News24

Fraud 'rife' in science research

2012-10-02 09:30

Washington - When a biomedical study is retracted, most of the time it is because of misconduct rather than error, a report said.

Two-thirds of all retractions around the world stem from acts like fraud, suspected fraud or plagiarism, it added.

And as a percentage of all scientific articles published, retractions because of fraud or suspected fraud have jumped 10-fold since 1975, said the study.

Its lead author was Arturo Casadevall, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, in New York. The study was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Biomedical research has become a winner-take-all game, one with perverse incentives that entice scientists to cut corners and, in some instances, falsify data or commit other acts of misconduct," Casadevall wrote.

He said the numbers stand in stark contrast to earlier studies which suggested mistakes accounted for the majority of retracted scientific papers.

Scientific cheating

Casadevall and two other scientists reviewed 2 047 papers that were removed from biomedical literature through May of this year.

The authors consulted secondary sources to determine why the papers were yanked, such as the National Institutes of Health's Office of Research Integrity, and Retractionwatch.com. Both probe scientific misconduct.

They found that 21% of the retractions were attributable to error, but 67% stemmed from misconduct. Miscellaneous or unknown reasons accounted for the rest.

"What's troubling is that the more skilful the fraud, the less likely that it will be discovered, so there likely are more fraudulent papers out there that haven't yet been detected and retracted," Casadevall wrote.

He said that earlier studies which underestimated the scope of scientific cheating were based just on journals' retraction notices, written by the original authors themselves.

"Many of those notices are wrong," he said.

"Authors commonly write, 'We regret we have to retract our paper because the work is not reproducible,' which is not exactly a lie. The work indeed was not reproducible because it was fraudulent. Researchers try to protect their labs and their reputations, and these retractions are written in such a way that you often don't know what really happened."

Prestigious journals had particularly high rates of retractions.

This reflects a prevailing culture in science in which researchers are disproportionately rewarded for publishing a lot and getting published in top-notch journals, he said.

Comments
  • ernst.j.joubert - 2012-10-02 09:54

    The whole peer-review scientific system ensures that science is self-correcting, which is how it should be. If a research field is active and a scientist finds a mistake in a published paper and the scientist can correct this mistake, then it virtually guarantees this scientist a publication. Moreover, the scientist will gain substantial recognition for rectifying the error and this will do wonders for his / her reputation. Therefore, scientists are always busy scrutinizing one anothers work and so errors are eliminated.

      zaatheist - 2012-10-02 10:22

      You got a thumbs down from the crouch fellow because he is a creationist and hates science because it proves his god and bibble to be nothing but wishful thinking.

      jpstrauss - 2012-10-02 11:09

      How do you make the leap from scientific fraud to the (non) existence of God?

      zaatheist - 2012-10-02 11:22

      jpstrauss I assume you are addressing me! Quite easy. The sky fairy believers like grouch make silly comments on science topics and give thumbs down to statements about the validity of scientific discoveries because science debunks all those fanciful buy bull myths.

      napolita.kio - 2012-10-02 11:50

      @zaatheist - Your statement "...and give thumbs down to statements about the validity of scientific discoveries..." refers. Seeing that you like/understand science and hence logic. May I ask you, how do you know who give(s) thumbs down? I mean, scientifically/technologically, can you prove who gave a thumbs down?

      jpstrauss - 2012-10-02 12:04

      Let's try again. How do get Scientific fraud, ergo god does not exist? The conclusion does not follow.

      zaatheist - 2012-10-02 12:22

      napolita.kio Deduction my dear Watson. Deduction.

      napolita.kio - 2012-10-02 12:39

      @zaatheist Here are some facts: - There are people who can and do make contrasting comment responses without putting/"voting with" a thumbs-down to the comment they are responding to. - There are people who will put a thumbs-down to a comment which they may not have understood or fully read the comment. - The are people who will put on a thumbs-down on the basis of their dislike of a particular person. Consequent to the facts above, here follows some logic (deductively so): So, just because "...believers like grouch make silly comments..." does not mean they will put a thumbs-down. Hence, I will not deduct that you are the one who put on a thumbs down on my post on the basis of your "disagreement" with my post; facts and logic do not allow me to do that ;) I think this is scientific enough, don't you think so honey?

