Should you trust scientific research?

Do you trust scientific research? Should you?

Scientific research has been going on for millennia. At its earliest, research was just observational. Those early scientists just watched what was happening and tried to describe it. “During storms, every time time that bright light flashes down from the sky, there’s a loud noise.” Then they’d attempt to connect the two events with some explanation. But they had no way to test their ideas empirically.

As time went on and knowledge increased, these researchers added some tools to their armamentarium. They found ways to measure things like length, volume, time, distance, speed and they could use these to quantify their observations to a point.

As the interest in explaining the world around them grew, more tools were developed and larger strides were made. We had discoveries in mathematics and physics. Magick and alchemy got transmuted into chemistry. And some basic concepts about health began to be investigated.

Ampules via Shutterstock

Ampules via Shutterstock

With more progress, those researchers began to develop the basis of the “scientific method.”  Thing such as using exact measurements, written records, and sharing information with others to spread knowledge. Once the precise sequence of steps was formulated for a particular experiment, anyone could reproduce it by following those steps. And, if it couldn’t be reproduced, the early researchers would often verbally attack whomever claimed to have made the experiment work.

Fast forward a few centuries.

Science has become extremely rigorous. Hundreds of analytical techniques have been developed, new analytical instruments have been built. There are prolonged, formal training programs for scientists. Now foundations have sponsored research. Universities have nourished it. Scholarly journals have disseminated the results. National and international awards have been given to the foremost researchers. Many, many people have become researchers.

However, foundations wanted concrete results for their monies.

Universities wanted researchers who published prolifically and brought prestige to their halls. Journals wanted the best and newest information that would amaze the scientific community. Pressure was put on the researchers. And sometimes the research wasn’t quite as rigorous as it had been previously. Scientists tended to accept the results of other researchers without question, without repeating their experiments. Why?

Well, science should be above reproach. Each researcher should have a sterling character and be ethically pure. Other researchers want to do ORIGINAL research, not merely validate another’s work. And, even if they wanted to repeat previously done research, who would pay for their time? Who would pay for the analytical tools necessary? The reagents, technical assistance all cost money. Foundations wanted to spend funds on a breakthrough, not rehashing a previously run experiment. Universities didn’t have money in their budgets to reproduce research. Some researchers weren’t as scrupulous as they might be. Some wanted a list of published journal articles, grant funding, more analytical devices, more graduate students. So, some of them fudged. They altered some data. They manipulated some statistics. They stole some information from rival labs. Some of them outright lied.

Manipulation of data to get the “expected” results certainly isn’t new. Gregor Mendel, Austrian monk and early geneticist, probably fudged his data. The results he got, in so many experiments were so right on the money that he probably wasn’t completely honest. But, when other people repeated his experiments, they got similar results. His data may have been too perfect, but his overall results were correct.

Unfortunately, over the past several dozen years, more and more research has been shown to be tainted. In the social sciences, the Mark Regnerus study on same-sex parenting comes to mind. In the physical sciences, regrettably, there have been hundreds and hundreds of instances that have been discovered where the researcher(s) deliberately falsified data, plagiarized, tampered with the experiment in question or lied.

Most reputable journals, before printing a research paper, will submit it to anywhere from one to three scientists/physicians who are experts in the field that the paper comes from. They read it critically and evaluate it. If they think that the research is valid and compatible with current knowledge, they approve it and it gets published.

But, with all of the medical and scientific information coming out constantly, it is difficult just to keep up. It’s estimated that there are about 130 journals with information for internal medicine and family medicine physicians that are published EACH MONTH. Imagine how difficult it is to try to keep track of that information, plus information that comes out in the basic sciences (physiology, biochemistry, pharmacology, etc.) and in the other fields (genetics, biology, chemistry and others). And then, to have to review new information and vet it for accuracy. It can easily be an impossible task.

Recently a researcher in Europe who was doing a study in rheumatology was caught red-handed deliberately adding something “extra” to her experimental mixture to cause the desired results. She was dismissed from the university and her papers were retracted. Another researcher, from Japan, had numerous papers retracted for data “manipulation.” I believe that he had over 20 papers retracted before his university fired him. Another, a physician researcher, had at least three papers retracted for having deliberately incorrect data. His university fired him. But another university scooped him up and he is now in the process of suing several different organizations.

There have been many others. Some individual researchers have had GREATER THAN 30 articles of theirs retracted from reputable journals for some of the reasons stated previously. There are now a number of sites that police published papers and get tips from journal readers and scientists about fraud. Consumer Health Digest, QuackWatch.org and Retraction Watch are some.

