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Request to Falsify Data Published In Chemistry Journal

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the glad-to-know-they're-on-top-of-things dept.

Science 163

New submitter Jim_Austin writes "A note inadvertently left in the 'supplemental information' of a journal article appears to instruct a subordinate scientist to fabricate data. Quoting: 'The first author of the article, "Synthesis, Structure, and Catalytic Studies of Palladium and Platinum Bis-Sulfoxide Complexes," published online ahead of print in the American Chemical Society (ACS) journal Organometallics, is Emma E. Drinkel of the University of Zurich in Switzerland. The online version of the article includes a link to this supporting information file. The bottom of page 12 of the document contains this instruction: "Emma, please insert NMR data here! where are they? and for this compound, just make up an elemental analysis ..." We are making no judgments here. We don't know who wrote this, and some commenters have noted that "just make up" could be an awkward choice of words by a non-native speaker of English who intended to instruct his student to make up a sample and then conduct the elemental analysis. Other commenters aren't buying it.'"

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163 comments

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Why bother with the panic? (4, Insightful)

fey000 (1374173) | about a year ago | (#44526055)

The beauty of (natural) science is that you can replicate the results. Why spark a debate (which is more in social sciences ballpark) when you can just run the experiments and validate the statement that way? The paper would only omit important analysis steps if a patent is involved, something that the title of the paper does not imply.

Re:Why bother with the panic? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44526233)

It's a woman. Of course she has to make up her results. They can't do science.

Re:Why bother with the panic? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44526301)

No, what they do now is flirt with a man and get him to derive the results for her, then she takes all the credit and he gets a free pass to the friendzone. Or, if he's lucky and/or good enough looking, he gets a blowjob.

Unless she's really ugly or has been with Black men -- only then will she be stuck making up the results on her own.

-- Ethanol-fueled

Re:Why bother with the panic? (5, Insightful)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about a year ago | (#44526777)

Way to go, fellow slashdotters. Be rude to women and drive them away. don't you get it that we win from a diversity of opinions? maybe you think you're being funny, but it's actually just hateful and hurtful to everybody here. besides, everybody has a mother! would you say those things to your mother?

Re:Why bother with the panic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44526833)

besides, everybody has a mother!

You must be new here.

Re:Why bother with the panic? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44527087)

Way to go, fellow slashdotters. Be rude to women and drive them away.

Has it ever occurred to you that for a lot of men 'round these parts, women have been driving us away all our damn lives?

I won't speak for anyone else, but I don't give a tinker's damn for any of them, including my mother, and if women were reduced to the status of chattel slaves I'd be just fine with that.

And all we get from a "diversity of opinions" is more bitching and whining. No one cares what you think; shut up and DO something for a damn change.

Re: Why bother with the panic? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44527201)

you're a massive, MASSIVE, *MASSIVE* dick. good thing you don't like women, because you're never getting laid.

Re:Why bother with the panic? (1)

harlequinn (909271) | about a year ago | (#44527499)

No one cares what you think

You cared enough to reply to him.

Re:Why bother with the panic? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44527289)

Way to go, fellow slashdotters. Be rude to women and drive them away. don't you get it that we win from a diversity of opinions? maybe you think you're being funny, but it's actually just hateful and hurtful to everybody here. besides, everybody has a mother! would you say those things to your mother?

1. You're not my fellow.
2. Only the weak-minded will be driven away, and I say good riddance.
3. I fail to see why we should be more concerned about driving away women, as opposed to any other demographic of people visiting the site.
4. Unless you're claiming that the sexes are actually NOT equal, there is no diversity of opinion based solely on sex.
5. No, not everybody has a mother.
6. Yes, many people would say such things to their mothers.

7. The word is "commentator", not "commenter". So based on the logic of your post, the editors here must all have been female, because they sure as fuck haven't been around this week.

We're not driving them away! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44528333)

We're driving them into transgenderdom so they can get a surgically installed penis to fuck assholes like us :D

It's really a homosexual male conspiracy to make everybody else into homosexual males! :-)

(P.S. the above comment was entirely meant in jest, hopefully none of the PC police are out to execute me now :D)

Re:Why bother with the panic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44527359)

No, what they do now is flirt with a man and get him to derive the results for her, then she takes all the credit and he gets a free pass to the friendzone. Or, if he's lucky and/or good enough looking, he gets a blowjob.

Unless she's really ugly or has been with Black men -- only then will she be stuck making up the results on her own.

Like Rosalind Franklin?

