciation of fraud helps to paint the rest of scientific behaviour as blameless.
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Wide spread, its just that they get debunked quickly because they are willing to share their data and techniques or when they are pressed to present their data and experimental technique the flaws in their theories are discovered.

I remember the original cold fusion blokes were discredited in the mid 90s, another bloke was discredited for cold fusion (using evidence of a tiny flash of light which was actually caused by a particle generator he was using by accident) , also the human cloning thing.

A while ago it was pretty common too,

Alfred Russel Wallace was Darwin's rival, I forget who it was but Max Planck also had a serious rival too.

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There are far better professions to be in if you want to commit fraud.

Not always in that we expect bankers, EAs, politicians to be fraudulent anyway, and thus we keep an eye on them, lowly scientists are held or used to be held in slightly higher esteem and thus would not be suspected of doing such things.

There is a similar thing with old people who play all innocent when they comit crimes blaming it on others, thus it is often from the people you suspect the least.

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Off the top of my head:

Ancel Keys faked his heart disease / saturated fat link by leaving out the data that did not correlate. This is widely known now.

Haeckel faked his diagrams of embryos to try to add to Darwin's pigeon breeding experiments. Exposed in mainstream journals

Robert Gallo of HIV = AIDS fame is a known fraudster. Proven

Crick and Watson copied the science lab books of Rosalind Franklin and used hers and Linus Paulings work to beat them to the nobel prize. Proven

Glaxo faked the results of the first AZT study on AIDS patients. Proven

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Almost every single scientific paper ever published contains falsified/distorted data or an unusually good result presented as a typical one. Virtually all will also omit relevant results obtained during the course of study which do not exactly sit with the 'angle' of the paper. I speak as a published scientist.

There is no way to fix this problem. Scientific research is a human activity and therefore imperfect. If you go around banging on about all of the problems you had during the research then people will doubt your conclusions and no journals will accept your papers and nobody will fund your research. Sad but true. If you are looking for perfect knowledge which is absolutely true then I'm sorry but scientists can't give you that - try religion.

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Almost every single scientific paper ever published contains falsified/distorted data or an unusually good result presented as a typical one.

I'd dispute that. There are many theoretical scientific papers which contain neither data nor experimental results. I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a mathematical paper with falsified results, for example.

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I'd dispute that. There are many theoretical scientific papers which contain neither data nor experimental results. I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a mathematical paper with falsified results, for example.

Fair enough, not many theoretical papers in my field (medical research) but I'll give you that. Point still stands for papers with experimental data though!

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Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof.

If you're going to claim you've achieved faster than light travel, near limitless "free" energy or a significant medical advance, then your work will be subject to high levels of scrutiny.

Similarly if you are going to claim mankind is doomed in the future unless it invests a significant amount of resource now, you better have some pretty extraordinary evidence to back that claim up.

Once the claim is proved, you have a responsibility to spend the money as efficiently as possible given the objective. For example, if the objective is to ensure mankind against being wiped out by natural disaster, wouldn't it be better to spend money on a self sustaining Mars base, that would insure humanity against supervolcanoes, genetically engineered viruses, asteriod impacts etc etc, rather than just one potential future threat ?

Given that we could al be wiped out by a 12km asteroid impact, is enough work/money being spent/done to address this threat cf. climate change ?

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Many commonly prescribed drugs are no better than placebos but you'd assume they all passed very trials with flying colours.

'Hey, what shall we do with that new substance we invested all that money in?'

'F*ck knows - inject it into a load of rats and see what happens.'

'We did that and most of them got sick and died but in one experiment a couple of rats lasted 0.00002 seconds longer when exposed to a potent carcinogen.'

'Wow, then we've got our new wonder drug. F*ck me, we could sell this to health systems everywhere - f*ck, let's tell 'em all citizens need to take it or they'll get horrible cancer and die - it's working for statins, so why not?'

