Fraud: Why Auditing Laboratory Records Is A Bad Idea

Fraud in research has recently aroused the interest of Congress because it wastes tax dollars. But scientists share this concern for even stronger reasons: We build our whole enterprise on a foundation of communal trust. Since the record of some of our academic instituiton has been a sorry one, we should be pleased that public criticism is leading to improved procedures. If the matter had stopped there, the outcome would have been very salutary. Unfortunately, the reaction has gone much farthe

Bernard Davis
Feb 19, 1989
Fraud in research has recently aroused the interest of Congress because it wastes tax dollars. But scientists share this concern for even stronger reasons: We build our whole enterprise on a foundation of communal trust. Since the record of some of our academic instituiton has been a sorry one, we should be pleased that public criticism is leading to improved procedures. If the matter had stopped there, the outcome would have been very salutary.

Unfortunately, the reaction has gone much farther. Though it is by no means clear that fraud has increased substantially in recent years, Congress has become convinced that the problem has grown rapidly and requires forceful action. Moreover, the vindictive pursuit of David Baltimore by Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich), for a case involving normal error rather than fraud, has inflamed the discussion. In this atmosphere, Congress has suggested that we need an Office of Scientific Integrity, and...

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