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Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/18/2012 8:50 AM

It's starting to look like it. I'm no scientist, but it seems to me that this type of thing would actually set science back...............big time!!

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/17/science/rise-in-scientific-journal-retractions-prompts-calls-for-reform.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1

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#1

Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/18/2012 8:58 AM

There are probably two reasons. At least in this country.

1.) $, company's want to boost stock value at a critical time.

and/or

2.) Due to government trying to rein in spending with budget cuts, each government subsided department (no matter where academic, private) is trying to influence the importance of their projects.

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#2
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Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/18/2012 9:36 AM

It's a shame.

I'm thinking that the entire amount of time dedicated to writing a paper that contains fraudulent claims, as well as any experiments, which leads back to the entire grant to conduct the research, becomes a complete waste of time and money.

For them to be doing this, is worse than if the grant was never written. To set the record straight, virtually everything in these retracted papers would have to be started from scratch......................by someone else.

If the graph is accurate, the degree to which this has escalated in the last decade is staggering.

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#6
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Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/18/2012 10:42 AM

Actually the issue of private corporations wasn't mentioned. Most of the problem seemed to come from the publish-or-perish situation at universities and university-sponsored labs.

My experience in private industry (aerospace engineering) is that such errors become self correcting. A scientist at a private corporation is at much greater risk of losing his job if he publishes something later found to be in error, especially if the company made a substantial investment due to his faulty/fraudulent research. There are cases where it happens, of course, but public anger, lower stock values, and criminal prosecutions are powerful correction factors that seldom come into play for university/government sponsored research.

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#8
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Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/18/2012 10:49 AM

Do private corporations publish scientific papers very often? I don't know, is why I'm asking.

Seems like they would either keep their findings secret or seek patent protection, rather than publishing in journals.

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#10
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Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/18/2012 11:02 AM

It depends. My experience is no, they don't. Intellectual property is closely guarded, and often patentable ideas are simply notarized and filed (to fend off any future patent-infringement lawsuits) rather than submitted to the patent office.

In other cases, such as in participation with an industry consortium on some new technology, it is more likely - or even required - that the research be published. Also, if some of the funding is from the government, publication may be required.

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#24
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Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/18/2012 8:43 PM

yep, it seems to be about quantity not quality.

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#3

Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/18/2012 10:09 AM

This might be more indicative of improvement in critical review rather than an increase in fraud.

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#4
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Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/18/2012 10:30 AM

That could be.....................but shouldn't the critical review take place before the work is published?

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#22
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Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/18/2012 4:25 PM

Certainly we should expect significant critical review prior to publication.

Clearly, the threat of frequent retractions does not frighten publishers as much as the threat of not having headlines of the most groundbreaking research....perhaps subscriptions and readership have been hit hard.

Do we really think there was a shortage of dishonest or inept researchers trying to get published a decade or two ago? It isn't a new phenomena. Also, there are certainly plenty of honest capable researchers today.

I can't shake the feeling that people like the two editors who wrote impassioned pleas for fundamental reform, are in large part responsible for this. How else would this stuff slipped through?

In the end, peer review does not end because a professional journal has printed the paper. The most thorough vetting occurs when something has been reviewed by the greatest number of critical eyes.

I bet we each can recall one or more published 'scientific' papers with serious flaws in either methodology, assumptions, or conclusions....

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#5
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Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/18/2012 10:35 AM

AS K, mentioned that the critical review should be made prior to being published.

Which brings up the question, "When does irresponsibility and negligence turns into fraud?"

answer to my own question. Due to misrepresentation, usually when loss or profit becomes involved?

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#7
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Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/18/2012 10:45 AM

To reiterate what I said above, profit and loss do not appear to be the driving factors here. It is the publish-or-perish concern for university researchers.

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#9
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Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/18/2012 10:53 AM

Your correct when $ comes into play in the private sector,

As an example:

So....... lets use loss and profit in a rhetorical sense. so I can save face

How's that for an example?

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#11
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Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/18/2012 11:17 AM

I'm not familiar with medical/drug research, but this is one industry that seems to me more likely to have this problem of publishing with a profit motive: Publish some phony research, announce your company's IPO, rake in some cash, then disappear. Caveat Emptor for anyone investing in a medical start-up company.

