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The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports tonight on a disturbing revelation in the world of research science. The University of Minnesota recently surveyed American research scientists and found that a third of them regularly broke rules and ethical guidelines meant to certify the validity of the research, including changing the results based on pressure from donors:
One in three U.S. scientists admitted in an anonymous survey that they committed scientific misconduct in the previous three years, according to a report by a team of Minnesota researchers.
While falsifying research is uncommon, the survey found that 33 percent of scientists admitted breaking rules, large and small, that are supposed to ensure the honesty of their work, the authors report in the British journal Nature.
The types of misbehavior range from claiming credit for someone else's work, to changing results because of pressure from the sponsor.
"Our findings suggest that U.S. scientists engage in a range of behaviors extending far beyond falsification, fabrication and plagiarism that can damage the integrity of science," the authors write in a commentary piece in tomorrow's journal.
The survey, which was led by Brian Martinson of the HealthPartners Research Foundation in Bloomington, questioned more than 3,200 scientists around the country about a long list of questionable actions. They range from outright fraud to improper relationships with research subjects.
The good news is that less than one percent admitted to outright falsification, but 15% amended either the design, methods, or results of their research because of pressure from donors or sponsors. The Strib's article doesn't explain the subtle difference between the two, and one suspects that the scientists probably didn't either. Less than two percent had improper personal relationships with test subjects or student assistants, and seven percent cut corners in using humans as test subjects.
With a survey sample of 3,200 scientists and a maximum range of three years, that would mean that the numbers add up to this:
* 480 scientists changed the underlying design, method, or result of scientific research
* 30 outright falsified their findings
* 45 engaged in "improper relationships" with subjects or students
* 225 disregarded rules protecting human subjects
And all of this happened in the past three years. A 33% corruption rate is an astounding statistic, especially considering the nature of the work done by these scientists. Academic institutions and professional societies need to step forward and address these concerns immediately. Credibility is all these institutions have, and if they lose that, none of their research will be trusted in the future.
Of course, in order to understand the problem, one has to rely on the researchers who compiled this survey and reported its results...Sphere It View blog reactions
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» Whither scientific Ethics? from JawsBlog
Captain Ed has a post up this evening which is rather depressing: The Modern Scientific Method: Cheating This story is very depressing to say the very least. What ever happened to scientific integrety? Is this why I (and other Life Sciences) graduat... [Read More]
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