Fraud: Journals must act now

linkurl:Today?s science fraud revelation;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/22952/ is that a study published in __The Lancet__, purportedly demonstrating that common painkillers could protect against oral cancer, was pure fiction. The response of __The Lancet__ Editor Richard Horton, linkurl:as quoted by the BBC;http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/4617372.stm "The peer-review process is good at picking up poorly designed studies, but it is not designed to pick up fabricated research

By | January 16, 2006

linkurl:Today?s science fraud revelation;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/22952/ is that a study published in __The Lancet__, purportedly demonstrating that common painkillers could protect against oral cancer, was pure fiction. The response of __The Lancet__ Editor Richard Horton, linkurl:as quoted by the BBC;http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/4617372.stm "The peer-review process is good at picking up poorly designed studies, but it is not designed to pick up fabricated research. Just as in society you cannot always prevent crime, in science you cannot always prevent fabrication." Hmmm. According to The Norwegian daily newspaper __Dagbladet__, 250 of the 908 people in Sudbo's study shared the same birthday. If journals can?t pick that kind of thing up, either by internal review or peer review, doubts about science's self-policing systems are well-founded. Horton mirrors the fatalism of Donald Kennedy, Editor of __Science__, in the wake of the Hwang debacle: "The public needs to understand that the journals and peer review are not perfect," he said. That?s first entry in understatement of the year. But what is he doing about it? The modest but worthwhile proposal from __Science__ is that authors will need to state their specific contributions. It?s nowhere near enough. Journals need to take a lead in combating fraud, yet Editors are distancing themselves from the issue. linkurl:An exception is __Journal of Cell Biology__;http://www.jcb.org/cgi/content/full/166/1/11 , which screens accepted manuscripts for evidence of image manipulation, in collaboration with a mathematician who is a specialist in art fraud. Why aren?t other journals doing this? And why isn?t the dragnet being widened to include a search of data for the telltale signatures of counterfeiting? That's what is needed. Right now, I?d settle for an acknowledgement from Editors that (a) there?s a problem, (b) they are going to do something about it.

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