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#12
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Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/18/2012 11:39 AM

This doesn't look good. Granted, the US probably submits far more papers than most other counties, but if you look to the right of the page in this link, you can see a list of retractions by author, country, etc. The retractions of published papers from the US, far exceed those of other countries.

http://retractionwatch.wordpress.com/the-retraction-watch-faq/

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#36
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Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/19/2012 12:10 PM

By formal definition, a criminal fraud entails deliberately making false or misleading statements, in order to obtain payments or benefits at someone's expense.

Strictly speaking, 'benefits' do not have to be $ cash payments for the definition of fraud to apply. What is really crucial, is the intentional false claim resulting in a benefit, which also causes harm or loss to a third party.

In many cases, the so-called 'scientific misconduct' or 'scientific fraud' does not result in criminal prosecution, even when harms have resulted and benefits been obtained.

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#37
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Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/19/2012 12:53 PM

Yeah. I can understand mistakes, and I think a mistake will surface in most instances. From there, depending on the gravity of the mistake, either a correction can be made or it may be cause for retraction of the entire paper. It's the intentional stuff that really bugs me.

It almost sounds like religious faith........................but I've always believed that scientists' first love is science and the uncovering of things previously unknown. It's a major let down when they are found to be deviating from that for the sake of recognition, money or both.

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#13

Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/18/2012 12:55 PM

I think this is not necessarily a bad thing....This creates an environment where findings can be challenged, something sorely lacking in the past, at times....It also shows people are aware of the work being done, the problems associated with it, and the will to improve methodology and technique....ie: If you solved this problem we've been working on, we want to know how, so we can learn...It also exposes who's work is not to be trusted on face value...

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#14
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Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/18/2012 1:05 PM

IMO, its a bad thing, and my reason is that it should not be put out on a public forum.

But in a forum of like and inform professional for it to be debated and challenged before released to the public.

I'll try to give an example, and I don't know if this is good.

You go to a doctor who doesnt know what wrong with you, so he/she opens you up with the webcam running, and then asks for opinions.

I feel that the credibility is lost.

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#16
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Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/18/2012 1:18 PM

"You go to a doctor who doesnt know what wrong with you, so he/she opens you up with the webcam running, and then asks for opinions."

I think that is SOP...

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#17
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Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/18/2012 1:37 PM

SOP.... 'Standard Operating Proceedure'......

No, the SOP is the doctor leaves the room and googles your ailments and then returns with the accessment and calls it his own.

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#18
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Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/18/2012 3:15 PM

The greater the quantity of informed opinions involved, the more objective the assessment becomes, and therefore, more accurate....A single opinion is too subjective to be of optimum value in the real world....The answer is the doctor's decision and it is his own....regardless of information sources used to arrive at his conclusion....

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#19
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Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/18/2012 3:39 PM

I was thinking more of a group of informed peers and not just a group of:

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#23
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Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/18/2012 4:51 PM

Oh you mean like this...?

http://ecat.com/

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#15
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Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/18/2012 1:10 PM

I was always under the impression that peer review took place before something was published.

Then again, I suppose if everyone is in the race to get published.......................there would be a shortage of peers to do the reviewing.

When we see that many of these papers are written in a university setting, my thoughts are, that the professors in charge, are at worst, complicit, and at least, derelict in their responsibility to review them in house.....................before they are released.

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#20

Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/18/2012 4:00 PM

Once more, I'll be the Devil's advocate and say that would be a more human-like pattern. And nowhere is said that the percentage of retracted articles not owed to errors has significantly increased, absolute numbers did. But did the total publication numbers stay constant for recent years? Or just exploded? And how about the motives of a publishing scientist. Does he believe that deliberate falsifying facts will not be revealed? Of course not, unless he is a very young and inexperienced one, that also is in a pressing career point and/or lacks remorses. And who made the direct connection between number of publications and survival (not rewards) in most scientific fields and left quality factor practically out? S.M.

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#21
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Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/18/2012 4:05 PM

Interesting,

Looking at it, maybe the published articles in the past that were thought to be correct, were in fact incorrect, but due to the technology of the day (That we have today) it was just missed.

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#25
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Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/18/2012 9:28 PM

"And nowhere is said that the percentage of retracted articles not owed to errors has significantly increased, absolute numbers did. But did the total publication numbers stay constant for recent years? Or just exploded?"

