What to do about scientific fraud? The recent disclosure that a researcher at New York City's Mount Sinai School of Medicine had faked data on a patent application for hemophilia drugs was only the latest such scandal. Considering the explosive growth in research, it is no surprise that chicanery is also rising.
Science writers William J. Broad and Nicholas Wade have put together a valuable, entertaining account of science fraud, not so much by obvious cranks and charlatans as by respected scientists who betrayed their calling from within the mainstream. Their book, titled Betrayers of the Truth ( Simon and Schuster, 1982), contains fresh accounts of René Blondlot and his imaginary N-rays, Charles Dawson and his Piltdown man, Paul Kammerer and his phony midwife toads, and other classic frauds. Most of the booic, however, concentrates on more recent examples of deception--deliberate, unconscious, or half-intended--especially in medical research, where human lives and lots of money are at stake.
Why do they do it? Why do bright young men like John Long, investigating Hodgkin's disease, and William Summerlin, working on tissue transplants, shatter their medical careers by faking results? Why did Elias Alsabti shamelessly plagiarize the work of others? What motivated Cyril Burt, England's distinguished psychologist, to fabricate his data on identical twins? In most cases the answer is obvious: There are enormous academic and financial pressures to produce.
The authors' recommendations are hard to fault. Published papers should be fewer in number and better refereed, peer reviewing of applications for financial support should be improved, top scientists should stop seeking credit for work by underlings, and so on. But Broad and Wade move to shakier ground when they attack philosophers and scientists for holding views that the authors believe encourage fraud.
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