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Scholars have discussed the problem of scientific fraud and its implications for many years due to its adverse impact on the community and attitudes towards the validity of scientific works. It is necessary to define and describe science fraud and introduce a public policy that can be implemented to prevent and detect similar cases. Imposing penalties on individuals committing science fraud and emphasizing the ethical values of scientific research can help ensure that the problem of trust within the community is mitigated.
Definition of Science Fraud and Its Implications
The publication of the findings and conclusions made during specific research is an essential element of scientific activity. Unfortunately, some individuals choose to falsify data or report false information for various reasons, which will be explained in detail in the following paragraphs. According to Henry, issues such as non-disclosure of financial incentives, plagiarism, and falsification committed by scientists can be defined as science fraud.
This issue leads to a loss of trustworthiness both from other scientists and the general population. Thus, individuals committing scientific fraud not only hurt their reputation but also impose a negative impact on the institutions and others involved in research activities.
More scientific publications are made in the current times than in previous decades. Additionally, Grimes et al. state that the number of reported fraud cases is more significant than before (171511). Many subjects, including social sciences and fields of studies such as psychology or biomedicine, were publically discussed due to significant science fraud accusations made against researchers who published their findings.
Gross states that at least 10% of people in the scientific field admitted to observing misconduct, which indicates the severity of the problem (693). The author provides an example of Eric Poehlman who received millions from the US government for his studies of metabolic changes that were not true. It can be argued that scientific fraud is a severe problem due to its impact on the perception of the work that scientists do and the appraisal of individuals who act unethically.
Scientists accused of fraud impact not only their reputation but also the trust of others and adversely impact the ability to self-correct. According to Mika, one aspect of fraud in publications is that authors accused of such activities or those whose papers were rescinded report a decline when evaluating citations of other articles written by them. The author hypothesizes that this is because their work is considered less credible, which is not always the case. For instance, some articles may contain errors or inadequate conclusions, and the retraction of them helps clarify the matter. However, due to a large number of falsifications, the scientific community is varied in similar instances. Thus, the credibility of many researchers is damaged.
Currently, the perception of a scientist and the success of his or her career is determined by past publications. Grimes et al. argue that both the pressure for publishing articles in peer-reviewed journals and financial benefits lead to an increase in the number of science fraud cases, which is the “publish or perish” policy (171511). However, the validation of findings can be done only by replicating the same experiment and reporting data that should correspond to that of the original study. This is a complicated matter and cannot be done for each article published in a scientific journal.
Thus, the adverse impact that the fraud committed by scientists incorporates various elements, including trust within the community and perception of scientific research by the general public. Additionally, monetary rewards that researchers can receive for their work are an essential aspect of the problem because the current state of things implies that individuals can receive financials by falsifying outcomes of their experiments.
The normative claim considered in this paper is the fact that effective policy can help mitigate the adverse impact of science fraud. In his extensive description of the strategy imposed by China in regards to fraud committed by scientist Henry argues that despite strict public policy and educational initiatives, the problem of science fraud persists. The main strategies that the government of the state applied include the development of ethical standards and teaching university students about the necessity of research integrity. Based on the fact that these policies did not result in the anticipated outcome and cases of scientific fraud persist in China one can argue that more attention should be drawn towards penalizing the scientists.
Henry states that a lack of regulatory oversight in China led to the development of “a research culture that pressured scientists to succeed and permitted ethical corner-cutting, such as plagiarism” (par. 2). Thus, the example of China’s successful and unsuccessful policies designed to overcome science fraud in the state can be used to develop a cohesive model that emphasizes ethics and values of carrying out research.
Peer reviewing as a model of verifying research data within the community has proven to be an inefficient policy as well. Henry states that “BioMed Central pulled 43 papers for falsified peer review” (par. 3). The approach that can help overcome this problem is a prevention strategy developed in cooperation between the government and educational institutions. In it, the models of behavior and reactions towards detected fraud will be outlined. This approach will help ensure that the scientists are aware of the prospective consequences of their actions and that the establishments have the power to impose punishments on researchers whose guilt was proven.
These punishments can include exclusion from an organization and retraction of all previous papers for additional review. Currently, it is unclear what the institution or organization should be responsible for checking the research work and verifying it. Additionally, because a large number of papers is being published each year, the process can be lengthy and may require a lot of resources. Therefore, prevention is a more practical approach to overcoming science fraud.
Finally, policies that pressure scientists to publish a large number of papers or those offering a financial reward for impactful publication should be abolished. Henry provides an example of China in the 2000s where researchers were presented over $2,000 for each paper in an international journal, which was more than the yearly salary of scientists in the country. Therefore, in order to overcome the issue of science fraud a strict compliance policy and penalty strategy should be developed and implemented.
Overall, this paper provided a definition of scientific misconduct and defined types of this fraudulent activity. The number of similar cases has increased in recent years, with a notable example of Eric Poehlman being an illustration of the implications that the problem has as well as the financial and perceptual outcomes. The public policy that targets scientific misconduct penalizes individuals and enables prevention should help combat this issue.
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Grimes, David et al. “Modelling Science Trustworthiness Under Publish or Perish Pressure.” Royal Society Open Science, vol. 5, no. 1, 2018, p. 171511.
Gross, Charles. “Scientific Misconduct.” Annual Review of Psychology, vol. 67, no. 1, 2016, pp. 693-711.
Henry, Ben. “The Past and Present of Research Integrity in China.” The Scientist. Web.
Mika, Aggie. “Retractions Damage Scientists’ Reputations: Study.” The Scientist. Web.