Science, Real and Imagined

By June 9, 2005General

Those of you who are fans of are already wise to the gulf between real and imagined — or manufactured — science, but the rest of us need to be constantly reminded.

On that front, an interesting story today in the Washington Post by Rick Weiss headlined, “Many Scientists Admit to Misconduct“. How’s that again? yes, you read that right. This incredible story reports on a study of 3200 scientists by Health Partners Research Foundation — with data gleaned from a confidential questionnaire — as reported today in Nature. The Nature article is more aptly entitled, “One in Three Scientists Confesses to Having Sinned“. The bottom line is that, as Nature points out, “More than a third of US scientists, in a survey of thousands, have admitted to misbehaving in the past three years.” “Misbehaving”, included ten fundamental no-no’s, (and another 6 that just aren’t kosher) ranging from falsifying or “cooking” data to outright plagiarism to our favorite, “Changing the design, methodology or results (emphasis ours) of a study in response to pressure from a funding source. While only 1.5% admitted to plagiarism, according to the authors, 15.5% said they had caved to the funding source, while “12.5% admitted overlooking others’ use of flawed data; and 7.6% said they had circumvented minor aspects of requirements regarding the use of human subjects.” Comforting.

Remember, these are the studies on which governments and left-leaning groups propose all sorts of laws and regulations. We know — we’ve battled a few of them.

It just makes the case once again to be ever-vigilant, to always cast a jaundiced eye on any pseudo-research that we may come across. Good scientists create good science while junk scientists create junk science. This is a reminder that the junk scientists are out there, are alive and well and coming soon to a study near you.