Behind Science Fraud, Chapter 8

You just knew the New York Times editorial page would get around to sharing its deep wisdom about the problem of science fraud in the news right now, and sure enough, their utterly predictable editorial is predictably stupid in ways that are statistically certain to the 95 percent confidence level.

How’s this for penetrating analysis:

How could this happen? Often a young researcher, driven by the academic imperative to “publish or perish,” fudges the data. In many cases, a senior scientist who is supposed to be monitoring the research pays little attention, content to be listed as one of the authors.

In theory, a journal’s peer reviewers are supposed to detect errors, but they often do not have the critical data needed to check the findings, nor the time to do so, particularly since they are seldom paid. Sometimes the cases only come to light when a whistle-blower, perhaps a student or researcher in the lab where the cheating occurs, points the finger. The scientific community clearly needs to build a better safety net.

Whoa! I’ll bet they worked overtime to come up with this. But the Times’ recommendations are the real parody-begging part:

The federal Office of Research Integrity should be given ample funds and sufficient independence to investigate all major cases that come to its attention. Another answer to the problem of fraudulent research, though, might be more research. The federal government could sponsor studies to determine how much cheating goes on, how much harm it causes and how best to combat it.

So, as with every other public problem in America, the Times answer is always the same: more money and more power for the federal government. I suspect the computers at the Times copy desk are programmed with a macro-key for “more money for the government.” I suppose it saves on typeface. Certainly it doesn’t tax any brain cells at the Times editorial page.

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