Babbage: The scandal of scientific fraud

There is a worrying amount of fraud in medical research. As many as one in 50 research papers may be unreliable because of fabrication, plagiarism or serious errors. Fabricated data can influence the guidelines which doctors use to treat patients. Misguided clinical guidelines could cause serious illness and death in patients. Fraudulent studies can also influence further research programmes—recent findings suggest that manipulated images may have resulted in scientists wasting time and money following blind alleys in Alzheimer’s research for decades. What can be done to combat scientific malpractice? 

Dorothy Bishop, a retired professor of psychology at the University of Oxford, explores the motivation behind fraudsters in research. John Carlisle, an anaesthetist and an editor of the journal Anaesthesia, explains the impact of fraud and how to detect it in research papers. Also, Elisabeth Bik, a former microbiologist and a full-time scientific image detective, discusses the consequences of whistle-blowing on both sleuths and the fraudsters. Plus, The Economist’s health-care correspondent, Slavea Chankova, investigates how to overcome the worrying unwillingness on all sides to do anything about fraud in research. Alok Jha hosts.

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