      ernst.j.joubert - 2012-10-02 13:53

      @stirrer: "...but AGW is a myth based on faulty and non-existent data, and THAT fact is well documented (remember Climategate?)." Here we go again. If you bothered to research the issue thoroughly you would have noticed that the scientists that were involved in the "fake" scandal of climategate have been cleared (vindicated) by 9 independent investigations. Furthermore, these scientists have been threatened and cyber bullied. Why? Please tell me why? So stop living in this fantasy world of conspiracies. There is sound forensic evidence that human activity is responsible. Denying this is denying basic scientific principles. Doing nothing about AGW is reckless, irresponsible and plain stupid. I will document our correspondence and show future generations that becuase of people like you, we live in a polluted, unstable, degraded world with acidic oceans, violent storms, heat waves, rising seas etc.

  • robbie.crouch - 2012-10-02 10:02

    And laws are based on fraudulent scientific data...

      zaatheist - 2012-10-02 10:20

      Which laws - or are you simply making stuff up, again?

      jpstrauss - 2012-10-02 11:10

      Carbon emissions legislation for one.

      stirrer.stirrer - 2012-10-02 11:10

      Easy example: Carbon tax.

      zaatheist - 2012-10-02 11:26

      Love it when sky fairy believers (strauss, stirrer) comment on science topics in a desperate attempt to debunk science. Also interesting they they are the same guys who join the planet trashers trying to deny global warming and climate change. Now can we have some citations?

      stirrer.stirrer - 2012-10-02 11:50

      Zaatheist, we're not debunking science, only fraudulent "science". Neither am I denying climate change, it's a natural cycle, but AGW is a myth based on faulty and non-existent data, and THAT fact is well documented (remember Climategate?). I actually read through the Cliamategate emails and understood what they said, I'm in the IT business and know exactly what it means if a database is corrupted and unrecoverable, so don't even try to convince me that it was just an attempt to discredit AGW. The data is REALLY screwed.

      zaatheist - 2012-10-02 12:26

      stirrer.stirrer The whole climategate saga was - well nothing - and does not detract from the overwhelming consensus among scientists world-wide that human activity is adversely affecting the climate. "Neither am I denying climate change, it's a natural cycle." But you are. You are denying human activity influence on climate. But then you are a sky daddy believer so you will believe anything. and deny facts. Its ok. I understand.

      ernst.j.joubert - 2012-10-02 13:46

      @stirrer: "...but AGW is a myth based on faulty and non-existent data, and THAT fact is well documented (remember Climategate?)." Here we go again. If you bothered to research the issue thoroughly you would have noticed that the scientists that were involved in the "fake" scandal of climategate have been cleared (vindicated) by 9 independent investigations. So stop living in this fantasy world of conspiracies.

      stirrer.stirrer - 2012-10-02 13:48

      Zaatheist, if you dismiss Climategate as "nothing", you obviously have no idea what is contained in the emails, and your accceptance of AGW as fact, is as flawed as the data that it's based on. Then you have the audacity to call yourself a "scientist" if you don't even have the foggiest clue what the issues are all about - it's a disgrace! But then, your flawed thinking manifests itself on a daily basis, we're used to it.

      zaatheist - 2012-10-02 14:14

      Stirrer You are clutching at straws - because one preacher in you church rapes a little boy does not mean all preachers are rapists. Does that mean you will no longer believe in your god? Geddit? And the publication of private missives hardly debunks the overwhelming evidence accumulated elsewhere by thousands of other scientists. But, as I said, you are an imaginary sky fairy believer who believes all kinds of primitive stuff (talking snakes, donkeys and bushes, food falling from the sky, blokes flying unaided though the air and walking on water, zombies, virgin births, world-wide floods covering Mt Everest...............) Hardly a resume for somebody in a scientific discussion.,

      stirrer.stirrer - 2012-10-02 14:35

      @ernst (zaatheist, you have no clue about the subject, you are ignored in further discussion) - Yes, the scientists have been "cleared of any wrongdoing", meaning they did not intentionally fabricate or manipulate data. BUT - not one of the investigations disputed the accuracy of the emails. What the emails show, is a total incompetence by UEA' IT guys, who managed to irreparably screw up the historical data which the research and conclusions are based upon.

