March 4, 2024

Can you trust scientists? Yes, but only 66% of them

How many falsify data?

After doctors and teachers, scientists
belong to the most
trusted profession
in the US. So the results of a
meta-analysis of their honesty is more than a little jarring. In an
article in the journal PLoS One, Daniele Fanelli, a researcher
at the University of Edinburgh found that about 2% of researchers had
"fabricated, falsified or modified data or results at least
once" and that up to 34% had admitted other questionable
research practices. "Considering that these surveys ask
sensitive questions and have other limitations, it appears likely
that this is a conservative estimate of the true prevalence of
scientific misconduct," he writes.

Even more unsettling for those
interested in bioethics, it appears that medical and pharmacological
researchers are the worst offenders. This supports growing fears that
financial incentives are corrupting biomedical science.

Some peculiar findings emerged from the
study. Over the years, more scientists say that they have observed
colleagues cheating — but fewer say that they cheat themselves. How
could this be? Dr Fanelli says that there has been much more
insistence upon professional integrity in recent years. However,"
he says wryly, "there is little evidence that researchers
trained in recognizing and dealing with scientific misconduct have a
lower propensity to commit it." So much for moral progress! ~
One, May