In fact, it did state that the retractions had increased tenfold but the number of papers had increased only 44%. I think those numbers were for the NEJM.

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#26

Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/18/2012 9:58 PM

I wonder if the editors' paper was rigorously peer reviewed.

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#27

Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/18/2012 11:27 PM

This topic reminds me of my initial reaction to a joke that Robin Williams used to tell - He said: "Cocaine is Gods way of telling you that you have too much money!" My first thought was: That succumbing to Cocaine is God's way of telling you that you weren't raised right! Blaming competition for the moral, and ethical short comings of those who have so little self respect, that they are incapable of doing what's right - is NOT the way to go here! Doing unto others, as you would have them do unto you, would be a monumental start here!

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#28

Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/19/2012 12:55 AM

I think that the problem is caused because peer review journals are a monopoly controlled largely by Dutch publishing giant Elsevier. The reason for the bad science isn't competition, it is total lack of competition. If there was competition to Elsevier, maybe they would get their shit together and do a proper review of the science and stop letting crap get published. Another reason for bad science is nasty governments. In Canada, all government scientists must get permission from our dear leader, Steven Harper before talking to the press. He has a particular dislike for the science of climate change, and he hates pacific salmon too. So government funded scientists researching changing climate or pacific salmon diseases are automatically gagged. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/aug/29/academic-publishers-murdoch-socialist is a bit about the shoddy monopoly Elsevier.

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#29
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Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/19/2012 2:29 AM

here we go again, blame the dutch! (dutch wife, dutch treat, double dutch, etcetera)

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#49
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Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/19/2012 11:28 PM

I wasn't blaming the dutch. I was blaming a monopoly in scientific journal publishing.

When a company has a monopoly (in this case it is a dutch company) it can get sloppy and still rake in the cash. If they paid scientists to do peer review, then scientists might do peer review properly.

Another thing they should do is pay scientists to repeat experiments. Peer review currently means checking that a procedure looks right on paper. That is not exactly likely to uncover fraud or sloppy experimental science, is it? Your lab tech could be drunk or peeing into the test solutions and it might still look ok on paper.

I mean, at the moment, it is not much different than someone finding a self publish company and doing a vanity book. As long as you pay for the peer review yourself, you can be a published scientist! You can pay someone else to design and make up results from your "experiment". Who will ever know? An editor will never discover this. It is really strange that this broken system has lasted so long. How many of you guys are paying attention? Most people here believe in the holy free market but still expect scientists to pay to have their results peer reviewed before publishing in a magazine that gives them not a cent back. Such a system has no similarities to a free market as far as I can see.

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#50
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Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/20/2012 12:48 AM

it was a Dutch Joke hence the smiley and the 'off topic' Comment

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#51
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Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/20/2012 3:15 AM

Ok, didn't Know that.

It is a strange thread. Everyone is debating the wrong problem. "Is competition leading to bad science". This headline is leading people to assume that the scientists are all cheating to get ahead.

But the reality is different. Sloppy moderation or refereeing by the scientific journals is the problem. So to me the thread headline is social engineering and people who are easily led are not looking at the bigger picture. Science journals with sloppy refereeing is like the hockey playoffs with sloppy refereeing. Brute force and ignorance dominates. If the journals tighten up their rules and spend some of their unearned cash, the problem will disappear really quick.

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#52
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Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/20/2012 6:20 AM

It is a strange thread. Everyone is debating the wrong problem. "Is competition leading to bad science". This headline is leading people to assume that the scientists are all cheating to get ahead.

Um, I was sort of assuming that people would read the short article. It indicates that there is competition involved all through the process. Here's one quote:

Dr. Fang says that may well be true, but adds that it cuts both ways - that the scramble to publish in high-impact journals may be leading to more and more errors. Each year, every laboratory produces a new crop of Ph.D.'s, who must compete for a small number of jobs, and the competition is getting fiercer.

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#53
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Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/20/2012 6:46 AM

I know that competition for grant money is very fierce.

If the graph in the article is indicative of a continuing trend, (at least in biomedical), I think the doctor has a valid point. The scientists that are cheating or just getting plain sloppy in their quest to get published are, to a certain extent, poisoning the well.