Re:Why bother with the panic, you coward. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44527603)

From one "Anonymous Coward" to another, your comment sucks and not in a good blowjob way.
I'm an "Anonymous Coward" because i don't need being signed into yet another forum.
Your just a "coward" by taking cheap shots. Simply put you don't deserve a women in
your life, good luck being lonely with your hand.

Re:Why bother with the panic? (1)

OneAhead (1495535) | about a year ago | (#44528065)

Is this a ploy to make people hate the real Ethanol-fueled [slashdot.org] ? If so, cut it out - the guy is perfectly capable of making inane comments that ruin his reputation without your help.

Re:Why bother with the panic? (5, Insightful)

Wootery (1087023) | about a year ago | (#44526349)

Why spark a debate (which is more in social sciences ballpark) when you can just run the experiments and validate the statement that way?

Err, "just"?

I'm no chemist, but I don't imagine cutting-edge chemical experiments are something you just do.

Also, you're completely missing the point. Falsification of science absolutely should be a big deal. The person responsible should face serious consequences, and hopefully it remains rare enough that it's big news.

Re:Why bother with the panic? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44526379)

There's no proof they did falsify anything...

Re:Why bother with the panic? (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#44526553)

Yet. We'll see if there's anything to the story. After all, if these were instructions to falsify anything, then it's most likely something that's been done before and the evidence will be in previous papers.

Re:Why bother with the panic? (5, Interesting)

Cyberax (705495) | about a year ago | (#44526633)

Yes, that's a known problem in chemistry. So there's a growing movement to require an independent lab to replicate results before publishing - Reproducibility Initiative. See: http://pipeline.corante.com/archives/2012/08/14/reproducing_scientific_results_on_purpose.php [corante.com]

Re:Why bother with the panic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44528545)

Warning: That guy is a vampire who will steal the next six hours of your life if you click that link.

Re:Why bother with the panic? (5, Insightful)

Muros (1167213) | about a year ago | (#44526873)

Falsification of science absolutely should be a big deal. The person responsible should face serious consequences, and hopefully it remains rare enough that it's big news.

I agree with the sentiment, but I am inclined to believe the "awkward choice of words by a non-native speaker of English" argument. It's not like that particular choice of words is even unambiguous to native speakers; if I said "I'm going to make up a batch of beer", friends will be calling around looking for a drink.

Re:Why bother with the panic? (4, Insightful)

jythie (914043) | about a year ago | (#44527007)

Yeah, I am thinking back to all the drama around the word choice for using a 'trick' on data. No implication of falsification, but the word choice got people up in a tissy.

Re:Why bother with the panic? (1, Troll)

budgenator (254554) | about a year ago | (#44528033)

It was far more than a "trick on the data" the entire batch of FOIA emails known as climategate shown systemic manipulation of the peer review system, data manipulation and croneyism.

Re:Why bother with the panic? (0)

gnoshi (314933) | about a year ago | (#44528063)

Obvious troll is obvious.

Re:Why bother with the panic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44528161)

... and a pony.

Re:Why bother with the panic? (5, Insightful)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about a year ago | (#44528129)

Reminds me of "climategate" where the pundits gleefully reported that researchers admitted to using a "trick" to "hide" something. Of course, if you read more than those two words, you realized it wasn't anything shady. [skepticalscience.com] Nonetheless, the fossil fuel PR team had great fun with it and some idiots out there took it as reason to ignore climate change for longer.

Re:Why bother with the panic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44528463)

I'm no chemist, but I don't imagine cutting-edge chemical experiments are something you

Some cutting edge chemistry can be very simple and others very complex - the former gets picked up and used. Many methodologies use common reagents that a lot labs have on their shelves.

Re:Why bother with the panic? (5, Informative)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about a year ago | (#44526671)

The beauty of (natural) science is that you can replicate the results.

Spoken from a true armchair POV. Trying to replicate results can be very expensive and time consuming. Furthermore, failure to replicate results does not immediately invalidate the original work, as there can be all kinds of legitimate explanations. Either party may have simply made a mistake, or there may be some critical variable that isn't yet recognized. Fraud in science is a very serious matter, a major impediment and expense, and unfortunately can be very difficult to prove. Therefore when it is found it should be punished severely.

Re:Why bother with the panic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44526811)

Regrettably, duplicating results is a dying art. No one pays the authenticator for their expenses. Besides, as Dr. Sheldon Cooper, it isn't real science for a second researcher to duplicate the results.

Re:Why bother with the panic? (1)

artor3 (1344997) | about a year ago | (#44527099)

I imagine a lot of people would prefer to know whether the results are faked before devoting long hours and large amounts of money to trying to replicate them. Not to mention the stress of working round the clock on an experiment trying to figure out why your results aren't matching the published paper. Without this sort of revelation, you'd be left to assume that you were the one doing something wrong.