When fraud like this happens today, there are two major problems that didn’t occur in Mendel’s era. One is that information spreads so quickly that the data gets read AND INCORPORATED into other journal articles very quickly. For some of the articles mentioned previously, many have been cited in other papers 20+ times. That means that this faulty research has been accepted by members of the scientific community and has been passed on as valid in their own papers. And sometimes the fraud in the original paper isn’t detected for years. So the original incorrect data may become dogma in that period.

Another problem has to do with the journals that publish these papers. As reputable as they are, they don’t want their provenances besmirched. When many of these journals publish a retraction, it’s just a small squib, buried somewhere in the journal. Very easy to miss. So the “retraction” may go unnoticed for quite some time.

The Retraction Watch team have talked with several journals about their lax retraction scheme. Most of the journals feel that the tiny, hidden squib is enough. Some do a little more. They change the available online papers to have the word “Retracted” watermarked on each page. But that obviously doesn’t appear on the already downloaded copies of the papers. Only if the reader goes back to the journal website to re-download the paper, would he see the word “Retraction.” How often is that going to happen?

A few journals are more transparent. They’ll publish an “Erratum(-a)” on the contents page that will list the paper and often give the reason for its retraction. They’ll also do the retraction watermark on the online copy of the paper. That’s about the best that anyone can do, but it still leaves papers out there in journals on library shelves, on researchers’ computers and in other places that have been retracted but can still be read and thought of as being legitimate research.

Right now, there doesn’t seem to be a good fix for these problems. Certainly, the universities that these researchers belong to should investigate the alleged fraud and punish the researcher if the allegation proves true.

The funding organizations can also investigate and, if the researcher is guilty, demand that the funds be returned. They could also ban the researcher from additional grants. But investigations take months and, meanwhile, the information is regarded as correct and continues to be out there available for use.

The journals need to mutually agree on some set policy as to how to handle retractions, so that the largest number of people become aware of the circumstances, and of the fact that the research is tainted.

Scientists should check the (relatively) few websites that post problems of this sort. But even those websites probably miss a number of retractions.

But those options, even if all were enacted, still don’t do enough. There are still papers being published that are fraudulent. Undoubtedly, there are other papers, still out there, that are have falsified information and are are yet to be discovered. Perhaps we need some kind of online central clearinghouse where all retracted papers are listed. That might be a start towards weeding out the tiny percentage of these illegitimate “scientists” from the ranks of those who do their best to present good solid data.


Mark Thoma, MD, is a physician who did his residency in internal medicine. Mark has a long history of social activism, and was an early technogeek, and science junkie, after evolving through his nerd phase. Favorite quote: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science... is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny.'” - Isaac Asimov

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  • Dania

    Trust about 50% for anythings will be ok.
    tram huong

  • JeffreyRO55

    The Regnerus situation raises the question of how to deal with fraudulent academic “research” designed and executed for the purpose of propaganda. Is the peer review process enough, especially since Regnerus got that part rigged, too? There’s probably not much that can be done where there are people in the world so driven by their ideologies that no deed is beyond the pale in advancing that ideology.

  • pappyvet

    Trust research? Yes. The conclusions, maybe. If they are verifiable,of course.

    I hate to bust the bubble of people like those in Texas but,the earth is round. I just saw Bill Nye on the Bill Maher show and he told of a lecture he was giving recently in Texas where he used a quote from the Bible about God making two lights,one for the day[theSun] and one for the night[the Moon]. Nye explained that the Moon is not a light but simply reflects the light from the Sun. When he did this a woman grabbed her child by the wrist and stormed out. He seemed genuinely gobsmacked.

    This is hardly an isolated incident. Scientific facts as proven by research are under attack constantly to the dismay of anyone with a modicum of intelligence. So the smallest error,or an isolated incident of fraud in a particular field of inquiry will be used all the way to the highest levels of government to slime the entire field. Can anyone say “climate change.” We are seeing more and more “research” being done by people who have an agenda and are simply attempting to find any fraction of data to give credence to their fantasies. It is a difficult time but I hope that honest research can see it’s way through.

  • docsterx

    Andy, you make some excellent points, thanks.

    You’re right about social sciences vs. hard sciences. I mentioned Regnerus as an example to show that the social sciences aren’t free from flawed work, whether the flaws are deliberate or accidental.

