Last week, a technical publication, Journal of Vibration and Control, retracted sixty papers, after an internal investigation revealed a fraudulent “peer review and citation process” that greased the skids for a small number of authors to have an enormous number of citations in what is a prestigious engineering specialty. At least one of the authors even managed to review his own papers under an alias.
That’s symptomatic of a larger sickness raging in what should be our most sacrosanct of institutions. If we can no longer trust science, what do we have as the basis for knowledge?
The evidence is increasingly compelling. University of Montreal’s Danielle Fanelli has written several comprehensive reviews of the content of published science and he found, in the last twenty years, that the number of “positive” results is increasing dramatically. That’s when the data confirm a proposed hypothesis rather than suggesting rejection or modification.
In a real world where scientists are answering real questions, that would be impossible. People have not suddenly become smarter, except, perhaps at how to advance in academia. There, candidates for promotion in the sciences are basically asked two questions: What did you publish, and how much taxpayer money did you bring in to support your research?
If an Assistant Professor, up for tenure, answers either insufficiently, he’s likely to be looking for another job. It’s amazing how many of these wind up staffing Congressional Committees, or better yet, on programmatic committees for the big science agencies. More.
His account of how the system that made fraud easier got started (best of intentions, etc.) is most interesting.
Maybe it helps explain why today we have multiverse explanation instead of space exploration.
See also: The Science Fictions series at your fingertips (cosmology).
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