TED Conversations


This conversation is closed.

How Many Scientists Fabricate and Falsify Research?

Is science misconduct an aberration or a common practice? Unintentional corruption of the factual record is commonplace, not so much as a deliberate attempt to engage in fraud but simply because that is accepted practice and procedure in a discipline.

In geology it is common practice to present the best or clearest example of a particular rock type, beddding characteristics, expression of faults and folds, etc. You don't present the average photographs or "the train wrecks" you present the best examples of your field work. Is this fraud? Not if you are a geologist, but some other scientists working in other disciplines not familiar with practice and procedure in your discipline.might brand that as fraud.

Here is some sobering data when it comes to what we expect in the coming years in science:

How Many Scientists Fabricate and Falsify Research? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Survey Data

Daniele Fanelli

"To standardize outcomes, the number of respondents who recalled at least one incident of misconduct was calculated for each question, and the analysis was limited to behaviours that distort scientific knowledge: fabrication, falsification, “cooking” of data, etc.

A pooled weighted average of 1.97% (N = 7, 95%CI: 0.86–4.45) of scientists admitted to have fabricated, falsified or modified data or results at least once –a serious form of misconduct by any standard– and up to 33.7% admitted other questionable research practices. In surveys asking about the behaviour of colleagues, admission rates were 14.12% (N = 12, 95% CI: 9.91–19.72) for falsification, and up to 72% for other questionable research practices. Meta-regression showed that self reports surveys, surveys using the words “falsification” or “fabrication” “fabrication”, and mailed surveys yielded lower percentages of misconduct. When these factors were controlled for, misconduct was reported more frequently by medical/pharmacological researchers than others.


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Dec 21 2012: .
    Fraudulent information by a small margin of scientists (for reasons I'm not entirely sure of) isn't too significant of a factor due to the falsification model that science is bound by.

    Claims must be substantiated, repeatable, correlative with other facts associated with it (if applicable) and must have detailed analysis of the step-by-step procedure done to reach the conclusion.
    This is why when select scientists do attempt to fabricate results, its eventually found to be so when the test/claim is repeated.

    Not to say that we should accept this type of behavior in any way/degree.
    Anyone found doing so should be fired and have their credentials revoked immediately.
    But still, the point is that it isn't as problematic as it may seem.
    • Dec 21 2012: That depends on what you define as "problematic". When the majority of recent graduates say that they would alter, falsify or omit data if meant getting a paper published or a grant approved, I define that as "problematic".

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.