I would also agree that something should be done, (assuming the graph is accurate), to reign in the process and keep accuracy a priority.

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#55
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Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/20/2012 1:24 PM

There will always be sloppy scientists but the journals don't HAVE to publish from sloppy scientists. They are supposed to vet the work and they have not being doing a proper job of it. I think you don't like scientists in general and you are imagining a lack of integrity where they are really like lab rats running as hard as they can to try to get the grant money. If you do stuff at breakneck speed so that you can submit 5 proposals instead of 1, there will be mistakes. All we need is proper oversight from the Journals.

There are 2 bottlenecks in the system where the scientists have no input. They are the funding committees (political bodies in some cases) and the journals. The funding only goes to science that the political bodies want funded. The journals will try to publish the "sexy" science. Lots of science isn't properly funded because it is not the "in thing" but all the parts go together to make the whole.

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#60
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Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/20/2012 1:43 PM

I think you don't like scientists in general and you are imagining a lack of integrity where they are really like lab rats running as hard as they can to try to get the grant money.

I have no idea where you got that impression.

The link to the article came across my email box and I figured it was worthy of some interesting discussion on here. I think you're making quite a stretch, to turn it into, 'I don't like scientists'.

I like scientists just fine...................have a lot of respect and admiration for them too. What I have a problem with, is a few bad apples growing into lots of bad apples, and tarnishing the reputations of those that work hard, play by the rules, and take the time to cross their T's and dot their I's, before submitting work to be published.

Not to mention the impact that this will have on the public perception of all scientists, if the problem continues to grow unchecked.

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#65
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Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/20/2012 6:48 PM

You have an error here - "funding committees" and "political bodies in some cases" are, if they still exist at all, no more than a tiny minority governing perhaps 'pure research' funding. The vast bulk of funding for research - especially in biomedical - is corporate sponsored. You cannot get government funding any more except for "matched funds" for research which has been cherry picked and approved by industry funding.

It's all about the corporation who is paying the tab for their own interests. If they don't like the results, they have the right to withhold it from publication. So the scientist who finds that product X is ineffective or unsafe is also screwing his/her own career because the sponsor can and will refuse publication.

"Sexy" "in thing" BS, these designations are for journalists not journals. Two things are a virtual guarantee of publication in medical research: (1) large database, and (2) statistically significant positive results.

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#30

Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/19/2012 4:32 AM

Hello to all,

I have a rather ignorant question:

The OP, and the linked article regards specifically 'retractions'. What investigation or other input caused the retractions? I assume they are not retracted by the original person submitting. Does it come from scientific peers or other staff who review the article?

Which leads to, if the article is published and later found to be errant or possibly even fraudulent, is the real problem with the publisher or with the 'bad' scientist? If the publisher is doing so without their own checks and balances, that seems a larger risk than just pointing at the scientist.

Just a thought.

Kind regards ...

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#31
In reply to #30

Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/19/2012 6:12 AM

I did a little digging yesterday, put up my results, and forgot to push the submit button.........................all was lost. I hate when that happens.

The graph came from The Journal Of Medical Ethics, which says they are a "peer reviewed" journal.

This is an interesting site, also linked in the original article:

http://retractionwatch.wordpress.com/2011/10/12/thats-a-mori-seven-more-retractions-brings-latest-count-to-30/

The link on the right of the page lists, (known), retractions, by author, country, institution, etc. It was a little alarming that US retractions far outnumbered those of other countries, but could be due to the sheer volume of papers submitted from the US.

Since many of these papers come from university settings, I would think that the professors would insist on a stringent "in house" review, before allowing the papers to be released to the public.

I thought about the publishers too, but in order for them to insure the accuracy of the papers, wouldn't they have to go through every aspect of them with a fine tooth comb? I don't think we can blame them.

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#34
In reply to #31

Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/19/2012 11:44 AM

Afaik there is no such thing as a required 'in-house' review of the science by peers at a university before the individual can submit their work for publication.

There is an ethics review that takes place prior to the research. IMHO a stringent assessment of the scientific value and validity of the methods should also take place at this stage - especially for research involving human subjects. This at least would limit the publication of research with flawed methods and unsupported conclusions, the unintentional errors. Deliberate misconduct is much harder to address.

