Let's Get Serious About Scientific Misconduct

So, with the public's trust in its institutions already crumbling, the scientific community must get serious about the way it deals with alleged fraud and misconduct. To be convinced of this, we can call to mind the protracted, torturous unwinding of the notorious Baltimore case. As most of us are aware, it was back in 1986 that a paper bearing the name of Nobelist David Baltimore was published in the journal Cell (45:247, 1986). It contained an important conclusion based on data that did not

Gordon Muir
Jan 19, 1992

So, with the public's trust in its institutions already crumbling, the scientific community must get serious about the way it deals with alleged fraud and misconduct. To be convinced of this, we can call to mind the protracted, torturous unwinding of the notorious Baltimore case. As most of us are aware, it was back in 1986 that a paper bearing the name of Nobelist David Baltimore was published in the journal Cell (45:247, 1986). It contained an important conclusion based on data that did not exist. A young postdoc--Margot O'Toole--blew the whistle and, for her efforts, was mugged by a powerful establishment that closed ranks. Eventually, she lost her job, becoming, as she put it, "subjected to five years of slander and libel from Dr. Baltimore [and colleagues]" (Nature, 351:180, 1991). Pretty bad--but it gets worse.

What most people, including scientists, don't know is that the editors of Science and...