According to bombshell allegations from a group of highly respected experts, the medical world is rife with research fraud.
Their investigations suggest up to one in five of the estimated two million medical studies published each year could contain invented or plagiarised results, details of patients who never existed and trials that didn’t actually take place.
The problem is ‘well known about’ in science circles, says Richard Smith, former editor-in-chief of the British Medical Journal (BMJ) – yet there is a reluctance within the establishment to accept the scale of the problem.
In a recent article, he suggested the only way to combat research fraud is for journal editors to view all studies submitted as potential fakes until they can be proven otherwise.
Speaking on The Mail on Sunday’s Medical Minefield podcast, Smith – who was involved in the investigations that exposed Malcolm Pearce – said: ‘It’s shocking, but common.
Many of these fraudulent studies are simply invented. There were no patients. The trial never happened.’Barney Calman, “Exposed: The plague of fake medical trials putting lives in danger as experts reveal a FIFTH of studies published each year could contain invented or plagiarised results” at Daily Mail (October 30, 2021)
But it’s really only a snippet of a much bigger problem:
A few days ago journalist Barney Calman published a thorough and well researched article about the problem of academic research fraud. Although the contents will seem familiar to any long time reader of the Daily Sceptic, it’s great news that much bigger audiences are now being exposed to information about the scale and nature of the problems inside scientific institutions.
In July the Daily Sceptic published an article by me entitled, “Photoshopping, fraud and circular logic in research“. It discussed the problem of Asian paper forging operations colloquially nicknamed “paper mills”, the Chinese Government policies that incentivise forging of scientific research, and cited former BMJ editor Richard Smith’s essay on the problem of fictional clinical trials. For classical journalists to write about a topic typically requires them to find an insider or specialist willing to put their own name on things – indeed, one of the major weaknesses of newspapers vs blog sites like this one is their reluctance to do original research into scientific topics. Scientists willing to put their names on allegations is the permission journalists need to cover a story like this – and now the Mail has itMike Hearn, “The Mail Asks Serious Questions About Fraudulent Research” at Daily Sceptic (November 6, 2021)
And, Coolest of All, climate change:
Scientists working on the most authoritative study on climate change were urged to cover up the fact that the world’s temperature hasn’t risen for the last 15 years, it is claimed.
A leaked copy of a United Nations report, compiled by hundreds of scientists, shows politicians in Belgium, Germany, Hungary and the United States raised concerns about the final draft.
Published next week, it is expected to address the fact that 1998 was the hottest year on record and world temperatures have not yet exceeded it, which scientists have so far struggled to explain.Tamara Cohen, “World’s top climate scientists told to ‘cover up’ the fact that the Earth’s temperature hasn’t risen for the last 15 years” at Daily Mail (September 19, 2013)
Maybe Earth’s temperature has indeed risen since then. But the kinds of people who need to play the story like this don’t inspire confidence in their judgment about what’s going on.
Reform is nearly impossible if the incentive structure remains as it is — rewarding publication in and of itself.
On the other hand, nothing stays the same forever and growing public cynicism might provide a spur to reform.