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Many Scientists Admit Unethical Practices

Zonk posted more than 9 years ago | from the only-human dept.

Science 610

jangobongo writes "A surprising number of scientists engage in questionable research practices says a story at the Washington Post. According to a large-scale survey of scientific misbehavior, 15% admit to changing a study under pressure from a funding source. Other reasons for altering data include dropping data from a study based on a gut feeling and failing to include data that contradicts one's own research. This chart gives a quick rundown of the percentage of U.S. based scientists who reported having engaged in questionable research practices according to the survey."

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so (4, Funny)

derxob (835539) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782497)

does this mean pigs can fly? have we had the cure for cancer all along??
I want my mommie.

Scientists of course deny this... (1)

baryon351 (626717) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782558)

No, really. Scientists deny altering findings []

Re:Scientists of course deny this... (2, Insightful)

niiler (716140) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782797)

The case to which you are refering is, of course, well known in scientific circles. It would be more accurate to say the U.S. Dept of Fish and Wildlife Scientists deny this since in reality EVERYONE else in the field has evidence that US F&W screwed with other peoples' findings. I think this smacks more of politicians/bureaucrats forcing underlings to tow the party line or get fired.

That said, I'm not a big fan of scientists who don't make a stand. If the most educated of us won't cry foul when something is wrong, who will?

Ethics (5, Funny)

PhotoJim (813785) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782499)

Next they'll be telling us that politicians aren't ethical either. :) People are always tempted to take the easy route...

Re:Ethics (2, Informative)

AllahsAvatar (887555) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782699)

They wouldn't lie to us? []

Re:Ethics (5, Insightful)

kfg (145172) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782784)

I think about a quarter of the people on my "freaks" list got there because of my stating this point. Bear in mind that this only the percentage of scientist that will admit on a survey. My experience and observations suggest that the percentage is far, far higher. Many how do it aren't even conciously aware enough to know they do. It's just what they do, without even thinking about it.

Yes, science is by nature self-correcting, but when the errors are endemically embedded in the existing systems it can take a lot of time and convict a lot of Gallileos before it gets around to it.

In the meantime time, money and even lives are lost over bullcrap.

The practice of "science," as she is spoke, has become just another job undertaken by people who happened to go for a science degree instead of an MBA or joining the plumbers union.

I have come to empathize with Heinlein, who, through the mouth of Lazarus Long, said something along the lines of "I stopped calling myself doctor when they started handing out PhDs to anyone."


I've got one thing going for me! (5, Funny)

turtledawn (149719) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782501)

When I did my last research project, I had no clue what my results meant and made that clear in my paper!

This was an undergraduate ornithology project that was supposed to take six weeks, according to my advisor. Every professor I've told about it since then has said, that's graduate level at least...

Re:I've got one thing going for me! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12782529)

I wish I was as cool as you... can I have your autograph ?

Re:I've got one thing going for me! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12782644)

Please excuse me, while I stroke my ego.

Re:I've got one thing going for me! (4, Funny)

CaptainCarrot (84625) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782721)

You got that straight, buster! Measuring the airspeed velocity of coconut-laden swallows is not for undergrads! You must be a fully-trained scientist. With scales, and at least one duck.

I for one (5, Funny)

Microsift (223381) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782510)

Don't trust the science behind this story!

Re:I for one (2, Informative)

Shkuey (609361) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782578)

Nor should you, they admit to leaving out information. Right down at the bottom, "Note: Not all categories in the study are shown."

Re:I for one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12782664)

I wonder if the authors of this study belong to the 15% who admitted changing a study...

Re:I for one (2, Insightful)

A Commentor (459578) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782788)

Along those lines, if they were less than honest on the testing, what's to saw they were honest on this survey.

Fortunately... (5, Insightful)

khelms (772692) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782511)

unlike religion, science is self-correcting over the long term. If someone fudges the data and comes up with a wrong conclusion eventually someone else will discover that and get it right.

Re:Fortunately... (2, Insightful)

Saven Marek (739395) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782597)

You have to admit that eventually though also religion is self correcting too.

Re:Fortunately... (1)

hesiod (111176) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782807)

> You have to admit that eventually though also religion is self correcting too.

