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Make up data, go to jail?

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What’s hot? What’s not?/Niklas Bildhauer, Wikimedia

Happens: From Amy Ellis Nutt at the Washington Post:

While criminal cases against scientists are rare, they are increasing. Jail time is even rarer, but not unheard of. Last July, Dong-Pyou Han, a former biomedical scientist at Iowa State University, pleaded guilty to two felony charges of making false statements to obtain NIH research grants and was sentenced to more than four years in prison.More.

The situation was pretty serious; he was claiming hopeful findings from AIDS research.

Since 2000, the number of U.S. academic fraud cases in science has risen dramatically. Five years ago, the journal Nature tallied the number of retractions in the previous decade and revealed they had shot up 10-fold. About half of the retractions were based on researcher misconduct, not just errors, it noted.

Keep up to date with Retraction Watch, which is starting a new project to track misconduct, beyond the usual fifteen minutes of shame: “to create a database of retractions designed to reduce waste in science and allow scholars to study the scientific literature in order to promote scientific integrity.”

Some cases, like the one above, are pretty obvious. But jail time would seem a bit harsh for some types of research fraud. Sometimes nearly the whole field sounds like a scambo anyway, for example some areas of social psychology. Even the practitioners do not appear to take it seriously, so the Big Bad is that anyone else did.

In fairness, for another view of the problem in social psychology, consider this (Is the problem worse in psychology or just more openly discussed?)

File:A small cup of coffee.JPG While we’re here, what about crackpot cosmology? What if someone could prove that the researchers just made up a few discrete infinities of unfalsifiable multiverse instead of only one? Can something that is not falsifiable become the subject of an offense? Just wondering.

Can any result from dividing by zero actually be wrong?

Maybe, in some cases, we need to start a little further back: How did we decide that a given pursuit is science? How does it differ from pursuits we think are not science?

See also: Unbelievable: The tenured academic’s response to faked gay marriage opinion study

Bad science: Is psychology just a scapegoat?


“Skeptic” Michael Shermer finally hears the hundredth shoe.

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Can something that is not falsifiable become the subject of an offense?
Are you worried about serving jail-time? GaryGaulin

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