    Having a paper retracted is a huge deal, agreed. But, some careers don;t seem to be appreciably damaged when fraud is demonstrated in some cases. I’m sure you;re aware of at least a few that have occurred over the last few years. I alluded to a few above.

    Over-hyped? I’m not so sure. Many people tend to believe the science that they get from the media. They don’t go online and download the paper, read the journal, email the lead author. They accept it as being true. If that information is incorrect and that fact isn’t made public, those individuals will continue to believe the incorrect information. Additionally, I think it’s important for them to appreciate that science isn’t flawless. Some investigators have feet of clay. I can’t remember many cases in the general media where a researcher was castigated extensively for falsifying data. I’m not aiming to have people distrust science at all, but to realize that what is reported may not always be 100% accurate.

    Push science education? Most definitely. But blaming people with a lack of science education for the production of suoerbugs, is simplistic and hardly accurate.

    Thanks. Andy, but open access journals aren’t news. Unfortunately, if the article is behind a paywall, as most are, many people don’t want to cough up $39 to read it or $250 to subscribe to the journal. That may not be a problem if you’re at a university, but it is for many people.

    You’re right, science is, and has been chronically underfunded. I’m not sure what you’re talking about by “publicly” funded science. I’m sure that you don’t mean putting research topics on Kickstarter to get funded. And most citizens aren’t going to donate to fund basic science. That leaves the government, and government-sponsored organizations and philanthropic foundations ad the major funding sources.

    I’m not so sure that bad science is readily apparent to scientists. How many retracted papers were peer reviewed and then published? How many researchers read those papers and assumed that the research was right? Some of the retracted papers were cited 30+ times in other papers. New research is new, it may be different from what has been accepted or even contradict an accepted theory. How is a peer reviewer ever going to be sure that what he puts his imprimatur on is totally valid unless he actually repeats the experiment and gets similar results? How many physicists understood what Einstein was saying when he first reported his results? No, I think peer reviewers do what they can to spot obvious flaws and raise questions, but to expect more from them, of any scientist, is asking the impossible.

    Thanks for your comments. Best of luck with your PhD studies!

  • scottrose

    The problems involved in the anti-gay propaganda Regnerus packages that James Wright published in June and November of 2012 go way, way beyond things “not caught” because peer reviewers didn’t have necessary training and experience in a sub-specialty.

    For example, Regnerus in his first NFSS paper failed to assemble and appropriate comparison group. And, the comparison group that he did use — that of young adult children of heterosexual parents continuously married to the present day — was cherry-picked in order to produce pre-determined “findings.” Not only is assembling an appropriate comparison group part of the A,B,Cs of Research 101; one of the peer reviewers of the Marks paper was Penn State’s Glenn Firebaugh, whose book “Seven Rules for Social Research” is very widely used. Firebaugh’s Rule number 5 involves assembling an appropriate comparison group, comparing like with like in order to be able to determine the effect of the target variable. I e-mailed Firebaugh, and asked if he thought that Regnerus had followed his Rule number 5. He made no response. Surely, even the non-topic-experts looking at Regnerus’s inappropriate comparison group understood that such a thing disqualifies a paper. Or to put it another, aside from the Regnerus paper, where should one look for a scientific paper published through peer review that features a similarly grotesque, inappropriate comparison group? There are none.

    As for the simultaneously-published paper by Loren Marks, it is used in tandem with the Regnerus paper as an anti-gay cudgel. It is a completely disingenuous gay parenting literature review — Marks had planned to submit it to the court in California in the Proposition 8 case, before, under cross-examination, he confessed that he had cherry-picked from studies he had not read, in order to persuade the court to find against gay rights, and confessed also that he knows nothing about gay parenting. Think very hard about what it means, that “Social Science Research” editor James Wright of the University of Central Florida published Marks’ gay parenting literature review without having a single gay parenting sciences expert peer review it.

    Then there is the fact that in his paper, Regnerus lied by saying that his funders weren’t involved in study design. He told that lie, deliberately attempting to mislead the public into believing that he had designed and carried out the study independently of his anti-gay-rights funders’ political goals for it. In August, 2011, I documented that Witherspoon Program Director Brad Wilcox — who is also a “Social Science Research” editorial board member — as a Witherspoon official had worked on Regnerus on NFSS study design. Copies of Regnerus’s follow-up paper were already circulating; and I saw that in it, Regnerus repeated his lie about his funders having nothing to do with study design, data collection and analyses, et cetera. I showed that documentation to editor James Wright — he ignored it, and went ahead and published Regnerus’s second paper with the same lie in it.