WHAT??? Religion is about unchanging absolutes, it is not supposed to change. If your religion is the one true religion ("true" being the key word), how can it have changed at all, even after 2000 years?

Re:Fortunately... (2, Informative)

Swamii (594522) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782611)

Actually, religions tend to be self-evolving too, both across religions and within itself. There are lots of man-made ideas in modern religion, and many of them are wrong.

Take Christianity, for instance. It started off as a sect of Judaism, and remained largely so until a Roman Emperor, Constantine, made it the official religion of Rome, transfusing it with practices for the surrounding pagan religions (e.g. Sunday worship named after Constantine's former sun-worshipping ways, the Easter/Ishtar festivals, Lent/Tammuz festivals, even Christmas was borrowed from Babylonian myths).

The difference between science and religion is one is dealing largely with the concrete, physical world, another with the spirtual world. I don't necessarily think the two ideas are exclusive; they can by all means co-exist.

Re:Fortunately... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12782792)

Take Christianity, for instance. It started off as a sect of Judaism, and remained largely so until a Roman Emperor, Constantine, made it the official religion of Rome...

Actually, if you read Paul's letters (which pre-date Constantine by a large margin), there was a raging debate among Christians whether non-Jewish Christians ought to be circumsized.

Christ's followers took his words seriously when he told them to "make disciples of all nations." Christianity was preached to non-Jews pretty much from the very beginning, and by the time Constantine saw a political advantage to adopting it for the Empire, there were already more non-Hebrew Christians than Jewish ones.

transfusing it with practices for the surrounding pagan religions...

Not exclusively Constantine's idea. High masses were chosen on traditional pagan holidays for a wide variety of reasons, including simple convenience: Everybody was already in the habbit of celebrating during those times of the year.

(e.g. Sunday worship named after Constantine's former sun-worshipping ways, the Easter/Ishtar festivals, Lent/Tammuz festivals, even Christmas was borrowed from Babylonian myths).

Sunday worship started before Constantine, too. Early Christians often worshipped in Jewish temples, which were otherwise engaged on Saturday.

Re:Fortunately... (5, Insightful)

stlhawkeye (868951) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782615)

unlike religion, science is self-correcting over the long term. If someone fudges the data and comes up with a wrong conclusion eventually someone else will discover that and get it right.

Yes. Religion never reviews its own practices, views, and procedures, and changes them. That's why Catholic masses are still spoken in Latin, women must wear hats in church, women can't be deacons or altar servers, diabetics are forced not to eat on Fridays, the church condemns homosexuality as an abberation (actually, some Christian churches do this, but Catholic Canon Law states that homosexuality is not chosen by the individual, the causes of it are unknown, and a man cannot be condemned for being something that is not of his choosing).

I'd posit that religion is much slower to change than science, but no less capable of it.

For the record, I am not a practicing religious person of any kind and generally distrust organized religion in general. I did, however, think your post was predictable backlash against what you believe to be Christian hegemony.

Re:Fortunately... (1)

BoomerSooner (308737) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782679)

He was referring to Southern Baptists.

Re:Fortunately... (4, Funny)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782727)

Actually, religion doesn't change as much as it forks.

Creationism (3, Insightful)

freeweed (309734) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782794)

Well said. Further evidence of religions/churches (they're not the same thing) changing: the modern creationist movement.

A century ago, virtually all christian sects had no problem with the scientific conclusion that the Earth is several billion years old.

Starting in the 1960s, and just reaching a fever pitch, we have millions of christians who swear that their bible/religion/church says that the Earth is only 6000 years old.

Sure, religion changes all the time. It's just that science generally changes in response to *evidence*. Religion changes in response to someone's agenda.

Re:Fortunately... (2, Insightful)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782809)

you can't argue that religion hasn't often been a reactionary force opposing cultural change. church leaders try their best to resist changes society but society inevitably wins. it took the catholic church a very long time to accept evolution, and i imagine it will take even longer for most christians to accept that sodomy is not a sin. except for the few iconoclasts in religious history(martin luther, for example) few people are comfortable challenging the time-honored traditions and views held by the church.

