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We Must Deal Realistically With Fraud and Error

Several years ago Patricia Woolf; a respected sociologist of science whose specialty is misconduct, testified before Congress that scientists who observe scientific misconduct not only have an obligation to report the mis- conduct, but that failure to do so would plactheir careers in jeopardy. She said that there are “considerable penalties” for the “scientist who knows but doesn’t tell.” The facts suggest otherwise. In this. issue of THE SCIENTIST, three scient

Walter Stewart

Several years ago Patricia Woolf; a respected sociologist of science whose specialty is misconduct, testified before Congress that scientists who observe scientific misconduct not only have an obligation to report the mis- conduct, but that failure to do so would plactheir careers in jeopardy. She said that there are “considerable penalties” for the “scientist who knows but doesn’t tell.”

The facts suggest otherwise. In this. issue of THE SCIENTIST, three scientists describe what happened when they reported incidents of misconduct—allegations that eventually were shown to be true. In each case the institutions involved ignored the allegations for long periods of time, while the scientist reporting the misconduct suffered personal criticism, professional retaliation and financial loss.

It is quite clear from cases like these that the subject of scientific misconduct makes most scientists uncomfortable. Ask them how they feel about misconduct, and chances are they will condemn it strongly. But...

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