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Thread: Scientific dishonesty

  1. #21
    insert random title here Array Randomnity's Avatar
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    May 2007
    6w5 sp/sx


    Quote Originally Posted by entropie View Post
    It would be a task one could set for oneself to market a project in a way it sounds intresting to everyone, yet one doesnt lie or falsify data in the process.
    I would argue that this is not only a possible task, but an essential one.

    It's challenging, definitely. But it can be learned (I'm actually taking a class on this subject soon)
    -end of thread-

  2. #22
    Senior Member Array Beargryllz's Avatar
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    Jun 2010


    All data is important

    All data can be useful

    There is no reason to omit data. Just because one person can't draw any conclusions from it does not mean that nobody else will. Thank science for the capacity for humans to share information with one another.

  3. #23
    Mr. Blue Array entropie's Avatar
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    Apr 2008
    3w2 so


    Quote Originally Posted by Randomnity View Post
    I would argue that this is not only a possible task, but an essential one.

    It's challenging, definitely. But it can be learned (I'm actually taking a class on this subject soon)
    I had a thing lately, when my boss came to me and asked me to tell him everything about whats known regarding future mobility. I studied alot lately in the last years regarding electromobility, the different car concepts there are, alternate fuel sources or hydrogen-based mobility. So we had that particular day a student apprentice. I was busy and the apprentice was screaming for work, so I handed her everything I have regarding the topic. She is a student of law and she's very pürecise with what she has done so far, so I thought she can be trusted with the task.

    Well one week later she handed me a powerpoint presentation in that consisted of 76 pages... I was like "ouh great" lol. It was hard to tell her that this is too much and it wasnt even my mistake, when I gave her the task I repeated the word "brief" several times, but well. We went thru it and shortened the presentation to 15 pages, I gave it too my boss and he said nothing, which means it was great. I later wrote her a resumee for her University and especially said that she does a great job at doing precise work; I wonder nbowadays if it was a mistake to say that.

    I never learnt it but everytime our boss asks for something, people tend to seek my guidance. Every paper I handed him in never came back or was criticized; somehow I am able to speak boss language. It is of course a shame sometimes cause you want to give him so much more information, but when you see how many completly different fields he has to work in, you understand why the essentials only are important to him. He just couldnt cope that much information and if he was handed in a long text well he wouldnt learn shit from it.

    I think there are places were much information is needed and there are places where only the essentials are needed and especially when its your job at stake the intresting essentials are needed. Call me an opportunist or pragmatist but after I've seen what it sometimes means for my boss, I do understand his needed for precise information.

    It's of course then the guy who writes the precise information who filters them aswell and the question is, did that guy really knew what was important and did he filtered correctly. But I think if you are running a major operation you have to learn to trust your employees on this one, of course there will be mistakes, yet at some point the information grow so massive that you wont be able to control them all on yourself.
    Johari / Nohari

    "How dreadful!" cried Lord Henry. "I can stand brute force, but brute reason is quite unbearable. There is something unfair about its use. It is hitting below the intellect."
    ~ Oscar Wilde - The picture of Dorian Gray

  4. #24
    Senior Member Array Thisica's Avatar
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    Feb 2011


    Quote Originally Posted by FDG View Post
    Yes, I would consider such practices dishonest, but I know that a large percentage of experiments and/or statitics-based research reports are conducted with such a bias, otherwise it's hard to obtain enough funding. I personally don't do that (I don't work in research, though), and once I had to accept a lower grade (econometrics exam) because I concluded that the model I was asked to test simply did not work.
    Money sucks intellectual integrity out of all researchers. It's sad, but true. If only we didn't have to compete for such resources...
    Even when we have lost hope in resolving the problems we have, we are still fundamentally part and parcel of the world. By virtue of this understanding, we can do anything realisable within the universe. [So don't give up ]

    If you don't like the way this universe is - go somewhere else!" - Richard Feynman

    What do you think about me?

  5. #25
    Senior Member Array
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    Quote Originally Posted by Architectonic View Post
    Chemistry has its fair share of examples, from plagiarism to crystallography fraud. You have to realise that often research is very specialised and it will often take significant time and resources to prove particular data false. It is very easy for that researcher to say 'you are doing it wrong' than admit issues with the data.

