Falsification of Data

In the field of the scientific academic journal, the writers’ processes of many researchers are far from honest. The following information, paraphrased form the article, “Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science” from The Atlantic By David H. Freedman, outlines the ways in which falsified or misinterpreted data affects the scientific community. Two primary sources for falsified or misinterpreted data exist. The first is an unconscious want for a research project to get a positive result. It’s been shown, according to the article, that a researcher who wants his or her outcome to be positive can skew the data a bit by producing a misleading graph or performing an experiment with flawed parameters. The second source results in outright falsification, and is usually based in monetary gain. A researcher may not maintain or be approved for a new grant if he or she does not produce promising results. Moreover, researchers may stand to gain monetarily from a third party influence, like a law firm, for suggesting that A is connected to B.
The cure for this problem, as reported by the article, is to expect less from science. I would have to agree. Science is, by nature, a field of study that produces mostly negative results. It is unfortunate, since scientific breakthroughs have become a sort of business commodity, that the world expects more. Scientists are forced into a senseless scramble for a few grants instead of focusing on collaboration. It seems as if the scientist who is not dishonest in some way is at a severe disadvantage. So, though competition can be a powerful motivator, it appears to have gotten to the point in the scientific community where it is extraneous. Brave communities of researchers need to adjust their processes for writing reports and boldly produce honest results. They may not get as much funding, and they may not produce as many supposed breakthroughs, but what the research community really needs are good scientists who can make real breakthroughs. Given some time, I think more will follow suit.



2 thoughts on “Falsification of Data

  1. Allison Miehl February 28, 2015 / 7:39 am

    This is really interesting. I would expect scientific journals to have strict guidelines that make it difficult to falsify information, and I’m surprised to hear how easy it is to put out fake information. This definitely makes me think that I should look at everything I read with a skeptical eye- although as a journalist, I should probably be doing that anyway. It’s sad that the industry is set up to reward fake-but-promising results rather than real-but-negative ones, but at least talking about it like you’ve done here opens the conversation so that will hopefully change.


  2. davinadhani March 2, 2015 / 6:30 pm

    There are definitely consequences when you mix the art of scientific research with the world of business and I think you capture some of those challenges very well here. I think that some businesses have come to see scientists as their employees, and when those employees don’t product the results or the products that they’re being sponsored for, they are indirectly penalized. I can see it from both perspectives but it’s troubling to think about either way. Our current culture has gotten use to scientific advancement, especially in the realm of consumerism and the two are so intertwined.


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