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There Will Always Be Fakers

The IntersectionBy Chris MooneyJan 16, 2006 3:00 PM

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As I've noted previously, there have been attempts to question the scientific peer review process following the Hwang Woo Suk scandal. But a Rick Weiss article in the Washington Post over the weekend helpfully explains why it's naive to think that peer reviewers can catch this kind of chicanery:

Despite all the recent hand-wringing, there may be precious few new lessons to be learned from the Korean debacle, several experts said. Even the journal editors who promised to beef up their screening of submitted manuscripts say privately they doubt there is a practical way to intercept the small proportion of scientists determined to cheat.

In the end, several noted, most research misconduct that comes to light, including Hwang's, does so for the most old-fashioned of reasons: Colleagues or former co-workers turn in the cheaters. This should have been obvious--but unfortunately, too many conservatives have seized on the Hwang scandal and tried to use it as a club against the scientific community (which they have their problems with for other reasons). So it's important to set the record straight. Frauds will always exist, but that doesn't make anyone else responsible for their transgressions--unless they are willing accomplices. Scientific journal editors certainly aren't that.

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