Examines instances of scientific fraud in research areas ranging from astronomy and physics to biology and medicine, and assesses the influence of huge monetary rewards and enormous research organizations on corruption in science.
William J. Broad is a best-selling author and a senior writer at The New York Times. In more than thirty years as a science journalist, he has written hundreds of front-page articles and won every major journalistic award in print and film. His reporting shows unusual depth and breadth—everything from exploding stars and the secret life of marine mammals to the spread of nuclear arms and why the Titanic sank so fast. The Best American Science Writing, a yearly anthology, has twice featured his work.
He joined The Times in 1983 and before that worked in Washington for Science, the magazine of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Broad has won two Pulitzer Prizes with Times colleagues, as well as an Emmy and a DuPont. He won the Pulitzers for coverage of the space shuttle Challenger disaster and the feasibility of antimissile arms. In 2002, he won the Emmy (PBS Nova) for a documentary that detailed the threat of germ terrorism. He was a Pulitzer finalist in 2005 for articles written with Times colleague David E. Sanger on nuclear proliferation. In 2007, he shared a DuPont Award (The Discovery Channel) from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism for the television documentary, Nuclear Jihad: Can Terrorists Get the Bomb?
Broad is the author or co-author of eight books, most recently The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards (Simon & Schuster, 2012), a New York Times bestseller. His books have been translated into dozens of languages. His other titles include Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War (Simon & Schuster, 2001), a number-one New York Times bestseller; The Universe Below: Discovering the Secrets of the Deep Sea (Simon & Schuster, 1997); Teller's War: The Top-Secret Story Behind the Star Wars Deception (Simon & Schuster, 1992); and Betrayers of the Truth: Fraud and Deceit in the Halls of Science (Simon & Schuster, 1982).
Broad's reporting has taken him to Paris and Vienna, Brazil and Ecuador, Kiev and Kazakhstan. In December 1991, he was among the last Westerners to see the Soviet hammer and sickle flying over the Kremlin.
Broad's media appearances include Larry King Live, The Charlie Rose Show, The Discovery Channel, Nova, The History Channel, and National Public Radio. His speaking engagements have ranged from the U.S. Navy in Washington, to the Knickerbocker Club in New York, to the Monterey Aquarium in California. He has also given talks at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. and the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City.
Broad earned a master's degree in the history of science from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He has three adult children and lives with his wife in the New York metropolitan area.
Title: Betrayers of Truth: Fraud and Deceit in the Halls of Science
Author: William Broad and Nicholas Wade
Review: This is a wonderful book and a beautiful job of reporting.
This book is an analysis of fraud and deceit within the scientific community. It details certain cases and how the fraud came to be, and how people got away with it or the fact the evidence was ignored. Broad and Wade are seeking to reveal the dark heart of science. Science by its nature is rational, but people aren’t – they are bias and seeking only personal and professional gain and standing. And it is this clash that we will see more clearly and the book progresses. The clash between the rational (facts) and the irrational (human nature).
The authors spell out their approach clearly and early. They start by saying that the conventional wisdom about science is too misleading to be used in describing science as it really is. Therefore, “Fraud, we believe, offers another route to understanding science. Medicine, after all, has derived much useful knowledge about the normal functioning of the body from the study of pathology. By studying science through its pathology rather than through some preconceived criterion, it is easier to see the process as it is, as distinct from how it ought to be. Cases of fraud provide telling evidence not just about how well the checking systems of science work in practice, but also about the fundamental nature of science – about the scientific method, about the relation of fact to theory, about the motives and attitudes of scientists. This book presents an analysis of what can be seen of science from the perspective of scientific fraud.” (p. 8)
By the second chapter, they are into the history of fraud in science. It is a familiar trail which centres on Ptolemy, Galileo, Newton, Dalton, Mendel and Millikan. They tell these tales well, with several useful quotes.
