Health scientists are faking the evidence
Do scientists make it all up?
A meta-analysis — that is a survey of other surveys (in this case 18) — found that, on average, about 2% of scientists have admitted to fabricating, falsifying or modifying data or results at least once.
Daniele Fanelli of Edinburgh University, right, the author of the study published in the Public Library of Science, calls this: 'a serious form of misconduct by any standard.'
Up to one third of scientists admitted a variety of other questionable research practices including 'dropping data points based on a gut feeling', and 'changing the design, methodology or results of a study in response to pressures from a funding source'.
When asked not about what they did themselves but about what their colleagues did, the findings were still more alarming. Over 14% of respondents reported fabrication, falsification and modification by colleagues and up to 72% had noticed other questionable practices.
Health scientists the worst offenders
According to Fanelli, the most-guilty scientists were those working in medical, clinical and pharmacological research — ie health. He says that 'once methodological differences were controlled for, cross-study comparisons indicated that samples drawn exclusively from medical (including clinical and pharmacological) research reported misconduct more frequently than respondents in other fields or in mixed samples. To the author's knowledge, this is the first cross-disciplinary evidence of this kind, and it suggests that misconduct in clinical, pharmacological and medical research is more widespread than in other fields.'
Concerning themsleves, the scientists tended to admit to things they'd done in the distant past — no great surprise there perhaps — but when it came to colleagues, bad practices were still going on today.
Fanelli concludes: 'It is likely that, if on average 2% of scientists admit to have falsified research at least once and up to 34% admit other questionable research practices, the actual frequencies of misconduct could be higher than this.'
Page created on June 29th, 2009
Page updated on December 1st, 2009