Nature says: Face up to fraud

Interesting editorial in today’s issue of Nature. Some excerpts:

Face up to fraud

Many people in science would rather not talk about the problem of research misconduct, much less act on it. After all, who directly involved would benefit from a serious crackdown? Certainly not the institutions at which the misconduct takes place — they are nominally responsible, but can face legal repercussions, embarrassing headlines and a public-relations disaster if they expose cheating academics.
A big part of the problem is the lack of perceived risk associated with misconduct. Some fraudulent researchers might be sociopaths who don’t care about the rules, but many others simply believe that they can anticipate the outcome of a research project, and see no downside to fabricating the required results to save time, or tweaking results to achieve a stronger signal. Either way, stronger action and punishments are needed to discourage such misbehaviour.
Could publications such as this one do more to deter cheats? Unfortunately, we are often in no position to flag up even proven cases of misconduct, and thereby highlight the risks that miscreants run with their careers. Yes, it is a journal’s primary job to clean up the literature, but when papers are retracted owing to misconduct, the libel laws (again) often prevent our editors from saying so. We know that this leaves the affected communities frustrated and in the dark. It leaves us frustrated, too.

They don’t specifically mention “climate science” – but they don’t excuse it, either! And I’m not convinced that “publications such as [Nature]” could not do more to restore integrity to science.

Read the whole article.

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