Certain areas of modern science are based on non-scientific systems of belief, one of the most famous is The Berkeley Physics Course, which is an influential text that has been used across the United States to impress college students with both the substance and tradition of modern science.
Although the have been many great scientists throughout history who were not so honest and didn’t conduct their experiments as they reported and I’m only going to name a few:
Galileo is often hailed to be the founder of modern scientific methods because of his insistence that experiment should be the arbiter of truth. Although many scientists of the 17th century had great difficulty reproducing his results and doubted that he even conducted certain experiments. Isaac Newton the genius who formulated the law of gravitation relied on an unseemly fudge factor in order to make the predictive power of his work seem greater than it actually was. Robert Millikan who won the Nobel Prize for being the first to measure the electric charge of an electron extensively misrepresented his work in order to make his experimental results seem more convincing. These are just a few of thousands famous historical scientists whose work cannot be replicated even with the technology and scientific advances.
This is because experimental science is a paradox, it seeks the truth but does so while ignoring the facts. Even textbooks when trying to appeal to the facts, there is always an element of rhetoric in the argument.
Also the priority of discovery is a key element because credit in science goes to originality, for being the first to discover something. As they are no prizes for second place in science. “Discovery with priority is a bitter fruit”.
The desire to win credit and respect with one’s peers is a huge driving force for scientists. And a scientists often takes active measure to ensure his ideas are noticed and that under his name a new finding is recognized. Even if this means “improving” on the truth or pulling a whole experiment out of thin air to make his theory prevail.
A prime example of this is Claudius Ptolemy who was one of the most influential scientists if early astronomical ideas. He practically created the system for predicting the positions of the planets. And for more than 1,500 years Ptolemy’s ideas have shaped man’s view of the universe. But it was in the 19th century the astronomers re-examining his ideas noticed some curious features. Back calculation from the present day position of the planet show that Ptolemy’s ideas were wrong. The errors they found was gross even by ancient standards. This was because Ptolemy did most of his observations during the day rather than at night like all astronomers do today.
Ptolemy is accused of derived the data for his theory from the theory itself rather than from nature and experimentation. His accuser is Robert Newton a member of the applied physics laboratory at John Hopkins University. In his book, The Crime of Claudius Ptolemy, he collected scores of evidence showing Ptolemy reported results identical to what the Alexandrian sages wanted rather than what he should have been observing at the time.
A striking example is that Ptolemy claimed he had observed an autumnal equinox at 2pm on September 25th A.D. 132, but Newton says from the back calculations from modern tables shows he should have observed the equinox in Alexandria at 9.54pm on September 24th, more than a day earlier.
In other words, Ptolemy must have worked backwards from the result he was trying to prove instead of making an independent observation. Defenders of Ptolemy claim modern scholars are being unfair in applying contemporary standards of scientific procedure to Ptolemy even though the facts say otherwise, reinforcing the fact that lots of scholars turn a blind eye to scientific fraud for the sake of rewards and respect.
Owen Gingerich, a Ptolemy defender concedes that the Almagest contains “some remarkably fishy numbers” but he insists that Ptolemy chose merely to publish the data that best supported his theory and was innocent in his intent to deceive. No matter the intentions Ptolemy’s borrowing of Hipparchus’ work won his nearly two centuries of glory before his fraud was detected.
The feature that supposedly distinguishes science form other kinds of knowledge is its reliance on empirical evidence, although this is being disproven going back thousands of years.
Even Galileo has been found to have fudged data. He would perform “thought experiments” where he would imagine the outcome rather than performing experiments. He relied not only on his experimental skill but on his exquisite talents as a propagandist. Galileo is reported to have confessed to not performing experiments: “I do not need it, as without any experience I can affirm that it is so.” All this proves is that Galileo had already proved it in his head therefore he had no need to experiment, in modern science this would not stand, yet fraud is exists.
Even Newton in his Principia of 1687 established the goals, methods and boundaries of modern science, yet his exemplar of the scientific method was not above bolstering his case with false data when the real results failed to win acceptance for his theories.