Re:Fortunately... (2, Funny)

Approaching.sanity (889047) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782645)

You mean like the reformation?

Re:Fortunately... (2, Insightful)

NanoGator (522640) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782710)

"unlike religion, science is self-correcting over the long term."

Unlike religion? How can somebody on the side of science feel comfortable making statements about something they only have vague stereotypical impressions of?

Re:Fortunately... (1)

IthnkImParanoid (410494) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782803)

I know quite a few science-minded individuals who have an extensive religious background (often as children) whose preference for science over religion approaches zealotry. That certainly may be due to negative experiences not generalizable to religion as a whole or as a concept, but don't assume what experiences someone does or does not have based on their current beliefs.

Re:Fortunately... (2, Funny)

bluGill (862) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782776)

Eventually. You gotta admit that having the earth open up and swallow those who get it wrong is a lot quicker method of getting the right result though.

Yay, lots of science isn't. (5, Informative)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782512)

This is why we have peer review, independant repetition of studies, randomised double blind trials etc. It all comes out in the wash.

Re:Yay, lots of science isn't. (1, Insightful)

pkalkul (450979) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782629)

The reality is, however, that most scientific experiments are not reproduced. In some cases this is because the equipment or techniques required is unique to a particular lab, but mostly because there is no percentage in it -- you don't build a scientific career or garner grant money by reproducing someone else's experiments. Most scientific data is taken on trust.

This is not to say that it is often not reliable -- there are many social mechanisms built into scientific practice that help assure that scientists are trustworthy.

But the notion that peer review assures truth and the idea that experiments could in theory be replicated are more ideals than realities.

This is not the first study of scientists that has revealed the tremendous pressures to produce that at times cause a surprising number of them to violate what we think of as scientific norms.

Most Famous Unethical Scientist (4, Funny)

JJ (29711) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782513)

It had to be the Professor of Gilligan's Island fame. If he could come up with a car, fix the radio, etc. don't you think he could have come up with a way to fix the boat.

In truth he just liked the attention of hanging out with Ginger, the movie star and Maryanne, the girl next door.

Re:Most Famous Unethical Scientist (1)

Tebriel (192168) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782549)

The man can make a radio out of a coconut, but can't fix a hole in a damn boat?

Some scientist.

Re:Most Famous Unethical Scientist (4, Funny)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782598)

He could have fixed the boat anytime he wanted...but then they would have gone back to civilization, where he was just a nerdy little nobody.

On that island, the Professor was God.

Re:Most Famous Unethical Scientist (1)

N3Roaster (888781) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782717)

Plus the Professor had that secret underground bunker. The whole show was just his flirtation with sociology.

Re:Most Famous Unethical Scientist (2, Funny)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782675)

My vote's for Professor Farnsworth:

"Everyone's always in favor of saving Hitler's brain, but when you put it in the body of a Great White shark -- oh, suddenly you've gone too far!"

Already covered (5, Informative)

benploni (125649) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782519)

That's why the Scientific Method requires reproducibility. It's not just to weed out confirmation bias or experimental error, but to double check against fraud.

Re:Already covered (2, Insightful)

robbyjo (315601) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782633)

It's not as simple as that. Many research actually are reproducible. However, in most cases, they only show specific datasets that highlight of their research without mentioning that for other datasets the result of their research would be abysmal.

Another common misuse is that they handwave intermediary processes so that it's completely impossible to duplicate. The scientists have the alibi for the limit on the number of pages imposed by the scientific journal.

Both of these need an immediate attention.

Re:Already covered (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12782665)

More importantly.. a fact isn't a fact if it has no validity. If the validity is less than 100%, then it's either a corellation, a fluke or a misinterpretation.

Is there any way... (4, Funny)

Triped (668579) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782524)

Is there any way to say that this isn't surprising without being considered a troll?

Re:Is there any way... (1)

Shalda (560388) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782603)

The problem is that Slashdot has no [OBVIOUS] tag. When you're told that your research funding will get canceled if you don't get the right results, odds are, you're going to find a way to get the right results. This isn't any different than real estate where appraisers are told what the sale price of the house is and then need to find a way to make the appraisal fit the price, or politicians who introduce legislation at the behest of the lobyists who got them elected.