'Great, boss, I'll start devising some experiment that shows just how great this shit is at preventing cancer...'

'That's my boy...'

'Oh, and by the way - there's some really good evidence coming through that if you eat lots of broccoli you can cut your cancer risk...'

'Tell me about it when it's genetically modified and patented...'

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MMR doctor Andrew Wakefield fixed data on autism

This article is subject to an on-going Press Complaints Commission complaint

THE doctor who sparked the scare over the safety of the MMR vaccine for children changed and misreported results in his research, creating the appearance of a possible link with autism, a Sunday Times investigation has found.

Confidential medical documents and interviews with witnesses have established that Andrew Wakefield manipulated patients’ data, which triggered fears that the MMR triple vaccine to protect against measles, mumps and rubella was linked to the condition.

The research was published in February 1998 in an article in The Lancet medical journal. It claimed that the families of eight out of 12 children attending a routine clinic at the hospital had blamed MMR for their autism, and said that problems came on within days of the jab. The team also claimed to have discovered a new inflammatory bowel disease underlying the children’s conditions.

However, our investigation, confirmed by evidence presented to the General Medical Council (GMC), reveals that: In most of the 12 cases, the children’s ailments as described in The Lancet were different from their hospital and GP records. Although the research paper claimed that problems came on within days of the jab, in only one case did medical records suggest this was true, and in many of the cases medical concerns had been raised before the children were vaccinated. Hospital pathologists, looking for inflammatory bowel disease, reported in the majority of cases that the gut was normal. This was then reviewed and the Lancet paper showed them as abnormal.

Despite involving just a dozen children, the 1998 paper’s impact was extraordinary. After its publication, rates of inoculation fell from 92% to below 80%. Populations acquire “herd immunity” from measles when more than 95% of people have been vaccinated.

Last week official figures showed that 1,348 confirmed cases of measles in England and Wales were reported last year, compared with 56 in 1998. Two children have died of the disease.

With two professors, John Walker-Smith and Simon Murch, Wakefield is defending himself against allegations of serious professional misconduct brought by the GMC. The charges relate to ethical aspects of the project, not its findings. All three men deny any misconduct.

Through his lawyers, Wakefield this weekend denied the issues raised by our investigation, but declined to comment further.

Above classic case of the fraud you speak of....This charlatons nonsense still has massive implications today....

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7819874.stm

Unprecedented' rise in measles

There is an "unprecedented increase" in measles cases in England and Wales, experts report.

Data from the Health Protection Agency showed there were 1,217 cases of measles from January to November 2008, the highest figure for over a decade.

And 75% of the 115 cases diagnosed in November were outside the traditional hotspot of London - in the north west, west midlands and south east.

The HPA's Dr Mary Ramsay said the rise was due to "relatively low" MMR uptake.

The number of measles cases in November 2008 was the same as was seen in the whole of 1996.

And even before numbers for December have been recorded, the figures show there were more measles cases in 2008 than in any of the previous 12 years.

Despite the recent surge of cases outside London, over half of the cases last year were in the capital.

As well as outbreaks in nurseries, primary and secondary schools, there have been outbreaks in traveller communities in the west midlands and south east.

The HPA says too few children are receiving both doses of the combined measles, mumps and rubella jab.

Sixty per cent of cases were seen in children aged under 15.

'Not fully protected'

Earlier this week the UK was named as one of the worst countries in Europe for measles, with case levels dashing global hopes of eradicating the disease by 2010.

A Lancet study said that in 2006-7 most of the 12,000 cases in Europe were found in the UK and four other nations.

Dr Mary Ramsay, an immunisation expert at the HPA, said: "We are still experiencing an unprecedented increase in measles cases across the England and Wales.

"This continued rise is due to relatively low MMR vaccine uptake over the past decade and there are now a large number of children who are not fully protected with MMR.

"This means that measles, which is highly infectious, is spreading easily among these unvaccinated children."

She added: "The HPA is concerned that we may see measles epidemics take hold.