      ernst.j.joubert - 2012-10-02 14:49

      @stirrer: Here is a thorough debunking of the fake scandal of climategate. http://www.skepticalscience.com/search.php?Search=Climategate+&x=11&y=11 http://www.skepticalscience.com/fake-scandal-Climategate.html By the way: This "fake scandal" was designed to delay action on climate mitigation, which suits the fossil industry just fine. It is a well documented FACT that oil companies have sponsored climate denial.

      ernst.j.joubert - 2012-10-02 15:02

      @stirrer: Clinging to the garbage spewed by sites like "Climatedepot" and "wattsupwiththat" doesnt do your cause any favours. Here's why: 1) "Wattsupwiththat": See what Anthony Watts credentials are at (This guy has never even published any climate science papers): http://www.desmogblog.com/anthony-watts 2) "climatedepot": Look at Marc Morano's credentials (not even a degree in science) http://www.desmogblog.com/marc-morano And you think these guys are credible?

      zaatheist - 2012-10-02 16:49

      stirrer Usual Xian Gish gallop. Sky daddy believer claim he understands science but not those theories they disprove his wishful thinking. I was taught in school that acres of rain forest were being destroyed by the second, and yet we still have rain forests. Honestly, I don't believe them [about global warming]. And if they are right, I'm not to worried about it anyway. The Bible says that this earth will be destroyed by God anyway. We can take care of what we've got now, but I'm not going to let what some scientist thinks is going to happen worry me. - stirrier

  • robin.stobbs.9 - 2012-10-02 10:28

    And this fraud has parallels in the climate hype too - even scientists (in addition to politicians and businessmen) can be so easily bought these days.

      zaatheist - 2012-10-02 11:29

      Citation please on the climate hype! Who is buying off the scientists to prove climate change? And talking about buying off politicians - heard of the oil industry, fracking enthusiasts ...

  • RodinsThinker - 2012-10-02 11:47

    The fact that the scientific community has raised its game from only spotting errors to picking up on fraud is great news. It demonstrates the robustness of the peer review system and the emergence and elevation of ethical standards in the review process. Science can be performed by anyone with money and knowledge, and any motive under the sun. What the author has done is to identify where in the publication process standards of ethics and accuracy are applied.

  • smighty.smiter - 2012-10-02 12:03

    Am I the one that needs to point out that this has to do with "Biomedical research?" This shouldn't be a debate on the worthiness of Science. You should be concerned that Biomedical researchers are cutting corners. These are the people that manufacture medications. they are cutting corners to protect their business interests. Unless, of course, I am mistaken.

  • scott.larkan - 2012-10-04 23:05

    I always find reading the comments intriguing! One finds the worlds greatest SCIENTISTS/PROFESSORS/DOCTORS making the most grandiose of statements - often fraudulently or without checking the facts (like the scientists in the article)! These guys are LEGENDS ...in their own back yards! They ASSume that their pseudo-intellectual quotes of unverified or manipulated data, or simple 'hand grenade' statements make them the ultimate authority on everything and anything! I've had to stop doing this! Why, you may ask? Well, the God - who according to some superpseudoscientistlegends does not exist (and yes they have absolute evidence - evidently), convicted me of the fact that I if I could not be sure of my facts, I should not state the first drivel that oozed out of my self-assumed intelligent mind! He challenged me through his Word to be honest, and gracious (I still struggle with this, sorry!), in my communications and challenges. I've since learnt that most incredible scientific discoveries and inventions were made by CHRISTIANS! (Unfortunately space doesn't allow more details) SHOCK AND HORROR!! These men and women (yes, the hypocrites that believe in that myth called God was the first WOMEN'S LIBERATION movement!) sought to demonstrate the MAJESTY & AWESOMENESS of the Creator God through HONEST EMPIRICAL scientific discovery! They didn't 'need' peer review to authenticate their work, since they were people of integrity who revered God, thus glorified Him in their work!

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