Meet The Cops of The Scientific Method

Retraction Watch is an online blog that keeps track of lying, cheating and occasionally - stealing - in the world of science. Michael's guest is the blog’s editor, Alison McCook.
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 Six months later, the study was retracted.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.


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