Modern frauds in science
| Poetry of reality|
|We must know. |
We will know.
|A view from the|
shoulders of giants.
The history of science is thoroughly sprinkled with fraud and deceit of various sorts. Some people want a quick trip to fame and fortune, so fudging a number here, changing one there is easy enough if you've no scruples. Of course, the processes of independent verification and peer review often expose frauds relatively quickly. Frauds should not be confused with unintentional mistakes, or legitimately misreading an outcome, giving too much weight to some data, or forming conclusions too quickly.
Andrew Wakefield (1998)
Dr. Andrew Wakefield (1957-) wrote a (in)famous 1998 study purported to show that autism is linked to vaccination. By 2005 the findings of the study were soundly refuted, and by 2011 evidence mounted that the entire study was a fraud. Ethical concerns were also raised about Wakefield's conduct and resulted in him being struck from the medical register in 2010. However, the damage had already been done, as the study is still being quoted to this day by certain people with an ax to grind.
Jan Hendrik Schön (2001)
A German physicist, Jan Hendrik Schön (1970-), briefly rose to a position of prominence after seemingly having a series of astonishing breakthroughs in several experiments using semiconductors. These "breakthroughs" were later discovered to be fraudulent, but not before he had received the 2001 Otto-Klung-Weberbank Prize for Physics in 2001, the 2001 Braunschweig Prize and the 2002 Outstanding Young Investigator Award of the Materials Research Society. All were subsequently rescinded. The story is the subject of the book "Plastic Fantastic".
Victor Ninov (2002)
Victor Ninov (1959-) was a former nuclear chemist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, most well-known for falsely claiming to have found evidence for the existence of element 118, referred to as "ununoctium". When other scientists attempted to replicate the experiments said to lead to the creation of ununoctium, they were unable to do the same. Ninov was then exposed for his scandal and was shamed out of the scientific community. The fact that science managed to quickly expose this fraud shows why independent verifiability is an important part of science.
Edward Wegman (2006)
Edward Wegman is a statistician at George Mason University known for producing a report disputing paleoclimate data and models concerning the "hockey stick" temperature graph relating to climate change. One version of the report published in a statistics journal was retracted after it was found that major chunks of it were plagiarized from Wikipedia and cribbed from various textbooks. Wegman and the report are the subject of an ongoing investigation at the university.
Marc Hauser (2010)
Marc Hauser (1959-) is a former evolutionary biologist who resigned his academic post at Harvard University in 2011 after the university began an investigation into his laboratory the previous year. Hauser's experimental work dealt largely with primatology and studying animal behavior, placing this in the interdisciplinary contexts of evolutionary psychology, cognitive science, animal cognition, and physical and cultural anthropology. Harvard charged him with eight counts of scientific misconduct, three involving published papers, one of which was ultimately retracted. Discrepancies between the published description of his research design and his field notes and video recordings have been found. How much data was fabricated for these three papers is still under debate, but this casts a shadow of doubt over his large body of published research.
Diederik Stapel (up to 2011)
Diederik Stapel (1966-) is a former professor of social psychology at Tilburg University. He was also a dean of the faculty. He was fired after he admitted data manipulation and fabrication of data. This data was used in at least 12 dissertations and thirty peer reviewed articles. He himself published many peer reviewed articles, but it is not yet publicly known which of his publications are based on faked or manipulated data. He acted alone and the twelve PhDs will not be retracted. Stapel received his own PhD at the university of Amsterdam, which the university attempted to retract because of exceptionally unworthy behavior. On 9 November 2011, Stapel voluntarily returned his PhD to the university.
- Retraction Watch, a blog covering instances of fraud, plagiarism, fabrication, conflicts of interest, and other ethical issues in science.
- “Vaccines cause autism” theory now suspected to be fraud
- Orac: "Piltdown" medicine: Andrew Wakefield's scientific fraud was worse than previously thought
- MMR row doctor Andrew Wakefield struck off register
- Reich, Eugenie Samuel (2009). Plastic fantastic : how the biggest fraud in physics shook the scientific world (1st ed.). New York: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-230-22467-4.
- See the Wikipedia article on Marc Hauser.
- Official English report by the committee that investigated Stapel, chaired by Willem ("Pim") Levelt