According to historian Richard S. Westfall, Newton “adjusted” his calculations on the velocity of sound and on the precession of the equinoxes, and altered the correlation of a variable in his theory of gravitation so that it would agree precisely with the theory. The fudge factors Westfall says was “manipulated with unparalleled skill by the unsmiling Newton”.
The difference between the lofty principle and low practice could not be more striking. It is amazing that a figure of Newton’s stature would stoop to falsification of data and it is even more surprising that none of his contemporaries realized the full extent of his fraud. More than 250 years passed before the full extent of this fraud would be revealed. As Westfall comments “having proposed exact correlation as the criterion of truth, Newton took great care to see that exact correlation was presented, whether or not it was properly achieved.”
So even the work of scientists we naturally take for granted as “settled science” are filled with the falsified data and discrepancies. But what is most shameful about Newton’s behaviour was the hypocrisy with which he paid lip service to fair procedure but followed the very opposite course.
The finger of deception is even being pointed at Charles Darwin, author of the theory of evolution, who was accused of failing to give adequate acknowledgement to previous researchers. According to historians, Darwin appropriate the work of Edward Blyth a British zoologist who wrote on natural selection and evolution in two papers published in 1835 and 1837. They point out similar phrasing, rare words and choice of examples, while Darwin quotes Blyth on a few points, he does not cite the papers that deal with the natural selection directly, even though it is extremely clear he has read them.
We must also consider the case of Robert A. Millikan, a U.S. physicist who won the Nobel Prize in 1923 for determining the electric charge of an electron. He became the most famous scientist of his day winning 16 prizes and over 20 honorary degrees. A careful study of his notebooks brought to light some bizarre procedures in the methods by which Millikan climbed to scientific fame. Millikan’s notebooks proved that he was discarding any data that didn’t conform to his theories and was only recording and publishing data what proves without any doubt the correctness of his theory.
Wade and Broad examine scientists from all different discipline from mathematics and physics to biology and genealogy, and they systematically proves that all these scientists famous or not fudged their data to fit their ideological theories. Some like Darwin’s’ theory of Evolution have remained theories because they cannot be proven, but others like Newton’s Law of Gravity have become fact even though they are practically based on lies, adjustments and alterations of data.
The examples of Millikan and the other adepts of science who cut corners in order to make their theories prevail contain some alarming implications. Scientific history by its nature tends to record the deeds of the few who have successfully contributed to knowledge and ignore the many failures. So we ask if some of the most successful scientists resorted to misrepresenting their data, what the extent of their fraud was in scientific work that has now been rightfully forgotten.
History shows that the deceit within the scientific community was more common than anyone had first assumed. Almost all scientists nowadays pursue science as a career, so their vocation is also the source of their salary. And whether they are employed by the government or industry, they work within a career structure that will often offer rewards for tangible, often short-term success. So few scientists today can leave it to future generations to judge their work; as universities may deny them tenure, the flow of grants and government contracts may dry up quickly unless evidence of immediate and continuing success is forthcoming.
In short, careerist pressures are intense and unremitting and most scientists won’t let their work by distorted by them. Yet for those who do, the rewards for even deceitfully gained success are considerable and the chances of apprehension negligible. The temptations of careerism, and the almost total absence of credible deterrents to those who would cheat the system, are graphically demonstrated in the meteoric career of that uniquely 20th century scientist Elias Alsabti.
One kind of fraud which they identify is “careerism,” the substitution of “professionalism” for the goals of science, the advancement of self through the abuse of science. They go on to provide clear examples. The first is of Alsabti, who illustrates the point well: he knew how to work the system and work it he did. There is an additional tale of academic careerism: James H. McCrocklin, an erstwhile college president who faked his way through academe.
