July 17, 2005

Great Moments in the Objectivity of Science

Are you kidding me?
According to an eye-popping article in the June 9 Nature, about one-third of more than 3,200 polled U.S. researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health self-reported serious scientific misbehavior during the three years prior to being surveyed.

High responses for serious infractions came in categories such as "Failing to present data that contradict one's own previous research" (6% of respondents), "Changing the design, methodology or results of a study in response to pressure from a funding source" (15.5%) and for lesser categories such as "Dropping … data … based on a gut feeling that they were inaccurate" (15.3%). Because the answers are self-reported, the polling researchers think the results may be underestimated. The researchers speculate that misbehaviors are keyed to "perceptions of inequities in the [science] resource distribution" process, and argue that identifying those perceptions might aid the promotion of scientific integrity.
And given that the press OVER-reports the significance and depth of what "research suggests" or "scientists have proved" and it sure feels like more than half of what we read is just plain wrong.