Posted by Pattie on 7/13/2005 10:37:00 AM

"Science" is a magic word

Why we should not believe everything we read, hear or see about scientific studies:

Charges of fake research hit new high: Doctors accused of making up data in medical studies

Here is the scariest section (emphasis mine):

Allegations of research misconduct reached record highs last year — the Department of Health and Human Services received 274 complaints, which was 50 percent higher than 2003 and the most since 1989 when the federal government established a program to deal with scientific misconduct.

Chris Pascal, director of the federal Office of Research Integrity, said its 28 staffers and $7 million annual budget haven’t kept pace with the allegations. The result: Only 23 cases were closed last year. Of those, eight individuals were found guilty of research misconduct. In the past 15 years, the office has confirmed about 185 cases of scientific misconduct.

Research suggests this is but a small fraction of all the incidents of fabrication, falsification and plagiarism. In a survey published June 9 in the journal Nature, about 1.5 percent of 3,247 researchers who responded admitted to falsification or plagiarism. (One in three admitted to some type of professional misbehavior.)

Scientists are people too and scientific research is only as good as its pratitioners practices.

The best course of action? Skepticism. Pure and simple.

1. Don't believe everything you read.

2. Don't judge everything you read on the basis of the first thing you read.

3. As a t-shirt I saw recently said, "It's called thinking. You should try it sometime."

There is a lot more that I would like to share about how to discern good information from bad. I'm pretty busy right now and probably won't get a chance to do so for a bit, but stay tuned...