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March 14, 2013

A hell of an identification problem

From the Washington Post, 3/11, reporting on doubts about important research conducted at Johns Hopkins: "Last year, research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that the percentage of scientific articles retracted because of fraud had increased tenfold since 1975."

Is that because science is more alert to fraud and more skilled at detecting it?

Or is it because a whole lot more fraud is being committed?

Or, of course, both?


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I think one only needs to look at the research related to "Global Warming" to realize that it is most likely fraud...


To quote William Claude Dukenfield [W.C. Fields] once again: "If it's worth winning, it's worth cheating."

What do scientific frauds win? Promotions, kudos, grants, and all the perks that flow therefrom.

Of course it's increasing as the rewards have grown over the past decades.


50 years ago there where three main sources of science funding.

1.) Endowments at large Universities.
2.) Government funding of weapons reasearch.
3.) Corparate funding of internal research
like AT&T or IBM labs aimed at least
loosely towards future products.

Non of these sources particularly promoted fraud. There were some frauds of course, but non-working weapons or products couldn't possibly be covered up for long, and Universities didn't have a large incentive to keep funding dubious claims. (Although, they sometimes did anyway.)

Today the situation is different. Science is often funded by government or corporations with particular political agendas in mind. Whether it is government money promoting AGW or a Drug Company half-way through a billion dollar approval process to meet FDA requirements. (If it meets FDA approval then it must work, right?)

If you get the wrong answer (from the agendas point of view) your funding is cut off. So, there is a strong incentive to come up with the 'right' answer somehow. If you do succumb to fraud and get caught, they circle the wagons protecting you, your funding, and the agenda.

Of course there is more fraud, it is baked into the cake.


A good amount of this is do to this man:

His meta research has been roiling the sciency types for a while and it seems to have triggered a rush by the journals to ferret out the bad seed before they have it done for them.

Some of his observations include that in politically charged areas of study it is likely that 80% of the articles are significantly flawed.

Mark Sherman

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