"We again are urging parents to get their children vaccinated. Although MMR coverage is starting to improve, we cannot stress enough that measles is serious and in some cases it can be fatal. Delaying immunisation puts children at risk."

Dr Ramsay said around eight out of 10 children were now receiving one dose of MMR by their second birthday.

But she added: "We shouldn't forget that the children who weren't vaccinated many years ago are at real risk."

Serious illness

A Department of Health spokesman said an MMR catch-up programme, which began last August, aimed to help local primary care trusts to identify children who had not been given the jab.

In Scotland, the number of children receiving at least one dose of the MMR jab by the age of five has reached the target of 95% for the first time in December. Northern Ireland saw just four cases of measles last year.

Although most children recover from measles, it can be a serious illness.

One in 10 cases requires hospital treatment and it can lead to pneumonia, brain damage and even death.

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Off the top of my head:

Ancel Keys faked his heart disease / saturated fat link by leaving out the data that did not correlate. This is widely known now.

Haeckel faked his diagrams of embryos to try to add to Darwin's pigeon breeding experiments. Exposed in mainstream journals

Robert Gallo of HIV = AIDS fame is a known fraudster. Proven

Crick and Watson copied the science lab books of Rosalind Franklin and used hers and Linus Paulings work to beat them to the nobel prize. Proven

Glaxo faked the results of the first AZT study on AIDS patients. Proven

These are all "large" well known names. If you get down to grass roots you will find thousands of scientists being economical and constructive in their findings. I have had so much first hand experience of people telling lies and falsifying data to try and secure grants etc for more funding. It is human nature. It is never ever policed well and costs countries millions indeed maybe even billions in wasted effort

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I can certainly vouch for the fact that I manipulated the results in previous scientificdocuments reports and to this day present technical data to support my point. It is very easy to do.

Easy to do and expected and necessary

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Almost every single scientific paper ever published contains falsified/distorted data or an unusually good result presented as a typical one. Virtually all will also omit relevant results obtained during the course of study which do not exactly sit with the 'angle' of the paper. I speak as a published scientist.

There is no way to fix this problem. Scientific research is a human activity and therefore imperfect. If you go around banging on about all of the problems you had during the research then people will doubt your conclusions and no journals will accept your papers and nobody will fund your research. Sad but true. If you are looking for perfect knowledge which is absolutely true then I'm sorry but scientists can't give you that - try religion.

Great post and i agree 100%. This is my experience too.

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Guest anorthosite

Almost every single scientific paper ever published contains falsified/distorted data or an unusually good result presented as a typical one.

Don't you just love sweeping & inflammatory statements that are backed up by no evidence whatsoever?

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Just as with Anorthosite, when I was young I was naive and believed everything the government and mainstream VIs told me. However, there was no internet so I am saved the embarrassment of having to re-read my naivety. Anorthosite will have a permanent record on here of his stupidity, maintained for all eternity for him to ponder on as he picks the weevils out of his soup in the EUSSR internment camp. Although, thinking about it, they will need guards in the camps who will ‘just be doing their jobs’. I think he would fit this role quite well.

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Whilst I don't deny there are plenty of frauds out there, there are also scientists out there discovering real useful things. Take the monitor you're looking at, no one would doubt that the theory behind how it works could be falsified because plainly it wouldn't work. Science needs to make verifiable, self consistent predictions about the way the universe operates. Anything else is conjecture.

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Whilst I don't deny there are plenty of frauds out there, there are also scientists out there discovering real useful things. Take the monitor you're looking at, no one would doubt that the theory behind how it works could be falsified because plainly it wouldn't work. Science needs to make verifiable, self consistent predictions about the way the universe operates. Anything else is conjecture.

Mr Han, all of a sudden i want to leave your island.

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A couple of interesting articles on scientific misconduct, that might be interesting for those of you who, like me, tend to suspect that science has pretty much become the new priesthood, far less prone to real scrutiny than other public professions. Try to keep any discussion away from you-know-what and purely on the methodology of science as a whole.

