Peer review

At Areo: How universities cover up science fraud – the details

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From a pretty hardhitting article:

Universities can make a lot of money from sham science. They lose money from catching fraudsters. Uncovering fraud also brings negative publicity and a host of other headaches, such as potential lawsuits for defamation and wrongful termination. Even in biomedical cases, where the public health consequences of fake research are most severe, universities dismiss almost 90% of fraud accusations without an investigation, or even an auditable record.

Claims that universities cover up fraud and even retaliate against whistleblowers are common. Last year, Duke University settled a whistleblower lawsuit that alleged it had wrongfully obtained and wasted “over a hundred million dollars of taxpayer funds” through massive biomedical research fraud and “institutional malfeasance.” The same year, Kristy Meadows sued her alma mater, Tufts University, alleging that, after she accused her adviser, Elizabeth Byrnes, of faking an experiment, the university violated its misconduct policies, mishandled her fraud accusations and failed to protect her from retaliation by faculty and staff. According to the lawsuit, the retaliation against Meadows included, among other things, discontinuing her stipend, delaying her graduation and falsely accusing her of theft multiple times. When Meadows asked her adviser about faking the data, Byrnes reportedly said it was fine, “because, if they had done the experiment, this data reflected the result they would have gotten.” Tufts University cleared Byrnes of wrongdoing and promoted her. Justin T. Pickett, “How Universities Cover Up Scientific Fraud” at Areo

One reader writes to say,

I found this paragraph very interesting:

“One in fifty scientists fakes research by fabricating or falsifying data. They make off with government grant money, which they share with their universities, and their made-up findings guide medical practice, public policy and ordinary people’s decisions about things like whether or not to vaccinate their children. The fraudulent science we know about has caused thousands of deaths and wasted millions in taxpayer dollars. That is only scratching the surface, however—because most fraudsters are never caught. As Ivan Oransky notes in Gaming the Metrics, “the most common outcome for those who commit fraud is: a long career.””

Fun story… I submitted at article to a peer reviewed journal and discussed some important ways to advance science. One of my points was that we need greater transparency. I wrote, “Scientific inquiry commonly lacks transparency when it comes to financial incentives, institutional pressures, ideological bias, and data collection methodology” (p18).

The article was rejected in large part because of this quote above which was cited by the peer review “expert” who wrote:

“The article states a number of things that display ignorance of how science is practiced. A required part of published experimental papers is a methodology section that explains how the data was collected; the standard is to state enough detail that other workers in the field could repeat the experiments. Furthermore, papers normally indicate the funding sources. In many journals (e.g., those dealing with medical research) there is a mandatory section on potential conflicts of interest).”

There is a disconnect somewhere…

Talk about embodying a problem while refusing to recognize it.

Is it partly the secular god-like status that these “scientists” assume? The tax funding they receive? Whatever fixes all this will need to be pretty far-reaching.

See also: Science media have strange standards for assessing corruption… Berezow goes on to add something very significant: “The scientific publishing industry is thoroughly corrupt, and AAAS and Science are now also a part of the problem. If and when all government-funded research is mandated to be released free of charge upon publication, journals like Science may go out of business. Good riddance.”

2 Replies to “At Areo: How universities cover up science fraud – the details

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    Fraud really isn’t the main problem. Fashionable orthodoxy is the main problem.

    The Tufts story could be true or false; we don’t know enough to determine whether the “whistleblower” was right or wrong.

    Any time an article focuses on “waste and abuse” it’s distracting from the main problem. This also applies to government spending in general. The “pork-busters” focus on a few MILLIONS in silly-sounding research to distract our outrage from the TRILLIONS we spend on completely unnecessary wars.

  2. 2
    Fasteddious says:

    Fraud may be increasing because people can get away with it and it apparently pays. Virtuous people of good character do not typically commit fraud. But if we slowly remove the teaching of good character and virtues from schools and families, or if people immigrate from places where honesty and integrity are not held in high esteem, then fraud will increase. Bribery and graft are commonplace in many countries, and “me first”, postmodern attitudes have become more widespread over the past half century. Scientists are just as human as the rest of us and unfortunately may not be immune to these trends.

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