Another myth in science which the authors identify is the failure of replication to control fraud. Replication, they insist does not work in the way science assumes it should work, and for a very simple reason: the suggestion that replication is to be attempted is an implied and/or overt threat. It is the suggestion that the researcher is not believed. The case in point is that of Marc Spector and his mentor, Efraim Racker, of Cornell. Spector could do things in a laboratory that nobody else could do; he was supposed to have magic fingers. If one could not replicate his work it was because one was not doing it correctly. Furthermore, Racker, who was a Big Name, had vouched for the work the young man was doing. Finally, Racker was having his own pet theory proven by Spector’s work and was most unwilling to “check out” confirming evidence. “The notion of replication, in the sense of repeating an experiment in order to test its validity, is a myth, a theoretical construct dreamed up by the philosophers and sociologists of science.” (p. 77)
The authors have a section in this chapter on replication which merits special mention. They point out that when research is routinely replicated, as is work done for the FDA and EPA, the discovery of cheating increases about 10 per cent. This is to say that when checks are routinely imposed, a lot more fraud is uncovered. The appropriate quote is, “…perhaps as many as 10 percent do something less than honest research.” (p. 83)
It is not until page 87 that the authors reach this startling guesstimate of cheating in science “…(our estimates) would indicate that every major case of fraud that becomes public is the representative of some 100,000 others…that lie concealed in the marshy wastes of the scientific literature.” I do not understand why they felt they had to come up with some sort of number. As it stands, it is meaningless save as a sort of a catchy quote.
They then focus on the scientific elite for another kind of fraud. The case of John Long is illustrative. He was a rising star in a big hospital, doing big things. And then he had the whistle blown on him. For a long time, however, his position saved him. Another example of this elitism is the case of Noguchi at the Rockerfeller Institute, whose friendship with Simon Flexner seemed to make him immune to criticism.
The crime of self-deception is mentioned and the examples given include the cases of Clever Hans, Rene Blondlot, the Piltdown forgery, and the profession’s cruel blindness to Ignatz Semmelweiss.
The mentor-professor relationship is shown to be a tricky one which is frequently abused. (Though Broad and Wade do not mention it in their book, the student can frequently benefit enormously by allowing his mentor to steal his ideas.) Some cases of abused students include: Hewish’s winning the Nobel Prize for the discovery of pulsars and he didn’t do the work. He was director of the laboratory in which the work was done. The question: What are the rights and responsibilities of the administrator of a large scientific project?
The master-apprentice relationship seems to be central to the frauds of Summerlin, Guillis, and John Darsee. These men got away with fraud as long as they did because of their contacts with Big Name scientists. (Broad and Wade do not mention that in the Summerlin affair, his mentor at Sloan-Kettering was among the accusers.) To tie up this section, the authors discuss the Soman-Filig affair.
The next sin in science is that of “politicalization,” wherein the sacred garb of science enwraps the garbage of the partly disguised ideologist. This was the problem with Lysenko and what passed for Russian agronomy under his years in power. Strangely enough, the authors include the Paul Kammerer case here. They conclude: “There exist clear limits to the ability of the scientific method to resist encroachment by nonscientific ideologies.” (p. 191)
The failure of objectivity is exemplified in Samuel G. Morton. The authors’ source on Morton is Gould, and they mention “The Finagle Factor” as well as the Science article. Also they quote from Gould’s Mismeasure of Man. However, they stick to citing the materials on Morton, ignoring Gould’s insistence that all of psychology and certainly a large number of psychologists could be used to exemplify the loss of objectivity through a commitment to a pet hypothesis. Consider their awareness that “…psychologists used the massive test results (of WWI) to bolster their own claims for the technique.” (p. 200) But they let it go at that. Clearly, this is not an attack on psychologists.