    Also, in his November, 2012 issue, Wright published that non-peer-reviewed second Regnerus paper and a paper disingenuously defending Regnerus’s methodology by the notorious anti-gay religious bigot Walter Schumm. Wright gave those two papers all the outer trappings of peer review, though they had not been peer reviewed. The Schumm was published with an “Abstract,” and both were marked “Original Research Paper,” which is how SSR normally distinguishes peer reviewed papers. Additionally, whereas Wright had said that any qualified person who wrote to him with concerns about the Regnerus paper would see their concerns published, Dr. Gary Gates of the Williams Institute submitted an essay about the publication of Regnerus “An Illegitimate Review Process,” which Wright then passed up to Elsevier officials who blacklisted it against being published. Despite that, Elsevier and Wright continue to allege, fraudulently, that Wright has exclusive decision-making powers over what gets published in Social Science Research.

    Another factor in the whole hoax is that upon publication, the Regnerus and Marks papers as well as the three commentaries, all by non-experts with fiduciary conflicts of interest with Regnerus and Witherspoon — were put in front of the Elsevier paywall. The way that happens, is that the authors — or somebody who knows them — pay $3,000 per article to Elsevier.

    If Wright’s two anti-gay Regnerus propaganda packages were just sitting on a shelf someplace collecting dust, that would be one thing. But they’ve been used successfully towards getting anti-gay decisions in courts in Hawaii and Nevada, and they’ve been used against gay people in countries as far flung as Belize and Nigeria. That’s to say nothing of their role in hate-mongering against gays in Russia and getting the anti-gay legislation passed there. Dr. Darren Sherkat, who did the sham “audit” of the publication – it was a sham because it was pre-determined that Wright would not be held accountable for his gross editorial misconduct — has participated in the public lying about the hoax. For example, he described the peer reviewers’ conflicts of interest as being “minimal.” Now, one of the peer reviewers of the Regnerus paper was that same Brad Wilcox who collaborated with Regnerus on study design, data collection and up until the last minute, and beyond even, data analyses. Shockingly, in August, 2011 — before NFSS data collection occurred — Regnerus and Wilcox traveled on Witherspoon money to Colorado where they met for a full day with Glenn Stanton of Focus on the Family to discuss NFSS media and P.R. promotions. Regnerus then wrote to Witherspoon president Luis Tellez, telling him that the meeting went well and that they had a good plan moving forward for promoting the NFSS. That happened *before* data collection occurred.

    I am hoping that you will do a follow-up article centered on the outrageous circumstances of this anti-gay hoax. If the facts aren’t widely enough reported and discussed, the chances of getting the papers retracted are significantly reduced. Retraction would not cure all of the problems caused by this hoax, but would certainly be helpful towards, for example, stopping their use in US courts. No LGBT person’s attorney should have to be wasting resources on fighting these hoax papers. It should be noted that Dr. Cecilia Ridgeway, President of the American Sociological Association, signed a letter to Wright, and another one to his editorial board, telling them that the known corruption of the peer review is not acceptable, and that for Social Science Research’s intellectual integrity to be restored, the Regnerus paper must be retracted.

    And here’s another reason retraction is necessary. At the end of September, the Religion Newswriters Association will be holding its 2013 conference in Austin. Regnerus is scheduled to appear for a session titled: ” BEYOND THE RAINBOW: SUPREME COURT, MARRIAGE EQUALITY AND FAITH.”

    RNA normally is a serious newsreporting organization, the AP for reporters specialized in reporting on religion. Yet, they are advertising Regnerus as a “researcher on children of LGBT parents,” as if his misconduct and fraud were not thoroughly documented and known. Imagine that gay bashing tuchus lecturing religion reporters on the harm that gays to do children. Retraction would stop this kind of thing.

    Yet another problem, is that the completely dishonest and untrustworthy Regnerus editor James Wright is still assigned as editor-in-chief of Elsevier’s upcoming International Encyclopedia of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Unless Wright is held accountable, any quantity of anti-gay junk science could wind up published in that encyclopedia. And in fact, the gay editor of the LGBT sub-section of the encyclopedia, Don Barrett, is a James Wright ass kisser who is cool with the publication of the Regnerus anti-propaganda packages and goes out of his way to defend Wright, as if his motives for doing so weren’t obvious.

    This anti-gay hoax is doing immense harm to innocent gay people all over the world. We must demand retraction, and demand also that the perpetrators be held professionally accountable.