Re:Is there any way... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12782751)

Realestate appraisals are a bunch of hogwash. I had my house appraised before I put it out on the market. I didn't agree with his appraisal and asked fro $25K more (more than 10% of the appraised price) and got a buyer for about my asking price. Magically the new appraisal that the buyer had done was the agreed upon price.

Re:Is there any way... (1)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782755)

At the end of the day, scientists are people too. They have the same weaknesses and vices as the rest of us, and often times the concrete (a job) will override the nebulous (the integrity of science).

Re:Is there any way... (2, Funny)

AppHack (622902) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782626)


Please mod the parent as a troll. Thank You. :-)

Don't listen to this. (5, Funny)

kjeldor (146944) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782530)

The person who wrote conducted this research lied about the results. There are actually no researches whatsoever who falsify data.

This just goes to show... (1)

nebaz (453974) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782534)

That for most of us that believe in the Scientific Method, to the point, almost to the exclusion of all else, we need to be reminded that sometimes we can be just as blinded by the theories that we believe as those we criticize.

Are you surprised? (1)

Asshat Canada (804093) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782538)

I hate to say...I'm sure most folks in IT have had to perform under the 'questionable' heading due to outside influence. I've seen many folks go against their gut feeling to appease a foolish CEO regardless of consequence. This hardly applies just to science.

Maybe /. should have a 'We'll spin anything as geek just to keep the front page full' section.

supprise supprise (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12782550)

I have know that for a long time, and doctors are no worse, they like to kill people and claim it is choice, the us has not ethics left it is in the crapper

This just in.. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12782563)

The US is untrustworthy

Turn to page 3.

News at 11.

Water is wet.

Just a tweak (2, Interesting)

neonfrog (442362) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782565)

If you leave out the plagiarism and resume builders then the numbers don't look so bad!

government pressured unethical scientific behavior (4, Interesting)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782570)

This sort of behavior is encouraged by the Bush Administration if results are fudged to favor its position on the environment. Anybody catch this story [] in the NY Times about the White House doctoring reports on climate change? Here's an interview with Warren Olney [] about the incident. It seems to me that if we can't trust scientists to tell us the truth regardless of the political implications or of pressure from outside sources, we're really fucked.

Re:government pressured unethical scientific behav (0, Flamebait)

robbyjo (315601) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782672)

BS. Any funded research has similar pressures. Many of those have hidden agendas too. So, it's not "encouraged by the Bush Administration". Your post is simply FUD.

Re:government pressured unethical scientific behav (3, Insightful)

jepe (826944) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782804)

Did you even read the link provided?

Here in Canada it was all over the news... The white house changed the wording of scientific research to make it sound like there was a great doubt on the climate change and its link to human activity.

I guess that would confirm the affirmation "encouraged by the Bush Administration"

Re:government pressured unethical scientific behav (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12782722)

Quoting the NYTimes is like quoting the National Enquirer, friend. Neither are worthy of trust.

Re:government pressured unethical scientific behav (2, Insightful)

CA_Jim (786327) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782736)

Let's not blame the Bush administration for this. If you read the article, even Mendel may have fudged his numbers. And the highest percentage of unethical behavior seems linked more to career or research advancement, which appears to be built into the current system of funding. To get grants or tenure you have to bring in the money, which means appealing to those who have the money to give, be it private or public money.

While I agree that the current administration appears to be most guilty of fudging numbers, I seriously doubt that they originated it or that previous administrations didn't fudge numbers elsewhere.

They missed one! (1)

Dutchmaan (442553) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782572)

...Falsifying reports on the unethical practices of scientists in order to get posted on Slasdot!

Reminds me... (1, Interesting)

Lugor (628175) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782573)

I used to be a sys-admin at an University. I was in the computer lab when a grad student started cussing and screaming. I walked over and asked him what was going on. It turned out he was complaining about the data coming out of his model. It "Didn't make sense!!" I suggested that the input data might be wrong, he replied that was impossible because he created the input set and all the numbers "made sense"

Re:Reminds me... (1)

theodicey (662941) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782671)

it's called 'testing a model."

some people 'test' code, too. sadly, the average sysadmin is not likely to meet many of these miscreants.

