Scientists Who Cheat
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In theory, a journal’s peer reviewers are supposed to detect errors, but they often do not have the critical data needed to check the findings, nor the time to do so, particularly since they are seldom paid. Sometimes the cases only come to light when a whistle-blower, perhaps a student or researcher in the lab where the cheating occurs, points the finger. The scientific community clearly needs to build a better safety net.
It can start by ensuring that scientists, especially peer reviewers, are allowed to see the underlying data of a paper, which researchers are typically reluctant to share. The federal Office of Research Integrity should be given ample funds and sufficient independence to investigate all major cases that come to its attention. Another answer to the problem of fraudulent research, though, might be more research. The federal government could sponsor studies to determine how much cheating goes on, how much harm it causes and how best to combat it.
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