November 20, 2023

Only funders can stop scientific fraud

Many put the work of catching and stopping scientific fraud on publishers, but only funders can put a stop to the practice

This article puts the onus on publishers / the scientific publication process to catch and prevent fraud.

This is like asking merchants to catch and stop fraud and crime (e.g. selling alcohol to kids); it's in their best interest to not catch fraud and maximize their income.

The reason they do clamp down on underage drinking is because they'll get fined/arrested / their license will be revoked. The system cares enough to catch and punish the behavior.

If the funding bodies like NIH don't catch, punish and stop this behavior, it creates a system where fraudsters win more. This makes more groups, even if reluctant, participate in fraud because that's the only way to compete. It's a race to the bottom.

Money drives incentives, and clawing it back while blacklisting and publicly humiliating a lab, will change behavior. That would make the lab a toxic collaborator, especially if collaborators ALSO get blacklisted from funding.

Really, it’s the funders that control the narrative. They should be spending more money on reproducing and checking the science. They should be training and funding researchers to be maintainers of the scientific literature, not merely publish the most novel research.

(Side note: they shouldn’t create a McCarthyistic snitch on your PI or collaborators system, as that would cause people to stop sharing and collaborating, and probably end up raising the amount of fraud)

Dorothy Bishop on the prevalence of scientific fraud (HN discussion)