Scientific fraud has received much attention lately, both within the scientific community and increasingly beyond it. In this issue, in fact, you will find continuing discussions of the problem and its impact. (See pp. 11-13.) Unfortunately, some journalists with a taste for the sensational have exaggerated its frequency. The obvious example is William Broad and Nicholas Wade’s Betrayers of Truth (Simon & Schuster, 1982). (On the other hand, careful science journalists have detected genuine instances of fraud—for example, Oliver Gillie’s 1976 exposé in the London Sunday Times of Sir Cyril Burt’s misdeeds.) Plainly some have mistakenly taken “scientific fraud” as a virtual synonym for “scientific misconduct.” This practice was pointed out to me recently by Robert K. Merton of Columbia University, who has long examined the spectrum of activities that, in different degree, violate norms of the scientific community.

Thirty years ago Merton described some of the colored bands in...

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