Cyril Burt is handled in the same way, as exemplifying a loss of objectivity. “Science is not self-policing. Scholars do not always read the scientific literature carefully. Science is not a perfectly objective process. Dogma and prejudice, when suitably garbed, creep into science just as easily as into any other human enterprise, and maybe more easily since their entry is unexpected. Burt, with the mere appearance of being a scientist, worked his way to the top of the academic ladder, to a position of power and influence in both science and the world beyond. He used the scientific method as a purely rhetorical tool to force the acceptance of his own dogmatic ideas. Against such weapons, the scientific community that harbored him was defenseless.” (p.211)
The book ends with “Fraud and the Structure of Science,” in which the authors try to sum up. The chapter is much the same as Broad’s article, (same title), which appeared in Science. I like this analogy: just as Adam Smith had economics ultimately operated by an Invisible Hand, so would this describe the ideological view of science as operating with an Invisible Boot, which is supposed to kick out the rascals and the rotten apples along with their evil data.
The last pages of the book provide a very brief picture of cheating in science by listing 34 cases which the authors know about and report on in the text of the book. It is a sort of rogue’s gallery of science.
Originally published on my blog here in November 2002.
Scientists have generally portrayed themselves as they have perceived themselves: as objective searchers after truth. This is itself not entirely the way things are even at the best of times, and on reflection it could hardly be the case. Scientists are human too; the ideas on which they work are the products of human minds; and total objectivity can only be an ideal to aspire to.
It is the dichotomy between the ideal and the reality which is the subject of this book - the whole spectrum of deceit in science, ranging from outright fraud to massaging of results to bolster a conclusion to subconscious self-deception. Topics touched on also include the relationships between the different people involved in research - such as senior and junior researchers, or co-authors of papers. The authors set out to determine what it is about the (then) current scientific culture which encourages fraud and its cover up, and they are particularly interested in the ways that process supposed to act as checks and balances (peer review of grant applications, refereeing of papers, and replication of results) have been corrupted. Broad and Wade seem to imply that a major source of problems - which are clearly wider than can be seen by examining only those scandals which have become public knowledge - are consequences of the professionalism of science (as it has this century become more of a career and less the province of the dedicated amateur) and the massive increase in the size of the scientific culture (they estimate that 90% of all scientists who ever worked were active at the time of publication, and that many papers and journals are virtually unread, making it easier to get away with plagiarism). This is however balanced by accounts of (relatively minor) fraud by some of the greatest names in science in previous centuries - men like Galileo, Newton and Mendel reporting experimental results unbelievably close to the predictions of their theories. The verdict of the historians of science seems to be that this is OK, provided that the theory turns out to be correct.
I'm not sure that the selection of the professionalisation of science as a major cause of fraud is entirely correct. One of the other interesting things that comes out of reading Betrayers of the Truth is that almost all the recent examples discussed come from the biological sciences, particularly medicine. This is something which the authors put down to the higher mathematics content in physics and chemistry. The twentieth century expansion of science as a whole is disproportionately centred on biology, and in medical research in particular are combined high pressure to produce results and massive rewards (both in money and status) potentially available, and considerable difficulty in designing, carrying out and correctly interpreting experiments. This is something which seems to me to be a basic part of the reason behind modern fraud, and it makes it especially tragic when flawed experiments can be used as the basis for new treatments.
It is now twenty years since the publication of Betrayers of the Truth; have things changed? I can't see that deliberate fraud and self deception will have gone away. One of the most famous episodes in science in the last few years falls pretty definitely into the latter category, for example - the story of cold fusion. That shares many features with cases described here (especially that of N-rays to which it has frequently been compared). One particular common feature is the attitude of the authorities involved, with the attempts of the university to play things up to attract grant money and the use of rhetoric rather than logic to argue the merits of the case. These are aspects that one would expect to have changed, as high profile cases of error would argue caution, but this does not seem to have happened.