Re:Reminds me... (1)

wwwojtek (246402) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782702)

so he was testing the program he wrote on artificial data. What's your point?

Unethical?!? (1)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782576)

There's nothing unethical about my practices....I tell you those sharks wanted those frickin' laser beams grafted to their heads...they pretty much begged for them!


This is news? (1)

Raistlin77 (754120) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782577)

I expect 9 out of 10 scientists are secretly using unethical practices, and I welcome it. I'm sure that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of technological, biological, etc... advances that would be impossible without. All those other pussy-footing scientists should learn from their examples.

Re:This is news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12782659)

Dr. Mengele approves of this post!

Quote board at Northwestern... (2, Funny)

jeblucas (560748) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782579)

My wife worked in a group at Northwestern that kept a greaseboard of in-jokes made by the various members. My favorite was always, "Let red denote the fabricated data..." It just sounds so natural.

Dr. Strangelove... (2, Funny)

d_p (63654) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782583)

...unavailable for comment.

Bush had something to do with it (0, Flamebait)

bryan8m (863211) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782588)

We've all heard about Bush pressuring scientists to only report findings which support his argument...

The study used loaded questions (5, Informative)

Jimmy_B (129296) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782594)

I saw this earlier in the print edition, and it's not really what it sounds like. The question to which 15% said yes was whether you'd ever changed the procedure, methodology, or results of an experiment in response to pressure from a funding source. Well, changing the results would be very, very bad, but they actually asked a separate question on that one and only 0.3% (a statistically insignificant number) said yes. Changing methodology is not necessarily illegitimate; if your funding source says "give me X precision", or "measure Y too while you're at it", then the procedure's going to change to reflect that. It doesn't mean there's bias, it means the question was asked incorrectly.

Re:The study used loaded questions (4, Interesting)

arkanes (521690) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782650)

Hell, the second paragraph of the article does it.
More than 5 percent of scientists answering a confidential questionnaire admitted to having tossed out data because the information contradicted their previous research or said they had circumvented some human research protections.
Tossed out data OR circumvented human research protections? Those are totally different things! What the hell?!

Re:The study used loaded questions (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12782789)

After you exposed your subjects to high intensity radiation, wouldn't you through out the data? That's what I always do.

Too bad. (1)

kniLnamiJ-neB (754894) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782602)

Science is too much about money. Scientists are under pressure to make a money-making discovery for whoever pays their bills. If it's not profitable, the boss man doesn't want to hear it. If scientists could just be paid to be scientists, we'd probably be more advanced than we are now.

Sciencology (4, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782605)

Maybe they work [] at the White House, funded by the oil industry to select "winning" research.

Questionable... (1)

Kr3m3Puff (413047) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782621)

This chart gives a quick rundown of the percentage of U.S. based scientists who reported having engaged in questionable research practices according to the survey.

Well, I find the chart about 15% suspect, because as we know, surveys are manipulated by scientists...

I think my head just exploded from circular logic... *OUCH*

Surprise, surprise ! (3, Interesting)

alexhs (877055) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782622)

I posted that story twelve hours ago and it was rejected. Maybe because the link was in the Baltimore Sun (only link I found with Google, I read the story in a French webnewspaper) and not in Yahoo News / Washington Post ?..

here [] is a additional link from the Baltimore Sun.

The full original article is in Nature.

Say it ain't so.... (1)

BrainSurgeon (875819) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782634)

So, global warming is actually true? Green house gases really do exist?

Who can I trust if I can't trust a scientist? My TV? My congressman? Oh, the MADNESS!

More proof that evolution is bullsh*t (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12782638)

Well what do you know! Scientists YET AGAIN caught lying, cheating and stealing in an attempt to "prove" their idiotic and discredited theories. Why am I not surprised? Universities, the philosophical home of science, has long been a haven for anti-Americanism and liberalism, environmentalism and other destructive movements. Science has time and time again been plauged by hoaxes and lies and yet people still blindle follow it as if it were Truth.

God is the only Truth, people. And until our constitution is amended to set this in stone, we will ALL be under threat of the whims of the unethical, godless special interest groups. This simply CANNOT BE ALLOWED.

