May 29, 2009
Some scientists admit to ‘false’ results
A meta-analysis of surveys by researchers in Scotland, questioning scientists about their misbehaviors, found 2 percent admitted they had
Daniele Fanelli of the University of Edinburgh and colleagues said the meta-analysis focused on behaviors that actually distort scientific knowledge -- excluding data on plagiarism and other kinds of malpractice -- and extracted the frequency of scientists who recalled having committed a particular behavior at least once, or who knew a colleague who did.
The analysis, published in the journal PLoS One, found, on average, across the surveys, around 2 percent of scientists admitted they had fabricated, falsified or altered data to
improve the outcome at least once, and up to 34 percent admitted other questionable research practices -- including
failing to present data that contradict one's own previous research and
dropping observations or data points from analyses based on a gut feeling that they were inaccurate.
In surveys that asked about the behavior of colleagues, 14 percent said they knew someone who had fabricated, falsified or altered data, and up to 72 percent said they knew someone who had committed other questionable research practices, Fanelli said.