  • AndyinChicago

    I’m getting my PhD in microbiology from a very respected university, and I have a couple comments on this piece.

    First, know the difference between social sciences and hard sciences. It’s a lot easier to skew social science data because it’s easier to ask the wrong questions. Every scientist has problems with the possibility of asking the wrong question, but with human subjects and opinions, things get even more complicated and it’s much easier to skew the data. That’s not to knock social scientists, it’s to say that there is a level of scrutiny that we have to apply to all studies, and the burden of proof correlates to your means of data collection.

    Second, having a paper retracted is a huge deal to most labs, and can cost people their careers, especially young researchers. Yes, there are established labs that have numerous papers retracted, but these are very rare and over-hyped.

    Third, if you care about science, there’s things you can do rather than just get people to distrust it:

    A) Push science education. Superbugs are happening because people don’t understand how antibiotics work. Climate Change can be evidenced by a simple experiment with two balloons. People not knowing science is hindering science more than a couple of retracted papers.

    B) Push transparency. There are a lot of open access journals out there. If you don’t know what they are, educate yourself (A good place to start is the DOAJ (http://www.doaj.org/)).

    C) Publicly fund science. Science keeps taking hits in political budgets, and if you have to fund your cancer research that may save lives, you’re more likely to look to private donors if no public source is available.

    There are so many scientific ideas that people don’t understand because they don’t know a lot about them, the funding is dubious, and the data to educate anyone is hidden. Look at GMO’s: GMO’s are not all bad, but the way they are distributed has earned distrust and most people who attack them use a limited amount of data that not based on a clear understanding of the problem. Bad science is usually really apparent to people who understand science, and universal understanding of how things work is a worthy goal.

  • docsterx

    If you’re interested in this topic, the links in the article (Quackwatch, Retraction Watch, Consumer Health Digest) are good places to visit to get an idea of what’s happening now as far as retractions, investigators who have had multiple papers retracted, how journals sometimes work against removing invalid information and other aspects of this problem.

  • docsterx

    John just did a recent post on Johnny Weir http://americablog.com/2013/09/freak-nature-johnny-weir.html In it, Johnny is extremely self-centered. He says something about the Russians support him, his career, his livelihood. He ignores the repercussions of the Russian gay propaganda law, because this situation is all about him. I was writing this article when his statement came out. It reminded me of some of the researchers who do the same thing in trying to publish. Their careers, CVs, academic reputations are what’s important. Honest research – not so much.

  • docsterx

    Fortunately, it seems like the vast majority of work being published
    isn’t being manipulated or falsified. I think that we should express
    our thanks to the dedicated scientists, journal editors, peer reviewers and others who manage to behave ethically and produce valuable results in spite of the current atmosphere and the
    pressures on them to churn out the next paper that will get a Nobel. Another hat tip to those who are looking publishing lists of retractions of tainted papers.

  • docsterx

    Exactly. The “peers” selected to do the “review” need to have expertise in the specific area that the paper’s data is about. Just because someone has an advanced degree in particular field, doesn’t make him qualified to review all work in that field.

  • Bill Courtney

    I’ve been battling to expose research and financial fraud at Manchester University UK for the last nine years. But nobody in the British science establishment wants to know.
    For details visit http://www.abettermousetrap.co.uk/whistleblower-inventor-alleges-fraud-by-manchester-university
    and
    http://www.cheshire-innovation.com/sali/pedsali.htm

  • goulo

    It seems important to emphasize that, despite this problem, on the whole science works quite well.

    The anecdotes of fraud are often used as an intellectually lazy but convenient justification for radical suspicion and dismissal of all science, for example by climate change deniers or anti-vaccination activists or creationists.

  • http://www.newmillgay.com/ The_Fixer

    Interesting article!

    I was aware of a lot of these problems, and have read about the reasons for a lot of phonied research (the environment in universities and the pressure to come up with “amazing” new research, for one).

    But I never thought much about how to correct the problem of bad research already out there “in the wild.” I always figured that the word got out somehow, but never gave much thought to how it would get out. It’s clear that there needs to be some mechanism to get the word out and reliably.

    I think it’s going to take a while to correct this and a lot of bad info is going to be out there for the foreseeable future. Yeesh, that’s a scary thought.

