Sunday February 21, 2016

Meet The Cops of The Scientific Method

Listen 16:11
Dr. Andrew Wakefield

Former surgeon and medical researcher Dr. Andrew Jeremy Wakefield, is known for his fraudulent 1998 research paper in support of the now-discredited claim that there was a link between vaccines and autism. (Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

We are taught to believe in the scientific method, which requires that research be conducted with scrupulous care, and conclusions be reviewed by a panel of peers before results are published. But in practice, scientific publishing is riddled with problems. Plenty of nonsense leaks through. For example, in December 2014, the journal Science published a paper concluding that gay canvassers had a more lasting positive effect than heterosexuals, on voters' opinions about same-sex marriage. Six months later, the study was retracted.

Since 2001, the number of retractions has gone up 10 times. Most are as a result of inadvertent errors. Some, of misconduct. Some, are deliberate scientific fraud. There is even an exploding field of fraudulent journals, that print low-quality research for cash. These so-called"predatory publishers", invent fake editorial boards by stealing the identities of reputable scientists.

Retraction Watch is an online blog that keeps track of lying, cheating and occasionally - stealing - in the world of science. Michael speaks with its editor, Alison McCook.