Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Is scientific fraud more common than we'd like to think?

In response to my blog on Frances Collins last week, a reader pointed out that the kind of data image manipulation that Collins belatedly discovered in his own lab is more common than many scientists would like to admit: as much as 25 percent of scientific papers submitted for publication contain such image manipulation.

For example, in manuscripts accepted by the American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Critical Care Medicine, the American Thoracic Society found that “approximately 23 percent of images had undergone some alteration “including ‘erasure,’ ‘filling in,’ ‘splicing and ‘cloning.’” In addition, the journals of Cell Biology and Blood have both reported that 20-28 percent of accepted manuscripts had signs of image manipulation, according to The Scientist.

Yet, according to these sources, the Office of Research Integrity at the NIH, which Obama has appointed Collins to direct, only investigates one in 100 cases of suspected data manipulation and thus far only 17 of those investigations have been resolved. Sounds like Collins has some cleaning up to do, should he be confirmed for the post.

On another note, it was good to see The Washington Post enlarging upon some of the reporting I and other bloggers have done on the health care industry's generous contributions to senators like Max Baucus and Chuck Grassley, who are playing a pivotal role in the current health care reform effort.

It was also nice to see The Boston Globe weigh on the same problem, since it was a Globe reporter who first revealed that the biotech Amgen had given $1 million to the planned Edward Kennedy Institute at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. Kennedy aides, of course, say there is no connection between Amgen's healthy donation and the fact that Kennedy's health committee recently voted out a bill that would give biotech and pharm companies a 12-year patent monopoly on new biologic drugs before the drugs become generic. But one can't help but wonder. What's obvious is who the losers will be if this bill passes: American consumers who have to pay top price for new drugs when much cheaper generics should and could be available.


Mr. B. said...

Well at least some of them get caught:


Marya Zilberberg said...

In this recent survey 1/3 report some data "manipulation"! Shameful! you mention AJRCCM, and in my field it is a coveted publication that is hard to get published in. I managed to have one paper published in it in 1997 and not since. Too bad I did not think of doctoring my data!

I really enjoy your blog and have linked to it from mine. Consider reciprocating?



Marya Zilberberg said...

oops, forgot to give you the link to the survey:


jimpurdy1943@yahoo.com said...

As your excellent blog points out in great detail, American health care is riddled with conflicts of interests, sloppy work, and lack of transparency.

It all makes me want to look for placebos, which often get great results without the expense and the extreme side-effects.

I think I'll start with large doses of dihydrogen monoxide, taken every two hours. After all, H2O has a history going back thousands of years, with very few side-effects.