Monday, September 14, 2009


There are three topics that I hope to keep alive on this blog until such time as it is no longer necessary: the missing child Lindsey J. Baum, updates on CRPS clinical trials, and the infamous case of Dr. Scott Reuben.

The hopes, of course, are that Lindsey will be found, the clinical trials will end up being unnecessary, and Dr. Reuben will be in jail.

Then, too, I continue to find interesting related information in the process, like this article on the frequency of scientific fraud that popped up when I updated my googling of Scott Reuben this morning. I found it at an odd site for archived group mail -- the group in this instance being one about Sustainable Fuels! It was originally published at Natural News but it is worth taking a look at it where I first found it -- just for the supporting articles added at the end.

So -- one in seven "scientists" say that their colleagues falsify the data in their research. If that's the ratio among those willing to admit such a thing -- the actual numbers are awful to contemplate.

One in seven scientists report that they have known colleagues to falsify or
slant the findings of their research, according to a study conducted by
researchers from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and published in the
journal PLoS One.

A number of scientific data falsification scandals have emerged in recent years, such as the case of a South Korean researcher who invented data on stem cell research. At the same time, increasing controversy over close industry ties to medical research has called into question whether researchers who take money from drug companies might be induced to falsify their data.

"Increasing evidence suggests that known frauds are just the tip of the iceberg and that many cases are never discovered," said researcher Daniele Fanelli.

The researchers reviewed the results of 21 different scientific misconduct surveys that had been performed between 1985 and 2005. All respondents were asked whether they or anyone they knew of had taken part in either fabrication (outright invention of data) or "questionable practices."

Questionable practices were any improper procedure short of fabrication, including failing to publish results contradicting one's prior research, modifying data based on a "gut feeling," changing conclusions after pressure from a funder or selectively choosing which data to include in an analysis.

One in seven scientists said that they were aware of colleagues who had engaged in fabrication, while nearly half -- 46 percent -- admitted to knowing of colleagues who had used questionable practices. Only two percent, however, admitted to fabricating results themselves.

While two percent is higher than previous estimates of the prevalence of data fabrication, researchers believe that the number is still too low. In all likelihood, it reflects both a reluctance by researchers to admit to serious misconduct and a tendency to interpret one's behavior as favorably as possible -- questionable instead of fabrication, or acceptable rather than questionable.

Researchers in the medical and pharmacalogical fields were the most likely to admit to misconduct than researchers in other fields.

Well, thank goodness that medical and pharmacological fields lead the pack in fraud! Jeez... And to round out my failing opinions of those industries:

Six prominent medical journals "published a significant number of articles in 2008 that were written by ghostwriters financed by drug companies," according to a New York Times story. The story cites a study by JAMA editors presented at an international meeting of journal editors.

Overall, 7.8% of the authors who responded anonymously to an online questionnaire "acknowledged contributions to their articles by people whose work should have qualified them to be named as authors on the papers but who were not listed," according to the Times.

Here is the "ghostwriting" rate by journal:

New England Journal
of Medicine – 10.9%;
JAMA – 7.9%;
Lancet – 7.6%;
PLoS Medicine – 7.6%;
Annals of Internal Medicine – 4.9%;
Nature Medicine – 2%.

The editors of the NEJM objected that the study "used an improperly broad definition of ghostwriting," according to the Times, an objection that one of the study's authors dismissed.

*Oh, and there was no updated news on either Lindsey Baum or Scott Reuben. But an updated list of clinical trials can always be found here.

photo credit: US Dept. of Energy, The Manhattan Project, The Trinity Test

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