Many scientists manage to go through their entire careers without coming across a case of fraud, though I suspect that most would harbour suspicion that some massaging of results has gone on at some point. One of the major surprises to me in this book is the consistent attitude of senior scientists that fraud hardly ever happens; that it is only the sick of mind who attempt it; and that accusations of fraud are best covered up. (This last is a regrettable consequence of the generally positive fact that scientists see themselves as a community.) There was an article in Physics Today (Investigation Finds that One Lucent Physicist Engaged in Scientific Misconduct) in November, which showed that lessons still hadn't been learnt - despite Broad and Wade bringing this up repeatedly twenty years ago, the investigating committee still said that the responsibilities of co-authors to check for fraud were not clear.
One of the most interesting points that Broad and Wade make is that attempting to understand how science works by discussing what ideal science would be like, as philosophers and scientists tend to do, is likely to lead to distortion of the truth and, in particular, to the reluctance to accept the existence of fraud that seems to still be rife. They would argue that the pathology of the scientific culture should be considered as well as its ideals; knowledge of how things can go wrong can help bring understanding of the healthy system. There is something in this, but it can be equally misleading to go too far the other way, basing understanding of the healthy on examination of the sick; this was a problem with the early development of psychiatry.
Betrayers of the Truth is a thought provoking and frequently shocking read, clearly written, in a journalistic style admirably appropriate to the topic.
Between this, Bad Blood, and the film Fyre, I've been on something of a fraud kick recently. The sort of person who commits an audacious fraud of the type contained in those works emerges as something of a type: ambitious, persuasive, egotistical, and of course pathologically deceptive. But there are also many cases presented in this book of less ambitious frauds committed by people caught up in the pressures of scientific publishing; the sort of fraud I could imagine myself succumbing to under the same circumstances (I recall a few research projects from my undergraduate days where, with a deadline looming, I may have filled in some of the gaps in my data collection). But that's quite enough about my failings! Broad and Wade's picture of science's failings seems as relevant as ever, given the ongoing replication crisis, and many of the critiques they make hold up.
Some arguments that I found less convincing appear in chapter 7, where Broad and Wade address the inadequacies of traditional philosophy of science. They make heavy reference to Karl Popper, and I don't think they quite get him right, though the point can well be made: if two science journalists don't have a perfect understanding of Popper's theory of scientific discovery, then everyday working scientists can hardly be expected to be using his pure theories as the underpinning of their work. And, indeed, they probably don't; the book notes that there are more scientists working now than in the entire rest of human history, and it is most certainly not the case that all of them have a deep familiarity with and commitment to Popper's theories.
The philosophers who Broad and Wade suggest instead as giving a better model for theories of science are Thomas Kuhn and Paul Feyerabend. Kuhn, with his coining of the "paradigm shift," fits well with the thought attributed to Einstein that the theory determines the facts you can observe; quite the opposite of the Popperian maxim to let your facts dictate your theories! It's counterintuitive, but it does make sense. Feyerabend, on the other hand, seems like nonsense to me. The claim Broad and Wade ascribe to him, that scientific knowledge doesn't grow more true, only more complex, seems, uh, utterly wrong to me. Maybe they weren't conveying his views adequately, though from what I know of him it does seem in-character.
Elsewhere, in their final chapter of recommendations for the reform of science, Broad and Wade make a clumsy reference to Adam Smith, and then recommend more private patronage of science, citing Milton Friedman. This casts the whole book with the flavour of free-market hack, which would perhaps explain their preoccupation with the apparent overabundance of researchers that make no significant contribution to scientific progress (taxpayer dollars going to fund science that ends up read by nobody? The horror!). But in spite of this, many of Broad and Wade's observations are insightful, and their accounts of fraudsters running amok are amusing in much the same way as Bad Blood and Fyre are.
So much in this book I never saw coming! I will not give spoilers. Enzo and Kai heat things up. We begin with more details of what we learned in the last book. Half way through you will get a very surprising truth. Then at the end, one that didn’t surprise me so much, and then the cliffhanger. Yikes! What next? I really get annoyed being left hanginging, but at least Ella doesn’t make us last too terribly long, each book has some real substance, and they are reasonably priced. This is an ARC, but is superbly edited.
