Is our faith in the High Priests of Science misplaced?
The problem with ‘science’ is that it has been misplaced in the hierarchy of methods of investigating and understanding things, it has been incorrectly elevated to the role of the High Priest of knowledge and wisdom and as such, it has sought to provide answers where its role should be limited to that of observation, experiment and measurement. Is it this elevation of science to a level which it really does not deserve that tempts many scientists to act in dishonest ways to further or maintain their own professional or personal status within their own discipline within the scientific community?
A recurring theme of dishonesty and plagiarism occurs throughout the history of science in the work of people such as Ptolemy, Galileo, Newton and Einstein to name just a few. Is the dubious behavior of such figures a contributory cause or result of their iconic status? Is it surprising that if such iconic figures can engage in unethical behavior that ‘lesser’ scientists follow the trend? Why is science not sufficiently self-regulating and self-correcting?
Then moving on to more profound questions, we ask what damage is caused to Science by fraud, plagiarism and other unprofessional behavior? And, of particularly great importance, to what extent have these actions created false or flawed scientific paradigms and what blind alleys and over what periods of time have these possibly false paradigms delayed true scientific advancement?
Sadly, we do see in science not just a few bad apples but a systemic problem with misconduct. The following statement by Fanelli is shocking, “Among research trainees in biomedical sciences at the University of California San Diego 4.9% said they had modified research results in the past, 81% were willing to select, omit or fabricate data to win a grant or publish a paper.”This is the next generation of scientists who should be striving to maintain the highest levels of integrity in their chosen professions.