In other news... (2, Insightful)

PingXao (153057) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782642)

100% of politicians lie, cheat and steal. Even scientists are *gasp* human. Unethical behavior should not be condoned, but what I'd like to see is a similar report done on lawyers and politicians. THe only problem is none of them would answer honestly! At least this research got some people to admit they were fudging numbers. The actual results are probably skewed to the low side, if anything, because undoubtedly there are some scientists who will lie to cover up their other lies. These are the wannabes to watch out for. Like Bill Frist.

white house response (2, Insightful)

yali (209015) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782646)

What are the odds that the Republicans are going to use this report to try to smear scientists even more than they have?

Although if you look at the original Nature article...

The modern scientist faces intense competition, and is further burdened by difficult, sometimes unreasonable, regulatory, social, and managerial demands. This mix of pressures creates many possibilities for the compromise of scientific integrity. actually sounds an awful lot like the Bush White House [] .

christian scientists (0, Troll)

paulsgre (890463) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782651)

Further proof that the evangelicals are right; science is sinful. Jesus Christ died so that I can fudge my data.

Triple-blind study (3, Interesting)

linuxwrangler (582055) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782655)

Certain types of research have bias built-in. If BigDrugCo wants research results on NewExpensiveDrug they aren't going to farm the research to the people who told them their last drugs were worthless. Therefore, if I want BigDrugCo's $$$ in the future I'll try to design the study and present the results in the most positive way. Whether or not I'm aware of it there will be some underlying pressure.

As such, I feel that this type of study needs what I've coined a "triple-blind study" in which a neutral party is placed between the funder and the researcher.

This neutral party would then choose researcher(s) at random from a pool of candidates qualified to do the research and frame the question in a neutral way. The funding source and desired outcome would be withheld from the researcher.

How about this study? (2, Interesting)

darkmeridian (119044) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782656)

Here's a Catch-22: this study was a study that might have been rigged to make sensationalist claims for the Post, right?

What about South American, European, Asian, ... (1)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782662)

What about scientists in South America, Europe, Asia, Canada, Africa, Australia, and other non-American regions? Do they follow a similar trend of data manipulation, forgery and misbehavior? If so, then perhaps this just isn't a problem with American scientists, but scientists in general. That would lead me to believe that it is more just a problem with human nature: the inability to accept that one's beliefs may be incorrect.

In academia . . . (1)

Nomihn0 (739701) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782668)

Such behavior is known as the tenure track.

1700 US TROOPS DEAD (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12782678)

When do the killing of the kings commence on Dubya? (4, Interesting)

GPLDAN (732269) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782681)

National Public Radio in the U.S. ran a story about how Merck ran a campaign to pressure M.D.s who were doing research showing Vioxx was a problem in patients, causing damage to the heart.

The story is right here [] and it outlines a major problem with all scientific research, but most acutely in the pharmaceutical industry, where the Bush administration has gutted the FDA and made them the lapdog of the drug companies. Capital markets use science and statistics as weapons, and objective evidence of problems exists only when other drug companies that compete fund research to show problems.

Bush said last week that he still wasn't interested in a Kyoto like treaty, because global warming needed more "research" and study. And, of course, the report that shows that an employee of the American Petroleum Council was sitting inside the EPA censoring reports that showed any causality between burning fossil fuels and global warming. Can't have that.

Corrupt scientists. No objective sources of information. And people wonder why there is a skyrocketing reliance on religion by our political leaders, who pander and are willing to teach nonsense like "Intelligent Creation" alongside scientific evidence of darwinism and natural selection. Divinity sells. And a assailable scientific community only makes it easier.

We seem to be leaving an age of reason, and entering a new Dark age. Instead of Thomas Aquinas we have Dr. Phil.

Re: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12782775)

How could the Bush administration have been guilty of gutting the FDA, when the changes in question happened during the Clinton administration?

rejected by the Q-test (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12782682)

"Rejected by the Q-test" was a personal favorite of mine.

If some piece of data was outside of 2 standard deviations from the mean ... out it went.

