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How infallible are scientists?

How honest are scientists? Most people in the general populace probably take scientists and researchers at face value but a recent paper published in the Public Library of Science by Daniele Fanelli of the University of Edinburgh suggests it is commoner than scientists would like the rest of the world to believe.

"Admissions of outright fraud (ie, having fabricated, falsified or modified data to improve the outcome at least once during a scientific career) were low. According to the meta-analysis, 2% of researchers questioned were willing to confess to this. But lower-level fraud was rife. About 10% confessed to questionable practices, such as “dropping data points based on a gut feeling” or “failing to present data that contradict one’s previous research”—though this figure was just a straight average of the underlying studies, since the relevant parts of the underlying studies were too disparate to run through the meta-analysis."

"Moreover, when it came to airing suspicions about colleagues, the numbers went up. The meta-analysis suggested that 14% of researchers in the underlying studies had seen their colleagues fabricate, falsify, alter or modify data. If the question was posed in more general terms, such as running experiments with deficient methods, failing to report deficiencies or misrepresenting data, the straight average suggested that 46% of researchers had seen others get up to such shenanigans. In only half of the cases, though, had the respondent to a survey tried to do anything about the misconduct he said he had witnessed."
 
 

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