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Sloppy Research Extracts A Greater Toll Than Misconduct

There has been much ado about fraud in science, and even more misunderstanding about its eventual importance in the efficient conduct of science, and our ability to police it. A report on a survey by Judith Swayze was headlined in the New York Times "... the myth that fraud in science is a rarity" (L.K. Altman, Nov. 23, 1993, page C3). In fact, as the text of the story took pains to emphasize, the study found that a majority of interviewees had heard of an example--in other words, that some fra

Joshua Lederberg
There has been much ado about fraud in science, and even more misunderstanding about its eventual importance in the efficient conduct of science, and our ability to police it. A report on a survey by Judith Swayze was headlined in the New York Times "... the myth that fraud in science is a rarity" (L.K. Altman, Nov. 23, 1993, page C3). In fact, as the text of the story took pains to emphasize, the study found that a majority of interviewees had heard of an example--in other words, that some fraud had been found out. We have no idea how often the same examples were in mind. It is small comfort that such surveys in other fields, not excluding politics, law, and journalism, would give equal or larger returns.

The promulgation of fraud is an outrage, striking at the moral roots of the scientific enterprise. But its moral stridency is...

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