'Soft Cheating' Is More Harmful To Science Than Cases Of Outright Fraud

With the ongoing flurry of events such as the Dingell hearings in Washington and allegations that the National Science Foundation is misusing the peer review system, the public flap over misbehavior by scientists is mounting. And, no doubt, concern over cheating and fraud in science is going to intensify further before it subsides. Through it all, it’s becoming increasingly clear that there is not, nor should there be, any special place for questionable scientists to hide—any more t

Rustum Roy
Sep 17, 1989

With the ongoing flurry of events such as the Dingell hearings in Washington and allegations that the National Science Foundation is misusing the peer review system, the public flap over misbehavior by scientists is mounting. And, no doubt, concern over cheating and fraud in science is going to intensify further before it subsides. Through it all, it’s becoming increasingly clear that there is not, nor should there be, any special place for questionable scientists to hide—any more than there should be for questionable public officials. Yet, while the scientific community should be reacting to the controversy with calm maturity, the escalating public concern about cheating and fraud continues to generate a curiously defensive reaction from scientists.

Stephen Jay Gould, for instance, writes in the New York Times (July 30, 1989) that Congress confuses fraud with error. Obviously, error and its correction is integral to the progress of science, Gould observes,...

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