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Requests for actual statistics FRAUD not unusual, science writer finds

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

There may be an additional, more sinister explanation for the ongoing reproducibility crisis, he suggests:

A stunning report published in the Annals of Internal Medicine concludes that researchers often make “inappropriate requests” to statisticians. And by “inappropriate,” the authors aren’t referring to accidental requests for incorrect statistical analyses; instead, they’re referring to requests for unscrupulous data manipulation or even fraud.

The authors surveyed 522 consulting biostatisticians and received sufficient responses from 390. Then, they constructed a table (shown below) that ranks requests by level of inappropriateness. For instance, at the very top is “falsify the statistical significance to support a desired result,” which is outright fraud. At the bottom is “do not show plot because it did not show as strong an effect as you had hoped,” which is only slightly naughty.Alex Berezow, “1 In 4 Statisticians Say They Were Asked To Commit Scientific Fraud” at American Council on Science and Health

In the midst of all this, there are people with the gall to be doing studies about why the public doesn’t trust science. Would it help if we pretended to be Darwinists and claimed that there is a survival advantage in not trusting science? Given that the field studied above was biostatistics, we could make a case…

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See also: Surprise: Science thrives when people can admit they didn’t prove something


What can a huge retractions database teach us? Overall, improved vigilance has slowed the trend, but key problems remain, including manipulated images. If a picture is worth a thousand words, that’s about three to five paragraphs of falsehood.


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