Re:Why bother with the panic? (1)

OneAhead (1495535) | about a year ago | (#44528143)

Since you wrote "important analysis steps", I thought I'd mention for the record that the specific type of analysis that was missing is one that is getting more and more redundant in present-day organic synthesis; one can get a pretty clear picture from all the other analyses that are commonly included in synthetic papers. Of course, fabricating data (it that's really what they meant by "make up") is unconditionally wrong, but I doubt they could lead the reader to a wrong conclusion by faking an Elemental Analysis if there's also NMR, Mass Spectroscopy,... supporting the correct conclusion.

Good editing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44526069)

They must've really liked the quality of the science described in the article.

Disprove = free paper (2)

trdtaylor (2664195) | about a year ago | (#44526075)

Analyze that elemental analysis, if it's obviously fabricated publish short refuting paper in a better journal

Or offer ACS to print it if ACS is the best in the industry, boom name recognition and easy paper.

Re:Disprove = free paper (0)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a year ago | (#44526331)

Ya, and good luck getting it published.

Science - It Works (5, Insightful)

Bob9113 (14996) | about a year ago | (#44526099)

some commenters have noted that "just make up" could be an awkward choice of words by a non-native speaker of English who intended to instruct his student to make up a sample and then conduct the elemental analysis. Other commenters aren't buying it.

You know what the great thing about science is? We don't have to focus on emotion and rhetoric. We can do the experiment, and see if it would have supported the conclusion. If it would, our societal view of justice compels us to assume they were asking for the valid test results to be included. If it would not have supported the conclusion, then we can call for the author to be sanctioned.

Re:Science - It Works (-1, Troll)

Spy Handler (822350) | about a year ago | (#44526253)

That's true for hard sciences, but not climate science. Emotion and rhetoric play a huge part in that. And you can't repeat the experiment to see if it would have supported the conclusion, you just have to trust the original researcher's models.

Re:Science - It Works (5, Insightful)

mbkennel (97636) | about a year ago | (#44526521)

Climatology is as scientific as geophysics and astrophysics.  It is plenty hard.

"And you can't repeat the experiment to see if it would have supported the conclusion, you just have to trust the original researcher's models." as in astrophysics, and yet it is highly predictive since it is based on physics.

The 'emotion and rhetoric' comes when some people don't like the consequences of the answers.

Re:Science - It Works (5, Funny)

NeverWorker1 (1686452) | about a year ago | (#44526841)

There needs to be a "typewriter font -1." Not arguing with what you're saying, but it's an annoying font.

Re:Science - It Works (-1, Troll)

pz (113803) | about a year ago | (#44527895)

Your order-of-magnitude higher ID than the parent poster suggests an explanation.

Myself, I like Courier. But then, I'm in the lower 10x of that equation.

And please, if you're going to criticize someone's choice of font, take a moment to do it with precision and figure out what the name of the font is.

Re:Science - It Works (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44527937)

Why is knowing the name so vitally important? That demand coupled with the "wow look at this noob" thing makes you seem like kind of a jerk.

Re:Science - It Works (2)

SemperUbi (673908) | about a year ago | (#44528155)

We're talking impartial SCIENCE, man. I say we need "typewriter font -1" and "typewriter font +1." Let the battle begin!

No matter who wins, we'll shake hands, raise toasts to each other in the mead hall, then go slaughter the Comic Sans crowd.

Re:Science - It Works (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44528159)

Your order-of-magnitude higher ID than the parent poster suggests an explanation.

Myself, I like Courier. But then, I'm in the lower 10x of that equation.

And please, if you're going to criticize someone's choice of font, take a moment to do it with precision and figure out what the name of the font is.

The name of the font? OK, how about why-is-a-fucking-typewriter-hacking-my-computer-screen font? Is that better?

Shitty font is shitty. No one remembers the scientific name of the dodo bird for the same damn reason, so knock it off already with this precision crap.

Re:Science - It Works (3, Informative)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year ago | (#44528305)

It's not Courier unless you have your browser set up to display Courier. It is a <tt> tag, which has a css style of "font-family:monospace;". Courier is monospaced, but so are typewriters. He is at least as correct as you are.

Re:Science - It Works (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44526917)

as in astrophysics, and yet it is highly predictive since it is based on physics

Molecular dynamics simulations are based on physics, but not very predictive.

The 'emotion and rhetoric' comes when some people don't like the consequences of the answers.

