Science as a dictionary definition means “the observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena”. The natural goal of science is to “discover truth about phenomena” which is “incongruent with the concept of fraud” (Morrison, 1990). Unfortunately, some people who deal with science as a profession all around the world engage in tricky activities for many reasons and in many ways.
According to Morrison, disreputable science can be either fraud or misconduct. Fraud can be defined as “the deliberate falsification, misrepresentation or plagiarism of data, findings, or ideas of others”. Misconduct is very similar to fraud but it also refers to “carelessness or bias m recording and reporting research data as well as mishandling of the data and incomplete recording of results” (Morrison, 1990). Some examples of disreputable science are plagiarism, falsifying data, embellishing research reports, manipulating data, irresponsible authorship, conducting trivial studies, releasing results to press before peer review etc. According to Ruby S. Morrison, fraud in science can be analyzed under three headings: personal, organizational or situational. Personally, some scientists who are not trustworthy in order to make more publication and earn money can make fraud. Organizationally, elitism of scientists as well as the competition among them, may direct them to make misconduct. “Competition for promotions as well as funding has distorted the evaluation process from quality to quantity of publications achieved” (Morrison, 1990). Situationally, scientists in difficult economic conditions or political pressure may have to write unscientific research papers. Fraudulent and disreputable science decreases people’s trust and the prestige of scientific studies. Moreover, trivial studies especially in the science of medicine “put patients at risk” (Leinster, 2002). It is very unfortunate to see for their academic success, some scientists play with people’s lives.
In order to prevent fraud problem in scientific works, there are some settled and institutionalized mechanisms. “Peer review and replication of studies are basic ways to detect scientific misconduct” (Morrison, 1990). These methods should be made seriously in order to reduce the fraud rate in scientific works. Even co-authors should carefully scrutinize the entire research project in order to prevent a big mistake. University juries and scholars must be very careful about the works of their students because in the case of a problem as supervisors they would be responsible too. Journal editors and reviewers should also share this responsibility. In addition to detecting fraud, another important mission is to report the fraud. “Reporting fraud to journals that published the research and to funding agencies helps detect fraud in other works by the particular scientist and can uncover other misconduct in the institution” (Morisson, 1990). In medicine, there are some “shared ethos and agreed standards of behavior” codified under the name of “Hippocratic Oath” and “Declaration of Geneva” (Leinster, 2002). However, we must be aware of the fact although we have these prevention mechanisms, fraud in science still exists and we need new ways to solve the problem.
In my opinion, in order to reduce the effects of this problem, we should educate the students not only in technique area, but we should also give them scientific ethics lessons. Scientific honesty and the love of science must start from the primary education and children must be informed about the sacred duty of science. Professors and instructors should not only talk about technique matters, but also about scientific ethos. Unethical behaviors from early age must be detected and punished. Moreover, the socioeconomic condition of scientists is very important for a “clean” science. Scientists must be given enough wages and funds to conduct their researches freely and to be able to follow new developments around the world on his or her specialized field. When scientists have less economic problems, they will be less likely to engage in fraud. In addition, scientists must be protected from political pressures to be able to express themselves freely. A real scholar must be independent and scientific works should be made freely for benevolent aims. Academics all around the world can initiate and engage in international organizations to help their colleagues who are subjected to political pressures in their country. Moreover, especially in critical sciences like medicine, the density of prevention mechanisms must be increased since here people’s lives matter.
Finally, in my opinion, being a scientist should be to follow the way of service for humanity and truth, away from politics and personal benefits.
Assist. Prof. Dr. Ozan ÖRMECİ
- Dictionary.com, http://www.dictionary.com.
- Leinster, Sam (2002), “Do what I say, not what I do”, Medical Education, Vol. 36, Issue: 2, pp. 113-114.
- Morrison, Ruby S. (1990), “Disreputable Science: Definition and Detection”, Journal of Advanced Nursing, Vol. 15, Issue: 8, pp. 911-913.