Letter: The Climate Of Fraud

Candace Pert begins her recent Commentary (The Scientist, April 2, 1990, page 18) with the hypotheses that it is "the one-in-a-million scientist who fabricates data" and that "the overwhelming majority of outright deceptions . . . is quickly revealed." From this she continues that overattention to the possibility of fraud generates a "witch-hunting climate," which may make reviewers ruthlessly skeptical of "the new, unexpected discoveries that make for real scientific progress." There is, howe

Donald Forsdyke
May 13, 1990

Candace Pert begins her recent Commentary (The Scientist, April 2, 1990, page 18) with the hypotheses that it is "the one-in-a-million scientist who fabricates data" and that "the overwhelming majority of outright deceptions . . . is quickly revealed." From this she continues that overattention to the possibility of fraud generates a "witch-hunting climate," which may make reviewers ruthlessly skeptical of "the new, unexpected discoveries that make for real scientific progress."

There is, however, an alternative hypothesis, which leads to startlingly different conclusions: that fabrication of data is very common and that the overwhelming majority of deceptions goes undetected.

From this it follows that many of those whose careers are advan-ced by cheating may become the very reviewers whose "defense of the status quo" Pert objects to, "particularly if it has relevance to" their "own work, reputation and livelihood." Perhaps it is not "emotional" bias that affects their...

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