Climatology gives us no more answers about future weather than molecular dynamics does about any cellular system.

Re:Science - It Works (1)

OneAhead (1495535) | about a year ago | (#44528101)

as in astrophysics, and yet it is highly predictive since it is based on physics

Molecular dynamics simulations are based on physics, but not very predictive.

That's only because more than half of the scientists running MD don't have a firm grasp on what they're doing. It looks deceptively simple from a distance, but if you really want predictive results, it becomes harder than Quantum Chemistry.

Re:Science - It Works (2)

OneAhead (1495535) | about a year ago | (#44528241)

Climatology gives us no more answers about future weather than molecular dynamics does about any cellular system.

Well duh, climate science is about climate, not weather. Weather models are to climate science as molecular dynamics is to biochemical network simulations. Or to correct your statement: "Weather models give us no more answers about future climate than molecular dynamics does about any cellular system".

Re: Science - It Works (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44527037)

Which is why they need to use tricks to hide declines...

Re:Science - It Works (-1, Troll)

MatthiasF (1853064) | about a year ago | (#44527199)

What exactly has astrophysics and geophysics predicted accurately?

All three fields of science seem to be more interested in creating a fancy narrative (Big Bang, AWG, Geochronology) but in reality rely on too much indirect evidence.

And since they all rely on indirect evidence, anyone reading through it quickly realize the majority of it is inductive in origin not deductive.

Re:Science - It Works (-1, Troll)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#44528641)

"And you can't repeat the experiment to see if it would have supported the conclusion, you just have to trust the original researcher's models." as in astrophysics, and yet it is highly predictive since it is based on physics.

Sure, you can. For example, for stellar physics you have something like 100 or more billion stars to study just in our galaxy. That gives you a vast population of objects to study, in various stages of the lifespan of a star and a variety of mass, composition, companion objects, etc. While for climatogy you have one climate with roughly 30 years of good data, another century of so so surface data, and progressively worsening temperature proxy data as you go back further in time.

As to being based on physics, they can't nail the temperature sensitivity of carbon dioxide beyond a factor of two (usual estimate is 2-4 C mean global temperature increase per doubling of CO2 concentration and that might be too high). Sure, it's physics, but it's physics that we don't understand very well.

The 'emotion and rhetoric' comes when some people don't like the consequences of the answers.

Or because actual science isn't being done. Keep in mind that there's a lot of money riding on anthropogenic global warming being a sufficiently urgent threat that governments can be convinced to spend vast amounts of public funds - more than the entire fossil fuels industry takes in as profit. I think that money buys a lot of favorable and biased climatology research.

And there's an interesting example of faulty research [wattsupwiththat.com] which blames the shifting population of a particular butterfly on climate change:

Parmesan tactfully offered lip service to altered landscapes, but stated that her âoeprobabilistic modelâ accurately separated the effects of land use from climate change. To demonstrate her modelâ(TM)s power, she wrote, âoeConsider the case of the silver-spotted skipper butterfly (Hesperia comma) that has expanded its distribution close to its northern boundary in England over the past 20 years. Possible ecological explanations for this expansion are regional warming and changes in land use. Comparing the magnitudes and directions of these two factors suggests that climate change is more likely than land-use change to be the cause of expansion.â That was a very odd claim.

This was the very same Silver-spotted Skipper that Jeremy Thomasâ(TM) detailed studies and subsequent conservation prescriptions had saved from extinction along with the Large Blue. Parmesan was hijacking a conservation success story to spin a tale of climate disruption. Her âoeproofâ that climate change was driving the Silver-spotted Skipper northward came from the work of her old friend C.D. Thomas, known for predicting that rising CO2 levels had committed 60% of the worldâ(TM)s species to extinction.5 Using a mesmerizing statistical model, C.D. Thomas argued that because the Silver-spotted Skipper âoeneeds warmth,â only global warming could account for its recent colonization of a few cooler north-facing slopes of Englandâ(TM)s southern hills.

The Skipper is indeed fond of hotter south-facing slopes. However, the butterfly had historically inhabited cooler northern slopes if those slopes had been grazed. Like the Large Blue, the Skipper had disappeared from both cool north-facing slopes and warm south-facing slopes whenever the turf grew too high.6,7 C.D. Thomasâ(TM) model was statistically significant only if he ignored recent conservation efforts to promote warmer, short-turf habitat. At the end of his paper, relegated to his methods sections, he quietly stated, âoewe assumed that grazing patterns were the same in 1982 as in 2000.â4 Parmesan and C.D. were guilty of grave sins of omission.