Also afaik the peer review process at the journal involves scientists who volunteer their time to do the review (at least, this was always the case in the past). This means the peer reviewers are subject to various stresses (overworked, not enough time, time away from $$$making activity....) and possibly self-interested pressures (the peer you review today may be reviewing your work tomorrow). These pressures apply to ethics review boards as well, and the boards are primarily made up of parties who are themselves involved in research. Where the 'scratch my back' mentality doesn't prevail, the pressure to expedite review and approval still leaves room for a-plenty errors.

As for deliberate misconduct, in the case of medical research, the industry sponsors stand to profit from publications that show product X is safe and effective, whether it is true or not! The cost of the lawsuits from persons harmed by product X don't come close to the dollar amount which is gained in sales by the time those lawsuits are filed. Even the fines they pay when misconduct is identified are trivial in comparison with the profits! The fact that some people die or suffer permanent harms as a result does not matter to the corporation, as long as the bottom line is favourable. So, in the case of medical research with corporate sponsors, there is clearly a motive to get the right 'results' by any means.

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#32

Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/19/2012 10:44 AM

Hmmm, character does matter after all.

So many in our society push the idea that if a person has a good motive for being deceitful, it's ok. No, it's not! When we go down the slippery slope of everyone doing what is right in their own eyes we wind up with reports like this in the OP. Remember Bill Clinton and the scandals; remember Enron and many other notable people and companies? What people are inside is more important than what they do or know. How well they DO things is simply a manifestation of the inside character. And the more visible the person or company, the larger the impact of that good or bad character.

If someone has character, integrity and courage there is none of this purposeful misleading of data and information so that they will look better or gain some sort of benefit.

That isn't to say that there may be legitimate mistakes made in research, etc. but when that is pointed out, a person of character will acknowledge their mistake, take responsibility for it and seek to right the wrong.

When someone desires recognition, either monetarily or though peers, let it be for noble reasons and through honorable means. Anything less is worthless.

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#33
In reply to #32

Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/19/2012 10:49 AM

Very good, and excellent examples. I can say, one doesnt learn from history.

The peer or public acceptance for a lack of substance is a disease.

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#35
In reply to #32

Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/19/2012 11:54 AM

GA. One of the things that really illustrates how harmful this type of thing is, and may have set up the the entire cascade of increasingly bad information, is global warming.

Without rehashing the entire debate again on here, I think it's a perfect example of papers being written up and quickly published, that are full of fabrications, omissions, etc. The lack of peer review, combined with the rush to get anything published that fit the agenda, has wreaked global havoc...............and continues to. The debate should have taken place among the scientific community, before it was turned into a political football and released to the public.

Now that the genie is out of the bottle, everyone is confused on the issue, and I believe that the general public has questions as to whether those in the scientific community can be trusted at all.

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#38
In reply to #35

Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/19/2012 1:03 PM

Global warming? who knows....Air pollution is not a theory though, and it's effect on the health of the inhabitants here is not speculation, so lets not throw the genetically engineered baby out with the desalinated bath water...

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#39
In reply to #38

Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/19/2012 1:33 PM

Global warming? who knows

Exactly.

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#40

Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/19/2012 2:42 PM

More generally, this is a subset of "hoaxes." Hoaxes are usually complete fabrication, while a paper that has "tweaked" data isn't that blatant -- or maybe it is.

I found quite a number of pages about scientific hoaxes. Some were of the ilk of "Top 10." I'm only going to reference one because it happens to contain a revered name in Physics -- Sir Arthur Eddington (#6 on this particular list). I had never seen it, or if I did, it didn't register at the time.

Does the description of it seem similar to "fudging" data? Was the math of relativity, in Eddington's mind, convincing him that there were errors in the procedure that led to "bad" plates? It's a questionable item on the list. This article discusses the vindication of Einstein's theory and, by inference, Eddington's judgment in throwing out the plates.

Other hoaxes on the list haven't been rescued.

For this thread, a key feature of hoaxing, is the act of throwing out results -- or in the case of the papers cited here, data being changed or "manipulated." In Eddington's case, his knowledge of the theory of Relativity had convinced him of the results he should get from the plates of the eclipse. But, strictly speaking, it was still throwing out data. And keeping them as part of the whole data set would have made the conclusions more dubious without some explanation of them. So was he wrong in discarding results because they made his case more difficult to make? I don't know. I'd be interested what others here think.

