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#32121 - 01/10/06 11:04 PM Scientific Fraud: Lies, damn lies, and (fabricated) statistics
voiceofreason Moderator
Ching Shih


Registered: 04/27/02
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There've been a couple of high-profile scientific fraud cases in recent months -- South Korean researcher Hwang Woo-suk appears to have fabricated all of his research on stem cells from cloned human embryos and MIT immunologist Luk Van Parijs has been fired after an investigation into several papers published in the 1990s.

I'm always horrified and fascinated by this sort of thing; did they really think they'd get away with it? Van Parijs appears to have reused figures within the same paper, which surely was going to get noticed at some point (which begs the question, why didn't anyone notice it for 5+ years?).

Both cases have their interesting points -- one thing that strikes me about the Van Parijs case is that according to what I've read (there's a Boston Globe article here ) the fabricated data were only a small part of the overall experiment, did not effect the outcome of the experiment, and would probably have been pretty easy to get for real. Which just ups the "Whyeee?" factor even higher for me.

In Hwang's case I'm also shocked by how eggs from women working in Hwang's lab were used in the experiments -- I know people who've worked in labs where we gave blood (milliter quantities) for other lab members' experiments, or who've served as control subjects in various sorts of brain-imaging studies, but using lab members for an invasive procedure like egg donation seems to verge on the barbaric.

Any other exciting tales of scientific fraud? Thoughts on the why and wherefore?

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#32122 - 01/12/06 05:13 PM Re: Scientific Fraud: Lies, damn lies, and (fabricated) statistics
nanamik
Ching Shih


Registered: 03/21/05
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I cannot add anymore information on other types of fraud or why people would commit this type of fraud. I found these stories really depressing though, there are plenty of people who already do not trust scientists and these stories just add flames to the fire. I wonder what will happen to these scientists, I cannot imagine that they can get hired again anywhere else. It justs seems like too big of a risk.
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#32123 - 01/12/06 08:09 PM Re: Scientific Fraud: Lies, damn lies, and (fabricated) statistics
Albacore
Ching Shih


Registered: 01/19/02
Posts: 152
Loc: Ottawa

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I don't have any more information, but this book has been on my TBR list for a few months now. I'll be back once I get to it!
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#32124 - 01/13/06 12:07 PM Re: Scientific Fraud: Lies, damn lies, and (fabricated) statistics
concertoinv
Ching Shih


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 93
Loc: Alberta Canada

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I think nanamik is right, many people don't trust scientists. Take for example health professionals. Between this week's fad diet, genetically altered food, doctor's professing that eggs are bad for you (no wait, this decade they're good for you), what causes what in terms of any health issue (we didn't eat eggs because cholesterol in eggs causes high cholesterol in humans except now that's not true) and on and on.

Now I realize that this isn't exactly fraud or scientific high-jinks. Often it's just the process of learning more and admitting that sometimes what was believed to be true just isn't. But when it seems that misinformation is everywhere and is coming from those who are supposed to work with facts, it's difficult to know just whom to trust. And in any industry where money and politics drive the research, whose best interest is really at heart? Agriculture, the drug companies, the food manufacturers, the researchers, the patients?

I believe scientists do amazing work, but I will also admit that I don't take any "fact" at face value. The particular cases voiceofreason cited are a depressing example of why.

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#32125 - 01/13/06 01:05 PM Re: Scientific Fraud: Lies, damn lies, and (fabricated) statistics
Rain
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Registered: 12/02/03
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Well, that's the whole point of the scientific method, isn't it? That you never actually have "facts", you just have theories that are correct to the best of our current knowledge, but could always be proved wrong.

I think the problem is that the average person doesn't really understand that, and the media is not helping things.

Also, some scientists are desperate to be first to publish their findings, or justify their grant money, or they seek fame and recognition, or even just don't truly understand how the general public views "science", and they also compound the issue.

(and I'm just talking about regular science here, not even getting into falsifying results and using suspect data and bending ethical rules)

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#32126 - 01/13/06 02:28 PM Re: Scientific Fraud: Lies, damn lies, and (fabricated) statistics
miercoles Moderator
Ching Shih


Registered: 10/29/00
Posts: 877
Loc: Ann Arbor, MI

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I don't think that most of the fad diets are coming from medical professionals -- they come from the people who are the loudest and get on Oprah, or something. If anything, I think health professionals need to be more outspoken about fad diets.

Rain is right that our current knowledge about things continues to get deeper and more nuanced. So one year, eggs are bad, but then we learn more about the types of fat and cholesteral, and it turns out that eggs have "good cholesteral". But that shouldn't be in the same category as falsifying data and misleading the public.

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#32127 - 01/13/06 02:46 PM Re: Scientific Fraud: Lies, damn lies, and (fabricated) statistics
TraceyB
Ching Shih


Registered: 06/06/00
Posts: 1483
Loc: Minneapolis, MN

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 Quote:
Any other exciting tales of scientific fraud?
Well, there's the never-to-be-forgotten tale of cold fusion. I remember when that happened, a huge kerfuffle at the time. As to why, money and fame, I suppose. It does sort of boggle the mind that someone would risk a hard-won reputation and throw away years of toil in academia and corporate research labs just to see his face on the front of the New York Times science section next Tuesday.

There's an article here that mentions the cold fusion mess and other scientific scandals.

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#32128 - 01/13/06 06:16 PM Re: Scientific Fraud: Lies, damn lies, and (fabricated) statistics
concertoinv
Ching Shih


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 93
Loc: Alberta Canada

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 Quote:
Well, that's the whole point of the scientific method, isn't it? That you never actually have "facts", you just have theories that are correct to the best of our current knowledge, but could always be proved wrong.
Except to all the non-scientists out there (myself included) it seems that a lot of scientists talk of scientific facts as though they are unmoving. Even the most popular theories (for example evolution) are often spoken of as fact. Perhaps someday every theory we have will be disproven, but until they are, all other research is being based on not absolutely proven theory that seems to be treated as fact (off topic but somewhere else on the board someone was talking of evolution as the entire basis of Biology...which leads me to wonder, what if evolution is ever blown out of the water by something else? Does that completely discount that entire branch of science?). It is confusing to know what to believe when "fact" based on theory is declared the latest, greatest. This, again, is totally from my non-scientific pov.

 Quote:
I don't think that most of the fad diets are coming from medical professionals -- they come from the people who are the loudest and get on Oprah, or something. If anything, I think health professionals need to be more outspoken about fad diets.
Absolutely! This is one more reason why I think so many average people just don't know who to trust. When fad diets are reported on in your local "health watch" section of the paper or tv news, side-by-side other more valid health "facts" (which then sometimes become obsolete) it becomes difficult to filter out the garbage.

Again, I have a great respect for science. We owe a great deal of respect to those who use their smarts to truly benefiit the rest of us. It is unfortunate when the few dishonest ones get bigger press than those doing fantastic things.

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#32129 - 01/19/06 09:45 AM Re: Scientific Fraud: Lies, damn lies, and (fabricated) statistics
TraceyB
Ching Shih


Registered: 06/06/00
Posts: 1483
Loc: Minneapolis, MN

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Well, here\'s another one that showed up today in the NY Times (free registration required).

It seems a cancer study published in The Lancet was based on fabricated data. The Lancet's a very well-respected journal, and I imagine they're furious about this.

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#32130 - 01/19/06 10:17 AM Re: Scientific Fraud: Lies, damn lies, and (fabricated) statistics
VegetarianOnHiatus
Ching Shih


Registered: 07/18/02
Posts: 1089
Loc: Somerville, MA, USA

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