I emailed Dr. Jeremy Thomas regarding the study by C.D. Thomas and asked, âoeI assume due to earlier collaboration, you are aware of the habitat his study referenced? If so, is his implied assumption of no changes to turf height valid?â He replied, âoeNo, itâ(TM)s not valid. There was a massive change in turf height and vegetation structure â¦between 1980 and the 1990s onwards for 2 reasons. (emphasis added)â First, since the 1986 paper, several of the key surviving sites were grazed more appropriately by conservationists and most of them, and many neighbors, are today in âoeagri-environmental schemesâ to maintain optimum grass heights. Second, from 1990 onwards the rabbits had gradually returned and did the same job on several abandoned former sites.

Although he did not have local climate data for the Silver-spotted Skipperâ(TM)s recovery, Jeremy Thomas suggested that at least two thirds of the Skippersâ(TM) recovery and their subsequent recolonization had resulted from both the increased grazing and the rabbitsâ(TM) recovery. He was willing to attribute as much as a third of the butterfliesâ(TM) recovery to climate warming between the 1970s and the present.

If, for argumentâ(TM)s sake, we accept that one-third of the recovery was due solely to CO2 warming and ignore published arguments that the warming in England have been caused by the warm mode of the North Atlantic Oscillation9 (and recent cooling by the cool mode), habitat improvements still account for at least two-thirds of the skippersâ(TM) expansion. Furthermore, the Silver-spotted Skipper had yet to expand further northward than its previous 1920s boundary. Yet that was Parmesanâ(TM)s best example of a âoecoherent fingerprint of global warmingâ disruption! It was bad science, but the consensus flocked to it in agreement.

To date more than 3500 papers have referenced her interpretation as evidence of climate disruption. It is a consensus built on misleading results that hijacked legitimate conservation science. In contrast, Jeremy Thomasâ(TM) successful preservation of two species on the brink of regional extinction had unequivocally demonstrated that the long-term changes were due to the quality of the caterpillarâ(TM)s habitat. Although weather change causes short-term fluctuations in butterfly populations, a change in habitat quality affects populations 100 times more powerfully than weather.8 But such successful conservation efforts do not get funded in the same way as global warming horror stories do, and Jeremy Thomasâ(TM) âoeEvidence Based Conservation of Butterfliesâ has been cited by just 17 papers. Such a gross imbalance is a sad testimony to how the politics of climate change has corrupted the environmental sciences. I fear it is a hijacking that will only breed distrust for our legitimate green concerns in the future.The misguided obsession with CO2 and Parmesanâ(TM)s faulty probabilistic model has supported equally bad analyses regards the fate of polar bears, penguins, frogs, pika and marine ecosystems, but that takes a whole book to document.

Note also how little physics is involved in this particular discussion of climate change.

Re:Science - It Works (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44526543)

That's true for hard sciences, but not climate science. Emotion and rhetoric play a huge part in that. And you can't repeat the experiment to see if it would have supported the conclusion, you just have to trust the original researcher's models.

Hey look we've got ourselves an inbred Dittohead.

Re:Science - It Works (1)

Bob9113 (14996) | about a year ago | (#44526605)

That's true for hard sciences, but not climate science. Emotion and rhetoric play a huge part in that. And you can't repeat the experiment to see if it would have supported the conclusion, you just have to trust the original researcher's models.

While it is true that there is a lot of rhetoric, and you cannot re-run the experiment, you can, and should, independently audit the data and formulae. I did, when I didn't know which side of the issue I fell on, and felt that both sides had presented reasonable conjectures. The theorists on both sides have made falsifiable predictions -- some going back more than a hundred years -- which can be tested with available data. There is a huge amount of data out there, and it only takes a week or two to pore over it (maybe a little longer if you don't know how to write code -- but you could do the analysis with a spreadsheet, it would just take a little longer).

I mean, if you don't do that, you really would just be trusing some jackass pundit on one side or the other, and that would be choosing ignorance. Surely few here would make that choice. And anyone who did choose that simple path would be even more repugnant if he went about trying to infect others with his ignorance, am I right?

Re:Science - It Works (2)

OneAhead (1495535) | about a year ago | (#44528181)

That's true for hard sciences, but not for the US political debate on climate science. Emotion and rhetoric play a huge part in that.

FTFY.

BTW, nice attempt at flamebaiting the discussion off-topic.