Peer Review, yeah right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12782686)

ahahahaha, all this bullshit about peer review and reproducible results. Yeah, maybe if your working in something sexy in which a hundred scientists are clamouring over your work. But the vast majority of scientists are working in incredibly specialised fields which remain largely unexplored due to lack of interest. Fake as much data as you want, nobody can be bothered double checking on it. If someone says they're not getting the same results, just tell em they must of set up the trial differently. Do you think people care what the result was? They just want a string of papers after their name for tenure.

Whats even funnier is to read through the literature and find all these people being excruciatingly polite in stating that Researcher X is a scum bag thats full of shit.

So who did THIS study? (1)

deft (253558) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782689)

"According to a large-scale survey of scientific misbehavior, 15% admit to changing a study under pressure from a funding source."

I suppsoe we're supposed to believe this number hasnt been inflated since the study was done by a ethics evaluation company? :)

School and relativity (4, Informative)

Councilor Hart (673770) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782692)

How accurate where the experiments from Eddington that were supposed to prove Einstein theory, back in ~1920? Not very, that's for sure

Also, if graders at university level care more about how a paper is formatted and (nicely) written, than if the experiments were properly conducted, bad behaviour is encouraged.
I know people who made one good measurement, made up the rest and spend the remaining part of the time on the paper due at the end of the day. While others spend their time on the experiments and had to write their papers quickly and hasty, forgoing a nice layout.
You didn't had time to do both.
Guess who had the better grade?
Sure, measuring the period of a swinging pendulum may not be groundbreaking, but it's all about instilling the correct work habit.
Perhaps what they did was good for getting a good grade, and they were the smarter of the rest of us. But it was damned lousy science.
Yes, after all these years, I am still "upset" about it.

All I want to know... (1)

HTL2001 (836298) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782708)

All I want to know is... what the figure is for reporters (I say higher, but thats from my observations that I've fixed.... gah. who can we trust these days?)

True Story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12782712)

I haven't always been the model of ethics. I admit that, but I've been working hard to improve myself.

Now, for the story. When I was working in the biology lab at the University of Western Ontario, I was completing some tests for a paper to be submitted at an upcoming conference. To make a long story short, a woman in the department really needed my results to go a certain way. If they did, her thesis would gain quite a bit of strength and her standing and prestige would rise accordingly. The weekend before the conference she came to the lab to check my results. Unfortunately for her but fortunately for me, the results were actually weakening the conclusion of her thesis. So, right there in the lab at 3:30 in the afternoon, she took off her top and asked me if I liked what I saw. I nodded in approval and then she proceeded to give me a good time like I've never had before. Needless to say, the results ended up quite different and she did quite well at the conference.

Kind of sad.. (1)

derxob (835539) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782729)

This is like a whole new uncovering of scandal and politics. Sure, it's probably been happening for as long as its been around, but it's kind of scary to think that something as crucial and sensitive as science, which is so important in our lives can have the interest of business (or money) before fact and well being.

Understand science better... (2, Funny)

KingofSpades (874684) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782738)

... with the help of this online english/"science" language companion [] .

Changing a study is not necessarily unethical (4, Insightful)

nasor (690345) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782742)

As someone who does scientific research for a living, I have to point out that changing a study because of pressure from a funding source is not necessarily unethical. It's very common for a scientist to say "I want money to study X, Y, and Z" and have a funding source respond "We only really care about X, Y and Q. How about studying those? We'll pay for that." Our the source might say half-way through the study "We've heard that one of our competitors is researching W. Will you look into that instead of Y?" Remember, 'changing a study' is not necessarily unethical. Studies change all the time even without pressure from a funding source, often simply because the researcher comes up with a more interesting or effective way to conduct the study.

Prosecuting? (1)

sanosuke001 (640243) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782748)

Um.... it says that having questionable relationships and falsifying data can be prosecuted, but endangering humans and avoiding minor rules for safety isnt? WTF!

I realized this when.. (1)

foolinator (611098) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782749)

I saw an episode of "In Search Of.." with Leonard Nemoy. The show argued that plants have feelings!! Plants were put in equal environments - but one group were told mean things like "you'll never amount to anything! you're just a weed to me!" while the other plants were told "you are great! people love you." According to the study, the socially deprived plants died quickly. Now, ask yourself.. if this study were actually TRUE, wouldn't plants all over evil dictatorship countries die early? Point being: researchers often make theories. They get funding. Without results, no funding. This goof who studied plant feelings had to of changed the data results to prove his point: plants have feelings. Since then, I don't trust a lot of researchers -- including myself.