How common is scientific misconduct: http://science.slashdot.org/story/09/05/30/147221/How-Common-Is-Scientific-Misconduct

It differs from subject area to subject area. Experiemental work is difficult to steal, but not difficult to misrepresent/falsify. The validity of theoretical work is usually easy to check (not always though) but easy to steal. Some fields are much worse than others. A combination of experiments being difficult to repeat and a lot of money at stake together with gatekeepers to publication tends to breed nasty scientific environments. This is the case in certain areas of the biological sciences in my opinion. I suspect climate research falls within this category too. In other areas, such as some physics, one or more of these preconditions are not satisfied and things are better.

From my experience at top institutions, in the field in which I practiced:

(1) Plagiarism and theft by supervisors, reviewers and editors is not uncommon, but less common than in, say History and English Literature where I know of quite a few Ph.D. students being academically raped by unscrupulous supervisors.

(2) Misrepresentation or outright lying by peer reviewers to quash work that challeneges their own or their friends' research is very common. Peer review is a travesty in my opinion. The biological sciences, in particular, need a preprint server like mathematics and the physical sciences have to prevent decent publications being quashed. It is easy to get mediocre articles published, but really good articles that challenge the status quo get sat upon very heavily by the VIs.

A perfect example of this would be a paper of mine that ended up appearing in Nature, started off dozens and dozens of research projects, and is taught in a lot of undergraduate courses (i.e. it was a good idea with fundamental implications.) I tried for 3 years before this article was eventually published. A certain US academic who had the current leading theory did his best to have my ideas stopped, and when they looked like they would come out anyway, he handed over my manuscript to a student of one of his friends who then submitted a minorly altered version to a leading journal. It even had my graphs in it (rotated by 90 degrees of course...) Luckily for me, the arrogant p**** made the mistake of telling me in writing that he had never read the paper for which he had been writing damning reviews for the past 3 years. The credit for this idea is now shared between myself and the plagiarist...I wouldn't even have that if the **** hadn't been so stupid to gloat in writing.

Similar things have happened with quite a few other papers I have published or gave up trying to publish, though never to quite such an obscene extent.

The real problem is that peer reviewers are often competitors and some of them can have a lot vested in their theories and if established have the power to protect them.

(3) Some people just make up data. They tend only to get caught when they go too far or when they step on the wrong person's toes. By comparing a number of papers, I can think of one experimenter who has done the physically impossible, unless he can ride a pushbike at 100mph. A lot of this fellow's data has been called into question, but he is still a professor at a very good university. There are well documented cases where people have published 60 or more plagiarised or just plain made up papers before being caught.

(4) Certain powerful people stack departments across the country with their "yes men". The academic job/fellowship selection process is very political. I have so many stories about this, I could bore for Britain. Same goes for research grants, the life blood of an academic career these days

In medicine from rumours I have heard, from actual cases I know about, and from reading between the lines in papers, I suspect that a lot of inconvenient data is supressed, statistical analyses are selectively used or omitted, and experiemnts shut down at certain stages to put new drugs in a good light. You don't get funding from drug companies to find problems with their drugs. This is the really dangerous stuff as far as I am concerned.

In the end, I gave up science in disgust. The pay was s***, which would have been tolerable without all the political c*** that went with the job. Some people have had better experiences; it really depends what field you are in. Some of my physicist and mathematician friends seem to have a really healthy working and publishing environment. I envy them.

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I'd dispute that. There are many theoretical scientific papers which contain neither data nor experimental results. I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a mathematical paper with falsified results, for example.

Mmm...you'd think...but you will find mathematical papers which exist with serious mistakes where the authors will fight tooth and nail to prevent those mistakes being revealed, especially if it reflects on previous work. I can show you some very interesting correspondence between myself, and editor and a some authors on this very point.

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