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Fraud Happens: What to Do About It

For many years physicists lagged way behind biologists in the perpetration of scientific fraud. But they have caught up in spectacular style with the ambitious opus of Jan Henrik Schon of Bell Labs, who placed seven of his fictive works in Nature and nine in Science. All those ad hoc explanations for biomedicine's leadership role in fraud--that entrance to medical school selected for corner-cutters, or that the mathematical structure of physics leaves little slack for fudging figures--must be

Nicholas Wade

For many years physicists lagged way behind biologists in the perpetration of scientific fraud. But they have caught up in spectacular style with the ambitious opus of Jan Henrik Schon of Bell Labs, who placed seven of his fictive works in Nature and nine in Science. All those ad hoc explanations for biomedicine's leadership role in fraud--that entrance to medical school selected for corner-cutters, or that the mathematical structure of physics leaves little slack for fudging figures--must be laid aside.

Fraud in science is a minor irritant from one perspective, a serious problem from another. Most instances of fraud concern work of little importance and are quickly forgotten. Some practitioners forsake the safety of mundane fabrication and concoct spectacular experiments about matters at the cutting edge of their fields. But one can argue that the more ambitious the fraud, the more quickly it will be discovered.

The Schon case...

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