Sins of Omission (1)

Topher TheRead (781167) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782769)

The numbers are interesting, because these are the percentages of those who admitted these "ethical lapses". For example, 1.4% admitted "questionable relationships with students, subjects or clients" which "qualifies for prosecution under federal rules". Other categories would not qualify for federal prosecution, but will get you in all kinds of professional trouble.

I also noted, despite the inevitable excitement of some /. theorists, that there are no numbers for government pressure. While this category may have been omitted, I do not believe the Washington Post would have done so if the numbers were significant.

And we should trust these numbers? (4, Funny)

frovingslosh (582462) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782774)

15% admit to changing a study under pressure

Reached for comment, the researchers admitted that the actual number was 9%, but they felt some scientists were not willing to admit their wrong-doing, and their editor wasn't going to publish the story unless the number was at least 15%.

OMG! Say it isn't so! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12782782)

... that scientists are merely human

Woe is this day :-(

there are too many scientists! (4, Interesting)

myc (105406) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782786)

the reason I think this stuff happens is that the "publish or perish" pressure is just too insane at top universities. It's not just publishing in any archival journal; to maintain funding, to get tenured, high quality publications in high profile journals are a must. I can't speak for other fields, but in the biological sciences, not only is the pressure to publish in quality AND quantity getting greater each year, the field has exploded to such a degree that the burden of proof for one's hypotheses is increasingly heavier. Exploratory studies cannot be carried out; the emphasis is almost entirely on what can be completed and published in a reasonably short period of time. Experiments are hard to do. If a grant deadline/tenure review is coming up and the data is not quite what it needs to be, people might be tempted to fudge it a tiny bit.

None of what I just said excuses scientific misconduct. But I think why it happens is just a symptom of a bigger problem (at least in biology). There are too many Ph.D. level scientists! The incessant cranking out of these highly educated people is creating an oversupply of researchers. Every Ph.D. who gets a tenure-track research position (these positions are highly competitive; typically 50-100 highly qualified individuals who have equally impressive CVs compete for one spot) has to stake out their little project and protect it like a lioness protects her cubs. If they're not careful and blink the wrong way, they could be scooped by competitors (i.e. beaten to publication); a good chunk of their career just went down the drain. This after a completely unreasonable length of postgraduate training (6-7 years for a Ph.D. and 4-5 years postdoctoral training after that is quite typical), poor pay and lousy hours. All because IMO there are too many people working on the same shit.

I think that to fix the problem, something fundamental needs to change in the way scientists are produced. I don't pretend to know what the best solution would be, but one idea I've been throwing around is to train more M.S. level people than Ph.D. level people. These would be employed as staff scientists rather than independent principal investigators, such that there would be enough of a labor pool to actually do the work, but without having one's career constantly in jeopardy.

All related to the US administration (1)

fermion (181285) | more than 9 years ago | (#12782790)

After all, the lackeys in DC have spent a lot of time bullying scientist to change their finding on the environment. A week does not go by when we find that once again, a report has been altered for political purposes.

This does not even take into account those that are paid to do 'creation science'

The thing about science, and this is something that our president and the these guys with the so-called 'masters' in BA do not understand, is that science is a observational. When we crunch the numbers, we are looking for a way to represent the world and predict what our actions might have on it, not a way to lie to the public. The intent is to better the world, not get enough money so that we acquire another mistress, while having enough left over to keep the wife busy at charity events, not to mention the payoff for the sexual assault lawsuit brought against our sons, and of course the continuing funding of terrorism through the drug deals of our daughters.

I believe science is beyond many people understanding because they cannot comprehend that one might want to look for the truth rather than construct the truth that would maximize personal power. It probably never occurs to them that result are based on painstakingly collected evidence, and not on the personal preference of the researchers. These morons probably think that all they are doing is compensating for personal bias, as no one is really as selfless as to do something purely to make the world a better place.

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