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.

  • Dec 22 2012: The current evidence of research fraud may provide a serious under-estimate of the problem. We are assuming that once a research institute discovers that it is employing a fraudster, it will take corrective action.
    But fraud damages an institute’s reputation. So there is a strong temptation to bury fraud instead of exposing it.
    Detecting this institutional or “meta-fraud” is particularly difficult because of our wishful thinking that research institutes as collective bodies are honest. We must break out of this mindset in order to defend the integrity of science.
    An example of meta-fraud and the mindset that prevents its exposure is presented at
    • thumb
      Dec 22 2012: Or is the reverse true- that it is an aspect of modern culture, at least in some places, for so many people to suspect/believe fraud is rampant among others, even when the actual evidence suggests the extent is very small?

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.