    But my major point wasn't so much about outright fraud, as little lies - cherry picking of data to make it sound more significant is rampant.
    I get that chemistry is specialized - all fields of science pretty much are now-a-days... but the specialization doesn't lead to cherry picking of data... For example it is near impossible to 'cherry pick' your data if you're in a synthetic lab.. when someone goes to repeat what you've claimed in your paper they will see that you are full of it and call bullshit... if you can't reproduce the compound you claimed you made and show them how with similar yields your stuff will be getting retracted... the same is true for my computational work... I can't just fake my data - when someone else runs my simulation with my specified parameters they will see that the values I claim I'm getting are completely bogus... Of course since my work is also highly theoretical there are areas where we just can't be sure if the physics are right but that of course is always appropriately accounted for whenever we publish our results or whenever applying for a grant etc...
    So yes there is room for dishonest people in science to mislead because the very nature of scientific discovery requires that we speculate...

    but to say that science is rampant with fraud just because you can find a few examples - is like saying that all men rape women just because you can find a few examples of men that do - thereby turning rape in to a problem with males as opposed to a problem with individuals who commit a crime..

    As I said in my earlier post - it's not that science itself is flawed but rather that people are flawed - and as I said before - of all the fields - and these people enter all of them - science is better equipped to handle dishonest people than any other because unlike business or law or whatever else our work is independently reviewed and eventually you will get caught...

    you talk about science like other researchers in your area will have no idea if what you're saying is likely bullshit or not and it just doesn't work that way..

    Research labs don't exist in isolation working on stuff that the rest of us cant possible understand.. I can easily look at another lab's data and call bullshit as can most other scientists... and in the cases where you can't - well - some things are so theoretical it's hardly fair to call incorrect assumptions purposefully misleading when in fact they were simply wrong....

    Science is highly specialized sure - but not to the point that you're suggesting... where one person or one lab are the only ones who can comprehend what they're working on - this isn't the 1700s or whatever.... It is not as easy to fake data, cherry pick data, etc as you claim here...

    Especially in the natural sciences... because crystallography requires human input it is easier to 'fudge' data in that area sure, and if you're especially dishonest you can attempt to mislead the lazy grant/journal reviewer - but you will eventually get caught (as the people you're referencing here apparently did)... it isn't as if each crystallographer is off in his own lab fudging assignments and manipulating algorithms to produce geometries that don't actually exist in his/her compound or that even if they were you wouldn't be able to easily ascertain this via carefully looking over their original data or repeating their work on your own.. Remember that one can always request the original crystal data or simply grow the crystals in question and compile their own data to see if it matches...

    So yeah - some people fudge/cherry pick data but they hardly comprise the majority... and there are some areas of science - especially in my line of work - where fudging the data isn't really possible... if I say I made a compound I have to turn in the NMR proton, carbon, and any other relevant nuclei, (1D&2DNMR data + optical rotation) if it is chiral and they always are, elemental analysis, mass spec, GC <--- and that is just for the compounds that I made to prove the computational data I obtained from molecular modeling of whatever transition state I'm claiming results from whatever mechanism I'm claiming my reaction goes through to produce the thing I claimed it would that I then have to prove that I have via the methods I already outlined above..

    I don't think it's even close to accurate to claim that 'cherry picking' of data is rampant throughout science just because a few people have done so... for every lab you can find that is doing this I can find about 20 more who are not... Dishonest people exist everywhere and fudging data or cherry picking data is a problem with the individual not a problem with science.. again - going back to the rape example - blaming money/fame whoring in science for people fudging data is like blaming scantily clad women for getting raped... it's not the clothing or the money it's the people and they are everywhere in all fields and when the people who are put in place to ensure the rules of the system are followed get lazy or for whatever reason have limited resources and time dishonest people will always find a way to slip through the cracks - but what typically happens when they try this in science - is they get caught because our work builds on previous work and if the foundation is not strong eventually it all crumbles and it typically isn't hard to figure out where the cracks were when you start looking etc... and you will either find someone who was innocently mistaken or someone who just flat out made their shit up...

    but that's life
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    watch where you're driving f$cktards! I have the right of way!!! :steam:

  6. #26
    The Eighth Colour Array Octarine's Avatar
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    Oct 2007
    10w so


    I agree that it is more difficult to be dishonest in chemistry. But ironically, we are cherry picking ourselves by merely discussing a few subfields of chemistry.

    There are still frontiers that have experimental procedures that are difficult to carry out. These are ripe for fraud, even if it is just omission of data. Perhaps the experiment was tried many more times than it was successful. People might get away with this for a time, especially if they try to publish in less specialised journals that might not have the expertise to detect the fraud.

    Yes, it is likely that eventually, this fraud will be discovered, but how much resources will be wasted in the mean time?

    Here is a nice real-world example.
    "Chemistry: Designer debacle"

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