Scientists are assumed to be unbiased, purely rational, doggedly factual. However, publicly exposed scientific frauds are helping to dispel that notion.

Several recent articles by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) focused on the problem of unpublished clinical research trial data. University of Oxford’s Richard Lehman and journal editor Elizabeth Loder wrote of “a current culture of haphazard publication and incomplete data disclosure [that] make the proper analysis of the harms and benefits of common interventions almost impossible for systematic reviewers.”1

Here’s a sampling of recent issues that illustrate the problem:

  • Massachusetts anesthesiologist Scott Reuben fabricated data that appeared in some or all of 21 journal articles he’s written since at least 1996.2
  • The BMJ suggested that the British parliament form an inquiry into the fraudulent research of Andrew Wakefield, whose 1998 article linking MMR vaccinations to autism was found to be “an elaborate fraud.”3
  • Korean researcher Hwang Woo Suk faked the creation of stem cells that he reported in the journal Science.4 Also, his 2005 claim of having cloned the world’s first dog was proven false, though both patient-specific stem cells and dog cloning are now realities.5
  • “And November [2011] saw the dramatic arrest and brief jailing of Judy Mikovits, prominent for her work (now partially retracted) linking chronic fatigue syndrome to a virus.”6

The problem of publication bias—in which manuscripts are only accepted for publication if they align with the reviewers’ predisposed ideologies—has a long history.7 It is a life-threatening problem if data critical to accurate medical treatment is withheld from researchers. For this reason, the “fraud” alarms ring faster and louder within the medical sciences. How much more easily can researchers just make up results when it comes to more historical sciences such as biology or anthropology?….

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