Big Science Failing Integrity Test

True Fake Science

What happens when the purveyors of knowledge admit they are unreliable?

by David F. Coppedge

Editors of the leading Big Science journals, Science and Nature, continue to wring their hands over rampant scientific misconduct. Conflicts of interest, sloppy work, fudging data, plagiarism, non-reproducible results and plain old dishonesty (“fake science”) are just some of the problems they admit to. Paradoxically, industry is more alarmed about reproducibility than academia is, Nature says this week. Notice how academic scientists engage in “questionable practices.”

Despite the advent of important new therapeutics, the number of innovative treatments reaching the patient is disappointingly low. To help rectify this, industry is investing in drug-discovery alliances with peers and academic groups, and in precision medicine. It sees high standards of research quality as the route to the most promising drug candidates and to maximum return on investment.

By contrast, academic scientists may be reluctant to devote extra time and effort to confirming research results in case they fail. That would put paid to publication in high-impact journals, damage career opportunities and curtail further funding. Evidence of questionable practices such as selective publishing and cherry-picking of data indicates that rigour is not always a high priority.

Aren’t those things supposed to be the highest priority? Isn’t the scientific method supposed to be the most dispassionate, disinterested, truth-seeking approach to knowledge? It seems that science is deserving of a similar statement Gandhi allegedly said about Western civilization: “I think it would be a good idea.” Without integrity, science is nothing. You can’t get integrity by the scientific method…