Sunday, January 20th 2013, 6:35 AM EST
Science fraud, plagiarism, cherry-picked results, poor or non-existent controls, confirmation bias, opaque, missing, or unavailable data, and stonewalling when questioned have gone from being rare to being everyday occurrences.
Those of us concerned about the decaying credibility of Big Science were dismayed to learn that the whistleblower site Science Fraud has been shut down due to a barrage of legal threats against its operator. With billions of dollars in federal science funding hinging on the integrity of academic researchers, and billions more in health care dollars riding on the truthfulness of pharmaceutical research claims, the industry needs more websites like this, not fewer.
Regular readers of Retraction Watch, a watchdog site run by two medical reporters, got the news along with a story about the blog’s anonymous editor, who has since come forward and identified himself as Professor Paul Brookes, a researcher at the University of Rochester. Operated as a crowdsourced reference site much like Wikipedia, Science Fraud, in its six months of operation, documented egregiously suspicious research results published in over 300 peer reviewed publications. Many were subsequently retracted, including a paper by an author whose lawyer sent Science Fraud a cease and desist letter.
Given the tens of millions of dollars in misappropriated research funds that financed this small sample of what is surely a larger problem and the cascading pollution of the scientific literature whenever fraudulent publications get cited, it’s a shame that this tip-of-of-the-iceberg effort at cleansing the muck is being shut down rather than expanded.