Re:Science - It Works, but only for the big stuff (5, Insightful)

Chemisor (97276) | about a year ago | (#44527053)

Yes, we can do the experiment, but most of the time we don't. Nobody gets grant money for replicating stuff other people have already done. There's no glory in it; the citations, the namings, the prestige will all go to the original experimenter, and grants are very much about glory (to the host institution, of course, not so much for the researcher herself). Yes, the big, important stuff gets replicated, but a dreadfully mundane study of some palladium catalysed reaction is not in that category, and so is unlikely to be replicated. The allegation of "made up" data in this particular paper may prompt somebody to try it in this case, but there will be many more that will slip through.

Very well could be (1)

TheCarp (96830) | about a year ago | (#44526109)

Very well could just be as they say, a poor choice of words. Maybe he just wanted her to do the needful?

Re:Very well could be (0)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year ago | (#44526273)

Very well could just be as they say, a poor choice of words. Maybe he just wanted her to do the needful?

I'm waiting for the day when something from the House, Senate or Whitehouse goes out with a not attached, "...and don't sent this to the press."

Or has that already happened?

Re:Very well could be (4, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#44526471)

Or has that already happened?

On numerous occasions politicians have released MS-Word docs, and the full edit history could be retrieved, with occasionally embarrassing results.

Re:Very well could be (1)

SunTzuWarmaster (930093) | about a year ago | (#44526819)

Like releasing the same document twice, with different redactions? http://www.aljazeera.com/humanrights/2013/08/2013851618340986.html [aljazeera.com]
Or information on an Iraqi shooting? http://gcn.com/articles/2005/05/13/pdf-user-slipup-gives-dod-lesson-in-protecting-classified-information.aspx [gcn.com]
Or when the TSA published their 'classified' handbook? http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2009/12/tsa-leak/ [wired.com]
Or when the UK revealed their nuclear submarine secrets? http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-13107413 [bbc.co.uk]

Re:Very well could be (5, Informative)

whoever57 (658626) | about a year ago | (#44526275)

Many languages use only one verb for several uses of "make" and "do". English has some odd cases where "make" is used but, from a logical point of view, it would seem that "do" would be more appropriate, making translations more difficult. Thus, instead of "make up an analysis", one could easily imagine someone with a less than perfect grasp of english meaning "do an analysis"

Re:Very well could be (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44526297)

That looks like German wording of "make up" = "do", nothing nefarious about it, slow news day?

Re:Very well could be (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44526395)

Not even just German, I understood "make up" in English to mean to do the work to collate the results. I don't think it's so much a slow news day as a dumb audience century.

Re:Very well could be (1)

Comrade Ogilvy (1719488) | about a year ago | (#44526967)

"do up" "fix up" "make up" All three could be innocent. All three could be nefarious.

Shouldn't peer review catch this? (5, Insightful)

gman003 (1693318) | about a year ago | (#44526121)

I would have thought that standard peer review would have caught this - someone reading this, specifically with an eye towards accuracy, should have noticed it well before it made it to print. Whether that would result in just removing the offending text (which, while not completely guilty, definitely sounds bad) or result in actual correction of the experiment, I can't say.

Re:Shouldn't peer review catch this? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44526179)

For better or worse, journals, editors, and referees often turn a blind eye towards supplemental information (which this was). My most recent publication, the Royal Chemistry Society even had a disclaimer that they do not open or view the Supplemental Information.

Re:Shouldn't peer review catch this? (1)

Tim99 (984437) | about a year ago | (#44528053)

My most recent publication, the Royal Chemistry Society even had a disclaimer that they do not open or view the Supplemental Information.

I hope that publication data was more accurate than your post - It's called the The Royal Society of Chemistry [rsc.org] .

"supporting information" (2)

martas (1439879) | about a year ago | (#44526183)

It's not that rare for reviewers to skim the appendix of a paper, and it doesn't necessarily go against their instructions. Appendices tend to be more useful to people who need detailed information about how the results presented in a paper were obtained (typically these are researchers in the same subfield), rather than reviewers or researchers whose work is only moderately related to the paper.

Re:"supporting information" (4, Insightful)

gman003 (1693318) | about a year ago | (#44526329)

Ah, true. Can't blame peer review for only skimming the appendices.

Now, the journal editors, them I think we can blame.

Re:"supporting information" (1)

martas (1439879) | about a year ago | (#44526389)

Agreed, editors really should have read every word of what they were publishing.

Re:"supporting information" (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a year ago | (#44526603)

Especially when these journals have subscriptions in the hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars per year. I used to pay for Nature, but even with the student discount it was insane how much they charged.

peer review isn't worth the spit it's made of (1)

SuperBanana (662181) | about a year ago | (#44528289)

A researcher friend recently described how their PI handed them a paper from a former lab member from many years ago and said "review this, ok?" (and what was of course unsaid was "approve it.") Turns out the journal of the National Academy of Sciences is a joke - it's just a place for members to dump crap they can't get accepted for publishing anywhere else. It certainly is a joke if you can get someone in your own lab to accept a paper from a former lab member.