Motives? Usually it comes down to reputation. And reputation is mostly linked with anticipated power and money -- or the fall from that height. Notoriety usually brings these in abundance. (For an entertainment interlude expressing the phenomena we have all had some experience of, greater or lesser... "Everybody Loves A Winner." I've always liked this version.)

I do think this is amplified by media in the information age, and does pose more of a problem that in the past. I'm not sure there is much one can do about it. It isn't only in science. The New York Times had it's Jayson Blair Affair. I feel confident it can be found across all human activity. It's basically lying or hiding the truth, as in the case of tobacco companies, drug manufacturers, the military (Pat Tillman), and on and on.

The vast majority (I don't have the numbers right at my fingertips ) of us are trying to do our best to decipher the truth as presented to us. And we are dependent on a relatively few experts to not mislead us.

This is important because of issues like GW. No one has mentioned GW in this thread until now. But this subject of data manipulation is extremely important in that debate. There are "models." Weather forecasters refer to our "models," plural. Same for hurricane path predictions. Picking a model is a little like manipulating data, in that you'll likely pick one that you are predisposed to -- agree with the results it produces. The fear of the possible of dire consequences connected with worst-case predictions, alone, might predispose one to prefer one model over another. That's not sinister, just human. Likewise, the threat of creating chaos in the business or financial world because of decisions based on these fears, might easily predispose another person to accept a different model or results. Both "fears" have merit because of large, widespread consequences.

The essence of all of this is the problem of lying (and cheating). Unless we have learned some of the ways data and statistics are presented in to us manipulative ways, the public can be hood-winked. (And I couldn't help noticing that the first slide in that last link, as an example, is "San Diego ocean temperatures. Think GW was on the presenter's mind?) The public "decides" how to accept much scientific knowledge from popular science reporting. And that can be misleading just as much as manipulated data in scientific papers. And is dishonesty becoming more accepted as a path to "success?" (Now I have to look up the Josephson Institute.)

And I'm still pondering Eddington's eclipse.

(WHEW! I need to cut back on the coffee.)

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#41
In reply to #40

Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/19/2012 2:45 PM

I guess this got labeled OT because it was linked to responses already marked that way. I didn't intentionally do it.

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#43
In reply to #40

Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/19/2012 3:51 PM

I also do note GW was mentioned before I posted. I just missed it, or was typing at the time and did not go back to reread posts.

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#45
In reply to #40

Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/19/2012 4:12 PM

I'm not sure if the intentional misleading by modern scientists would be considered hoaxes. And I'm certainly never surprised to hear that someone lied or manipulated facts, in the media, political or business world...................anything coming from any of the three should be taken with a grain of salt.

I suppose I could be just guilty of holding scientists in higher esteem than most. I'll never like it when they get caught, intentionally messing with the data. This particular article was about biomedical research and published papers. WTF are they thinking?

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#47
In reply to #45

Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/19/2012 8:34 PM

I know all the answers.

42.

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#56
In reply to #47

Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/20/2012 1:29 PM

Dominoes??

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#57
In reply to #45

Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/20/2012 1:30 PM

That they won't get caught?

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#66
In reply to #57

Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/20/2012 6:50 PM

Oh, not only unlikely to get caught, but who cares about getting caught, because if you do, it's a slap on the wrist and that's about all.

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#68
In reply to #66

Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/21/2012 7:16 AM

Just to summarize my thoughts on the issue. Mistakes are one thing. A big deal, but not a huge deal.

Outright lying and falsifying in scientific papers, if proved, should mean you are finished. End of story. A slap on the wrist isn't cutting it.

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#69
In reply to #68

Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/21/2012 7:38 AM

I agree. I think that both academic and medical 'self-regulation' privileges have been pushed to the limit... In the era of corporate sponsorship and profit motives driving research, deliberate falsification is apparently a big temptation, and there comes a point where the line of the law is crossed. The punishment should be the same as any criminal case.

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#70
In reply to #69

Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/21/2012 8:05 AM

It's a little different than a legal case. For sure, an ethical line has been crossed, although I don't think jail time would accomplish much....................or if it did, it might be overkill.