  • Gest2016

    Mark Regnerus is worse than a fraud — he is a genocide enabler. The architects of Russia’s upcoming gay pogram have been citing the Regnerus study to justify destroying same sex families and kidnapping their children, even if biological. In this climate anti-gay hate crimes, murders and vigilante posies have seen wide growth. Mark Regnerus is the worst kind of murderer, one who hides behind the facade of “science” while peddling junk science that would embarrass even the most incompetant quack.

    Mark Regnerus is a discredit not only to legitimate science but to the academic institutions for which he scams a living from. His methodology and conclusion will soon be put in the same trash pile as phrenology and alchemy.

  • Indigo

    There’s a lot of fraud around, a lot of plagiarism, and a surprising number of guillable folks willing to snap up the fraudulent work, especially if it reenforces one of their pet notions. Peer review is essential and without it, an article should not be taken seriously. But that’s an ethical idea and frankly, we’re living through a phase in our history when ethics is a ceremonial word used with even less sincerity than that famous slogan, “In god we trust.” As if . . .

  • quax

    Unfortunately, the question if you should trust the science journals is just as pertinent as the increasing problem of fraud in science.

    IMHO we are facing an inflection point. The current incentive system in science creates wrong incentives and the publication process is stuck in the processes of the early 20th century.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    I’m married to a scientist — a theoretical physicist — and have through her become acquainted with the paper publishing biz. In many respects, it has for the most part been relatively successful at self-policing, if only because a reputation once lost is never recovered.

    The infamous Regnerus paper has badly tarnished Social Science Research, for example, and the people associated with it.

    Although it may not be difficult to find someone, somewhere to publish a paper, there’s a thriving sideline of scientists and researchers who don’t just take one set of results and assume they’re true — they test them. In my wife’s case, for instance, she says she won’t use anybody else’s math unless she can reproduce it herself.

    When there is fraud, it’s usually not that hard to uncover eventually. Someone who fakes their data will often be contradicted by others unable to produce the same results. Sometimes it’s manifestly flawed research methods coupled with blatant bias and conflicts of interest, such as with Regnerus. And sometimes it’s a situation — like with the tobacco companies — when you know they have a tremendous profit motive in reaching pre-determined (and phony) conclusions.

    That’s the great thing about science: It’s self-correcting. Sure, bad science is damaging, but the methodology itself works to fix the mistakes, both inadvertent and deliberate.

  • scottrose

    The Regnerus paper and the papers accompanying it in June and November of 2012 in Elsevier’s “Social Science Research” journal were published only through the editor’s knowing and deliberate subversion of the norms and ethics of peer review. Between the Marks and the Regnerus papers — which claim to overturn the consensus scientific view of gay parenting — not a single one of the peer reviewers was trained or experienced in LGBT-sciences generally, still less in the esoteric topic of gay parenting. Many of the peer reviewers are anti-gay religious bigots; all have some sort of conflict of interest, and many have fiduciary conflicts of interest.

    The papers should be retracted, and the retraction notice should be thorough and complete in explaining that the editor and the peer reviewers themselves violated the ethics of science publishing. Non-experts with multiple conflicts of interest doing peer review? Shame on them.

    Dr. Philip Cohen is Director of Graduate Studies in Sociology at the University of Maryland. Here is his explanation of why he is boycotting “Social Science Research” for as long as Regnerus editor James Wright is in charge:

    “Taking for granted the unethical behavior of Regnerus, and Brad Wilcox, on whose behalf Regnerus acted, the real failure here is by Wright. Instead of seriously reviewing the paper, he essentially whispered into an echo chamber of backers and consultants, “We should publish this, right?”

    I believe the paper should be retracted because the conclusions are demonstrably wrong, because the author lied in the paper about the involvement of the institute that funded it, and because the peer review process was compromised by conflicts of interest. As long as this remains uncorrected, and James Wright remains editor, the integrity of the journal is indelibly tarnished.

    While Wright is editor, I will no longer review for or submit to Social Science Research. I hope others will join me in that decision.”

  • docsterx

    That’s how it is done. The problem is, that if someone downloaded the article before the retraction posted, he will still think the data is correct. Same with print copies in libraries. Also, if the information in the retracted article has made it into textbooks, it would be very difficult, if not impossible to get word of the retraction out to readers.

    Here’s an example: http://o.canada.com/2012/10/23/plagiarism-software-catches-toronto-researcher/

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    Since it’s now common for people using scholarly journals to access them online, the online version could easily include a disclaimer or simple a retraction (“this article is no longer available as it was found to be fraudulent” or some such).

  • cole3244

    i think climate change suggests some rw con scientists can’t be trusted.

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