Re:peer review isn't worth the spit it's made of (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44528411)

I'll second this. The peer review system in place at many of the journals and conference proceedings that I used to read is not as scientifically rigorous as it is politics and weiner stroking.

Re:Shouldn't peer review catch this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44526215)

I would have thought that standard peer review would have caught this - someone reading this, specifically with an eye towards accuracy, should have noticed it well before it made it to print. Whether that would result in just removing the offending text (which, while not completely guilty, definitely sounds bad) or result in actual correction of the experiment, I can't say.

Peer review isn't the bulletproof system some would make it out to be. It's just the best option we have.

Re:Shouldn't peer review catch this? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44526251)

Supplementary information is usually not peer revived. At Least not that I know of.

Re:Shouldn't peer review catch this? (1)

Demonantis (1340557) | about a year ago | (#44528041)

Peer reviews aren't paid usually so basically they got what they paid for.

This is the internet... (1)

craznar (710808) | about a year ago | (#44526133)

Why let the search for truth get in the way of a good lynching.

Re:This is the internet... (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year ago | (#44526249)

Why let the search for truth get in the way of a good lynching.

A lie can run around the world before truth has got it's boots on - Terry Pratchett

Looks like truth got a running start on this sprint.

Re:This is the internet... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44526549)

A lie can run around the world before truth has got it's boots on - Terry Pratchett

A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes. -- Mark Twain (who said it 60 years before Terry Pratchett was born)

Re:This is the internet... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44526627)

Why in the world would you attribute such an old proverb to Terry Pratchett?

Re:This is the internet... (1)

gigaherz (2653757) | about a year ago | (#44526887)

Because he read it in a Terry Pratchett book, I guess?

Re:This is the internet... (1)

radarskiy (2874255) | about a year ago | (#44526985)

I am shocked to discover that natural languages have ambiguous parsing!

"Make up" ~= "Fabricate" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44526141)

It's possible that it's not malicious and was just a misinterpreted request to run an experiment "make up a batch of $compound".

This is just a misunderstanding. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44526159)

After all, they weren't doing Climate Science, were they?

Re:This is just a misunderstanding. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44527367)

Oh dear, someone can't take the truth about the murderous and criminal CO2 climate scam which is decimating our energy industries...

IF you RTFA (4, Informative)

avandesande (143899) | about a year ago | (#44526165)

None of the data talked about in the note was used in the final journal submission and the compound the author was referring to was what he claimed was a theoretical intermediate. I am leaning toward a misunderstanding in a hastily written note.

Re:IF you RTFA (1)

djupedal (584558) | about a year ago | (#44526213)

So you seem to think it's fair to tell us to RTFA while the actors involved didn't think it fair to do their own reading. If so, that smacks of the type of double standard we're hoping to illustrate, so thanks for helping make us out as correct.

Reminds me of the day... (5, Funny)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year ago | (#44526199)

when I was tricked into drinking Hydrogen Hydroxide when I distinctly requested a beaker full of Dihydrogen Monoxide. The cover-up, the pointing of fingers, the falling out of the scientific community. HOYVIN GLAVIN!

Have to ask... (1)

grub (11606) | about a year ago | (#44526207)

Was Andrew Wakefield involved?

Get back to me ... (1)

NikeHerc (694644) | about a year ago | (#44526285)

when this is not nearly a non-story.

Emma (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | about a year ago | (#44526421)

Emma: Please insert a snarky comment here.

Conspiracy to falsify results? (5, Interesting)

Okian Warrior (537106) | about a year ago | (#44526497)

I'm not disturbed by the note, and yes it's likely a poor choice of words from a non-English speaker.

Are we now condemning conspiracy to submit fraudulent information? I thought fraud was the bad act.

I've worked with non-English speaking students, and there are a surprising number of awkward constructions that you wouldn't notice as a native speaker.

For example, one multiple-choice optics test question had this answer: "The image is half as large".

The phrase "half as large" translates simultaneously into "big" and "small" at the same time... it was pointed out that many students didn't know what this meant. The first rewrite came out as "half the size", but since many cultures implicitly measure size in terms of area instead of height, lots of people misinterpreted this as well (half the height = 1/4 the area). Having an answer "none of the above" further confused the issue. The test should have been specific in saying "half the height".

