Fraud in any field is looked upon with dismay and serious consequences are usually attached to any such act. However, there is one serious exception to this rule, or at least this is what I feel. This exception is science. Let me draw you the picture, in science you do a certain research test certain hypothesis and at the end of the line are not judged on the actual work you did but rather on the result that came out of that research. Sometimes its not even the result, you could have a brilliant result that change the world but the world won’t believe you and so they won’t publish it. This is what you as a scientist are judged by, the publication. If it is a good one and you are in a group that is known it should be ok, if you are not things will get tricky and it might not be that easy to get your research published.

The fact remains that research is judged only by the publications and that journals will publish positive results but hardly ever negative results. Therefore if you conduct a research project that at the end generates no results then you have failed. This is the basis I believe of all misconduct, the thought that something should work you just didn’t get it right yet, or the system you are using is not optimal enough etc. A recent survey showed that between 0 and 94% of university students commit academic fraud. Link here

Readers who are following retraction watch know that fraud is a lot more common then people would like to admit. Interestingly though the people who commit fraud are rarely punished severely for their actions. Let me give you an example why this annoys me. Dr A is researching multiple sclerosis, for this he is faking some results gets a grant for 200,000 dollars to conduct further research on the subject. Now this Dr, turns out to have committed fraud the worst that can happen is his PhD is taken from him and tadaa that’s it.

He basically stole money, faked results, put research in the field of multiple sclerosis back several years because people are reading his work, draw conclusions from and adapt their work to incorporate all the recent findings. The precautions can be immense and can reach all the way to the patient. It is this that for me means that the punishment for fraud should be more severe. It is not enough to just give a slap on the wrist and strip that someone from their title (if that even happens. In many cases that does not occur because strictly speaking the research might not have to do with the PhD thesis). The science process is not an easy one, it is filled with many hills that make it hard to get through. There are many challenges on the way to becoming a scientist (the low salary, the long hours of work, the loan you had to take to pay for everything) and I think those should be taken into account. However, it does not make fraud even remotely ok.

Science is the way we can further our understanding and develop new and better tools to deal with the world around us. That can be through better health care or new technology and so on. There are efforts all around the world to help the world around us survive into the future projects that strife to keep all plants in the world for example like the kew project. Just think about it this way if half the seeds that are collected are fraud what would happen… 


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