Topic: Research Fraud For someone who has been a part of many clinical trials, I will be the first

to admit that I have very little training in research design or statistics. Oh, th e hours I’ve spent surreptitiously curled up on the sofa of a doctors’ lounge or my own apartment, thinking that somebody paid somebody a lot of money to write “scien ce” so I could figure out how and why I would know things. It pretty much worked. There were a few mentions of statistics at my delightfully thorough prep school , but there was not so much as a word at medical school. The research types wer e always hanging around medical school settings — their brains rented and services bought by the medical side of things — as they did not make much money. We did r eceive some wonderful instruction from clinicians as to how to evaluate research literature and decide how to apply it to our practices. I have a vivid memory of an endearing shy and spindly instructor during a course required for incipient biologists at Boston University. He had Jewish afro hai r, coke bottle bottom glasses, and a more than passing resemblance to a young Wo ody Allen. Oh, how he despaired that we were mostly going to be money-chain doc tors as opposed to truth-chasing scientists. I remember that once, and only once , did he reach fiery intensity in that class. “Nothing will be published unless th e probability that it actually shows what it is supposed to show is greater than 19 out of 20, that means p>.05. But nobody wants to admit what that really mea ns.” Oh, how silent we were, on the edge of our chairs. “That means one out of every 20 research papers in your favorite medical journals is all wrong, and nobody knows which one of the 20!” He lifted his finger into th e air, like Leonardo da Vinci’s enigmatic portrait of St. John the Baptist. And b elieve me, this man was no Baptist. “At least, that would be true if everybody was doing their research correctly and honestly and all that, but they are not. No , most of them don’t know, or have forgotten, or maybe lie, but nobody really know s how much scientific research could be fake or could be rubbish…” I knew then that I was in for things I did not yet know much about. I also knew that I was going to have a bit of a hard time somewhere in this, as I had assimilated absolutely all of the private readings in the front and back of a highly traditional Jewis h prayer book, and other people — mostly men – were probably not playing by the rule s. Oh, a few girls had called me crying with guilt after “accidentally” copying some one else’s homework or even examination, always citing some extraordinary parental expectations they did not want to ruin. Personally, I never got into male styl e game playing. Although, I have certainly learned to recognize such game playi ng and have seen how competition accelerates, confuses, or forgets “ethics” or “rules.” I have actually heard male professors, in a large Midwestern university setting , joking about how many infringements of university rules could be practiced wit hout seeing a flag lowered in penalty. I’ve heard enlisted men on their way to a mess discuss how often and for how long they could have a woman visit the barrac ks unattended. I do not say that women do no wrong; only that the notion, the ethos, of competi tion and “cheating” has a male edge to it. Their absence on these lists of fraudulen t scientists is all the more noteworthy because more women seem to be entering a cademics than ever before. I have not found a good way to trace if they are als o leaving faster, or getting less grants and publications. The sheer volume of folks that seem to be doing this is increasing astronomically. I cannot find a single female name on any list of those guilty of this sort of infraction, anywh ere. So leaving sex and all its roles and values aside, it seems reasonable to look a t why there is more of this and why it is happening in ways that seem impossible to check or police in any manner. From fraud in bio-informatics, near my old h omestead at the University of Kansas to an outlandish report on the “cult” of fraud, the field seems to have run rather amok.

We do have people who are supposed to police this sort of thing, although it may not technically be criminal. But as in the Kansas case cited above, or any oth er, the wrongdoing has to be known before anything can be done about it. So, fo r once, we have a government entity about which I am not going to yell or scream about bribery and corruption. Although, I have no reason to expect there is le ss in this agency than anywhere else. Honestly, there are not enough people in the world to check all the facts asserted in “original” research, which is very hard and very expensive to reproduce. Could this actually be more of a problem here in the states than elsewhere? Oh, the wonderful capitalistic and competitive and greed driven culture that we hav e in the United States of America. Look, there are pressures on people to get p ublications and grants and all sorts of prestige in the academic world. I left this game a long time ago. Some have never quite forgiven me for leaving the ga me of academic prestige. Leave it to the fair-play and ultra-civilized Brits to ask us to slosh empathy f or those who commit research fraud. It is superficial to me, with disproportion ately small awards, but empathy is as precious as it is rare.