I've proofread/edited more than 10 papers written by foreign types, and "twisted meanings" are quite common - phrases that seem syntactically reasonable but which have a different meaning to a native speaker. (I grew up in Amish territory - statements like "Sarah is wonderful sick today" and "throw papa down the stairs his hat" were commonplace.)

I wouldn't think twice about the note in the paper. Unless the researcher actually makes up the analysis out of whole cloth it's not a problem.

Science is about evidence, not hearsay.

This is most likely a misunderstanding (1)

vivaoporto (1064484) | about a year ago | (#44526523)

This is most likely a misunderstanding, these things happen and should be caught in peer reviewing.

Emma, please insert a little bit of misdirection on this post and click on submit after previewing. Those suckers will buy it like it's a 38k dollars handbag.

Oprah Winfrey (1)

Latent Heat (558884) | about a year ago | (#44527749)

Oprah was refused to be shown a handbag by a Swiss shopkeeper claiming it was too expensive for her.

In a fit of pique, she purchased the entire country and now Stedman is evicting all its citizens to make way for condos . . .

Elemental analysis is not so important (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44526535)

Elemental analysis is a very old technique that simply tells you the ratio of elements present. NMR etc can tell you the structure of what you have made, and is much more important and pretty much impossible to fake.

Elemental analysis only gives you the right answer for very pure samples, which can be hard to achieve.

Sounds like 'lazy faking' of a less important analysis...

Don't rush to judgement. (1)

godel_56 (1287256) | about a year ago | (#44526741)

Despite my natural cynicism I lean towards honest mistake here.

Remember that this was just an informal note. Even as an English speaker I occasionally produce an awkward construction when I'm in a hurry and writing informally. Any possible ambiguities only becomes apparent when I read it back later.

I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt until we find out more.

Probably a misunderstanding (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44527185)

When I fake data I don't leave a paper trail.

YUO FAIL IT? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44527381)

The obvious answer is... (3, Informative)

meglon (1001833) | about a year ago | (#44527531)

...they went to publish it, realized they didn't have a supporting NMR, so he told his assistant to make one up.

Here's the rub... what that means to the assistant is, run an NMR; what it means to all the people who don't have a the education to understand what it means, or even what an NMR is, is that they can try to paint science as bad. You cant "make up" an NMR in that way, although you could substitute some other chemical and run the analysis... but why bother? Any lab with an NMR could check your work simply by running the correct NMR; and, running the correct chemical will take exactly as long, and exactly the same amount of effort.

This is basically people who don't have enough education somehow seeing a conspiracy in nothing. I swear, the human race is fucking pathetic sometimes.

Re:The obvious answer is... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44527829)

The NMR just gives you a graph showing the resonant peaks, you still have to interpret it to determine what elements are present (at least that's how it was when I was in college).
I read the note not as run the NMR, but just do the interpretation/analysis and write it here. A grad student should be able to do this in a matter of minutes, and they probably just hadn't typed it up when they first looked at it.

Re:The obvious answer is... (5, Informative)

pz (113803) | about a year ago | (#44527957)

I run a scientific research lab in a Big University You Have Heard Of. I had a conversation with an intern and a post-doc earlier this week where we talked about figures that could be added to a review paper the intern is working on. I swear I used the words, "I'll make up a figure ..." to describe the actions of collecting the necessary supporting data to create a figure for the paper that my post-doc suggested would be instructional. "Make up" in this case meant, "construct," and wholly lacked nefarious, subversive, or deceptive connotations.

And I speak English as my mother tongue.

The so-called conspiracy to commit fraud here is a bunch of hooey. The only thing the authors are guilty of is not submitting a fully completed manuscript.

Re:The obvious answer is... (5, Insightful)

meglon (1001833) | about a year ago | (#44528037)

Exactly. It's someone telling their assistant to get a NMR done.

It's become a sad day here in the US where there's a faction of people so against science, that they try to manufacture issues like this. I don't care that some people want to remain stupid... it's there choice, but they should at least have enough brain cells left to understand if they want to stay stupid, their opinion doesn't mean shit because it's based on stupidity.

Re:The obvious answer is... (3, Insightful)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | about a year ago | (#44528417)

Yeah, this whole thing is absolutely stupid. I don't even buy that it was a non-native English speaker; "go make up a..." is just another way of telling someone to go produce something.

Making up Crap in Scientific Journals (0)

hackus (159037) | about a year ago | (#44527599)

No, they really do stuff like that?

I am soooooo surprised.

I just pointed this sort of thing out on a previous post and got modded to like 0 for it.

http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=4072427&cid=44522737 [slashdot.org]

Now it is front page news.

I am SO surprised that happened too.

-Hack

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