We wouldn't want the punishment to be so harsh as to dissuade young people from pursuing science. If a lawyer is caught doing something that may be small potatoes from a strictly legal sense, it doesn't take much in the way of improper behavior to get their licenses pulled and get disbarred. It's a career killer. I think something along those lines would be appropriate for scientists as well.

I think this is an apt comparison. If a lawyer cheats and lies in a case, the ripple effect goes well beyond the individual, and creates doubt in our entire justice/judicial system. Same goes with cheating scientists................................the ethical lapses cast shadow on the entire field, which is totally unfair to the majority of them that play by the rules.

I disagree with the doctor's assertion, (from the article), that a major overhaul has to take place. I believe a simple "zero tolerance" policy would do the trick. If a scientist gets published or submits a paper, and it is found that they knowingly submitted false data, any paper in the future that has his/her name on it, will be summarily rejected. I think the threat of being relegated to a supporting role for the rest of their lives would be pretty powerful.

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#71
In reply to #70

Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/21/2012 8:52 AM

This is a little off topic, but it illustrates the importance of absolute integrity in certain fields.

Here in NC there was an incident in which forensic analysts with the state crime lab, (scientists), were found to be doctoring blood evidence to help the prosecution to secure guilty verdicts. At the cost of millions of dollars, they are having to backtrack every case these people were involved with.

Some people have been released from prison as a result. In my mind, a proper punishment for those involved, would be to have them go serve out the terms of those that were wrongly imprisoned based on bogus evidence.

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#72
In reply to #71

Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/21/2012 9:11 PM

Well there you have it! When people are harmed as a result of scientific fraud, a fitting punishment should apply.

Doctoring forensic evidence is surely the worst of all. There was a notorious case here in Canada the last year or so, a forensic pathologist named Charles Smith who put quite a number of innocent parents in jail for the death of their children, with no valid evidence to support his claims. Not only they were wrongfully jailed for seven years or more, a number of them also lost the custody of their other children. Losing his license... doesn't quite cut it.

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#73
In reply to #70

Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/22/2012 5:09 AM

Kramarat: You wrote: '...If a lawyer is caught doing something that may be small potatoes from a strictly legal sense, it doesn't take much in the way of improper behavior to get their licenses pulled and get disbarred. It's a career killer. I think something along those lines would be appropriate for scientists as well....'

Two things to think about:

1. Efficacy: your common sense solution seems very appropriate and even-handed, but how well can we expect it to work? Has the approach worked so well that the word 'lawyers' brings to group of people in which you would rarely find someone who would help you bend or break the rules?

2. Governance: who will wield the power to allow or forbid scientific experimentation and publishing thereof? How can we be certain that corruption will not reach those who govern?

I think a more effective solution lies in more rigorous and widespread training on how to properly evaluate scientific research papers.

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#58
In reply to #45

Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/20/2012 1:36 PM

To me, a hoax is "intent to deceive." From that view the transgressions are basically the same.

"... media, political or business world..." That covers just about everyone! And is the salt causing us high blood pressure??

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#42

Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/19/2012 3:47 PM

Deleted by passingtongreen. not on track.

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#44
In reply to #42

Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/19/2012 3:56 PM

Kinda, sorta, but different. From the article:

No one claims that science was ever free of misconduct or bad research. Indeed, the scientific method itself is intended to overcome mistakes and misdeeds. When scientists make a new discovery, others review the research skeptically before it is published. And once it is, the scientific community can try to replicate the results to see if they hold up.

But critics like Dr. Fang and Dr. Casadevall argue that science has changed in some worrying ways in recent decades - especially biomedical research, which consumes a larger and larger share of government science spending.

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#46

Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/19/2012 8:28 PM

there are some dodgy "scientists" out there like what happened in Holland.

http://www.nature.com/news/2011/111101/full/479015a.html

it just shows that the paper review system is seriously lacking

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#59
In reply to #46

Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/20/2012 1:39 PM

It's actually looking to be more systemic... as if we've (modern societies) have lowered the bar for the acceptability of lying or deceiving.

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#62
In reply to #59

Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/20/2012 1:50 PM

In the US, it starts in high school. From what I understand it's not even frowned upon anymore......................."everyone does it" is the common attitude.

