Posted on | March 12, 2013 | 16 Comments
Every day, it seems, we read headlines about new research that “proves” this, that or the other thing. My favorite such research was a study that found larger-breasted women are more intelligent. Can we trust such research? Alas, a story on the front page of today’s Washington Post indicates we should be cautious consumers of science:
Last year, research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that the percentage of scientific articles retracted because of fraud had increased tenfold since 1975.
The same analysis reviewed more than 2,000 retracted biomedical papers and found that 67 percent of the retractions were attributable to misconduct, mainly fraud or suspected fraud. . . .
[University of Washington research Ferric C.] Fang said retractions may be rising because it is simply easier to cheat in an era of digital images, which can be easily manipulated. But he said the increase is caused at least in part by the growing competition for publication and for NIH grant money. . . .
“The reader of scientific information is at the mercy of the scientific institution to investigate or not,” said Adam Marcus, who with Ivan Oransky founded the blog Retraction Watch in 2010. In this case, Marcus said, “if Hopkins doesn’t want to move, we may not find out what is happening for two or three years.”
Fake cancer research might fool federal officials signing off on NIH grants. Unfortunately, fake research won’t cure real cancer.
And breast implants won’t raise your IQ score.