I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.
2021 re-read of an excellent book about the problems in research, both academic and business. It's primarily focused biology and chemistry but there are enough examples from other disciplines. The upshot is that "self-policing" works no better in science than it does with police, doctors or lawyers. Fraud is the natural result of too much pressure in an insulated environment that has an ability to cover it up.
Love this book and a must-read for those who blindly appeal to authority and make the assumption that those in lab coats are infallible to outright deceptions -- or that institutions have the apparatus to see those lapses in integrity right away.
the title of this book sounds much more sensational than the content really is. the book is a summary of fraud within science. it is a very illuminating look into the world of science and has caused me to be much less accepting of what scientists say. to be more cautious about scientific claims. the book shows how prevalant fraud is, even gregor mendol and galileo fudged some of their statistical data to make their theories seems stronger. both of their theories happened to turn out to be correct and so the fudged numbers are often forgotten and forgiven. however, despite how common fraud is shown to be within science, it does seem that it does little to impede the forward march of knowledge in the world. for most fraud is either committed by people working on something very obscure and irrelevant, so makes little difference, and the fraud was committed for the sake of the scientist to large amounts of work. or the fraud if the fraud is committed in relation to something more relevant, it will simply not stand the test of time, when other scientists try to build upon the fraudulant theories they will find them faulty and so fall by the wayside and be forgotten. one interesting point the book makes repeatedly is that the part of the scientific method most people think of as being the safe guard to prevent fraud, the step of other scientists trying to repeat the studies of their colleagues is mostly non existent. most scientists have little reason to try and repeat someone else's study, unless they are doing so to build upon it. and for the most part, if a scientist fails in trying to repeat someone else's experiment they assume it was some fault of their own rather than that the data was false.
This book was a must-read for someone in science like me. It was published over 20 years ago, but shockingly, (or maybe perhaps not), not much has changed in the halls of science. What struck me most is that I have encountered situations that exemplify exactly what the author says here, which you would expect do not happen anymore, living in the age we do. But they do, and with great frequency. In fact, I'd dare to say it's gotten worse. Now, universities are graduating hundreds of thousands of PhD's, preparing them for academic jobs that simply are not there, and the science elite deals with it by extending the training requirements of the postdoctoral fellow. What once was a training "stepping stone" of 2-3 years has morphed into 8-10 years of overworked, underpaid "training" for an academic position that just isn't there. The pressure to publish is incredibly high, with better rewards given for the number of publications, not the quality of publications, and the "minimum publication unit" - the minimum amount of data you need to crank out a publication, is rampant. This day and age, if you do not publish in the elite journals, Nature, Cell, Science, your chances of getting an academic position are extremely slim, because hiring committees use the presence of these publications in your CV as screening tools to weed out the "unqualified" candidates. But you cannot publish in these journals if you don't have the right connections or are extremely well funded. The system is rigged against the young, developing researcher, to a point where even the NIH has recognized it as a problem, but even they can't seem to do anything about it.
Describes a sad truth I already knew exists within academia: The concept of an impartial, unbiased, self-correcting scientific community is not the gleaming beacon of infallibility it presents itself to be. Between careerism, politics, and arrogance, the distinct scent of pants on fire have been detected in institutions of even the Harvard and Yale caliber.
The authors also bring to the forefront failures of a peer-review system that gives little incentive to actually review a peer, and how the transformation of publications into scientific "currency" has brought about an increase of poor quality publications for the sake of CV padding.
The researcher is a terribly vulnerable being, prone to worry over grant committees and competition before they can even begin to focus on their science. Because of it, the need to publish or perish is a very real concern. And though the idea of intentionally misleading others for the sake of publication is unthinkable to most, it is not unheard of.
For all researchers, it's important to remain vigilant of the bias that pervades this community while also ensuring that your own pants remain flame-retardant.