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#63
In reply to #59

Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/20/2012 2:03 PM

I think you're correct in the lowering of standards and what we see as acceptable. It isn't just in the area of this type of research publishing, it is seen in instances where students are caught cheating, adulterous relationships, businesses who misrepresent services or products, out of wedlock pregnancy, etc. Many of these instances take place and there is very little, if any, real consequence or stigma.

There was a game called LIFE that was produced in the 1860's or so, where success in the game was measured by virture and vice. Milton Bradley bought the rights for the game in, I think 1890, and the definition/measure of success deteriorated from there. The latest version talks about success is the same whether you donate a kidney, go scuba diving all day or do something green to save the planet. That is a small indicator that shows the degradation of values and standards. Many of our kids don't get any guidance at home because the parents are both gone chasing the almighty dollar, trying to keep up with the Jones's and neglect the things in their lives that truly have value, their children. The kids don't see a life of integrity lived out before them so they have nothing to model their lives after.

These kids grow up and become the ones who do the research, publish data, hold public office and seek recognition for something they haven't done, or done properly. We are simply reaping the results of no absolute standards of right and wrong and holding people accountable.

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#64
In reply to #63

Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/20/2012 3:12 PM

You're right.........................kinda naive to think that science would be immune.

On a happier note. I'm not willing to paint science, or anything else, with too broad of a brush. There's a short article in this month's Popular Science about a guy that decided to build a small, portable, cheap x-ray machine...........................not only did he do it................he's 15 years old.

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#67
In reply to #63

Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/20/2012 7:04 PM

I beg your pardon, but while I agree with your general condemnation of dishonest, cheating behaviour in society, I do not see how "out of wedlock pregnancy" has anything to do with dishonest cheating behaviour!

Having sex and/or getting pregnant out of wedlock is a result of natural and innocent behaviour by young adults, and has nothing to do with the authentic vices: greed, dishonesty, etc. which are relevant to this discussion. Getting pregnant out of wedlock is also a reasoned decision made by mature adults in this day and age, who want children and who do not have or want the "wedlock". There's nothing immoral about pregnancy or about choosing to have a child, wedlock or none.

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#74
In reply to #67

Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/23/2012 8:29 AM

Well, I guesss it depends upon whether I make all the decisions of what is right and wrong or whether I follow another set of guidelines to live by.

"the authentic vices: greed, dishonesty, etc." Not living a principled life is included along with your "authentic vices". It has to do with character and our willingness to abide by principles that do work and don't have any detrimental side effects. Living without character and principles do have a whole slew of negative effects; STD's, pregnancy, lives in ruin, drug and alcohol abuse, child abuse, broken family relationships, teen runaways, suicide, abortion (over 50,000,000 babies killed since 1973), the list could go on and on.

There is a huge amount of data that shows how detrimental it is for babies to be born as a result of poor decision-making on the part of teens. We have babies (immature children/teens) having babies without being mature enough or equipped to handle the responsibility of raising and providing for them. They are worse off financially as they grow up and tend to be in need of the government tit to make it by. There are exceptions to each scenario, but the social data shows this to be true. It is a down-the-drain spiral that will continue unless people have a change of heart.

"Getting pregnant out of wedlock is also a reasoned decision made by mature adults in this day and age, who want children and who do not have or want the "wedlock"." How's this scenario working out for us? The family unit should be the backbone of our society and yet we are experiencing more and more dysfunction in the behavior of our kids and break up of those loose relationships. It is partly because there isn't a high level of commitment by the parents to the relationship. They have "planned failure" by not being committed enough to the relationship to get married and show their offspring the proper way to make a family unit work. If people won't be committed enough to act with character in a relationship with someone they "love", how committed will they be to acting with character in their work environments?

There are many types of behavior that are symptomatic of people's character or lack thereof. A life of high character leaves clues and they aren't broken relationships, abuse, cheating, lying and misrepresentation of facts like the OP talked about.

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#61
In reply to #46

Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/20/2012 1:47 PM

Yikes!! I would call that fairly serious.................to put it lightly.

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#48

Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/19/2012 9:37 PM

Yes, and just when we thought they were in the Pink, if you get my drift.

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#54
In reply to #48

Re: Is Competition Leading To Bad Science?

04/20/2012 6:47 AM

I gotcha.

I almost used the "A" word in the title, but thought better of it.

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