Research Misconduct: Media Exaggerate Results of a Survey

Falsification or selection of research data is an old source of controversy in science. R.A. Millikan's famous "oil drop" experiment to determine the mass of the electron, published in 1913, may have involved some data selection, and the British statistician R.A. Fisher's analyses of Gregor Mendel's genetic ratios from the 1860s suggested that they may have been too good to be true. Contemporary public interest in research misconduct has been stimulated by a popular book by two New York Times e

Sharoni Shafir
Jun 21, 1998

Falsification or selection of research data is an old source of controversy in science. R.A. Millikan's famous "oil drop" experiment to determine the mass of the electron, published in 1913, may have involved some data selection, and the British statistician R.A. Fisher's analyses of Gregor Mendel's genetic ratios from the 1860s suggested that they may have been too good to be true. Contemporary public interest in research misconduct has been stimulated by a popular book by two New York Times editors (W. Broad, N. Wade, Betrayers of the Truth, New York, Simon & Schuster, 1982) and by intensified media attention to several high-profile cases in subsequent years.

The attention given to this subject has produced a rich folklore, but data on the actual frequency with which fraud occurs are sparse. In 1993, the Project on Professional Values and Ethical Issues in the Graduate Education of Scientists and Engineers of the...

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