A certain amount of error in science is inevitable; in fact, the correction of errors and the retraction of incorrect or premature conclusions is expected as part of the normal process and progress of science.

Errors come in many varieties. Scientists, like everyone can be careless or inattentive. Such errors are preventable. But there are other errors that scientists make that are almost unavoidable, as when a conclusion, based on accurate experiments and current knowledge, is later shown to be incorrect in the light of new knowledge. Sociologists of science have been careful to delineate the varieties of error committed by researchers and the relative importance of each.

U.S. congressmen have not been so careful, however. In April, Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) convened a House committee to investigate the most recent professional dispute in science to have become public, this time involving researchers at MIT. As Barbara J. Culliton recently...

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