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Scientific fraud, double standards and institutions protecting themselves

Ole Rogeberg writes:

After reading your recent post, I thought you might find this interesting – especially the scanned interview that is included at the bottom of the posting. It’s an old OMNI interview with Walter Stewart that was the first thing I read (at a young and impressionable age ;) about the prevalence of errors, fraud and cheating in science, the institutional barriers to tackling it, the often high personal costs to whistleblowers, the difficulty of accessing scientific data to repeat published analyses, and the surprisingly negative attitude towards criticism within scientific communities. Highly recommended entertaining reading – with some good examples of scientific investigations into implausible effects. The post itself contains the info I once dug up about what happened to him later – he seems like an interesting and very determined guy: when the NIH tried to stop him from investigating scientific errors and fraud he went on a hunger strike.

No idea what’s happened to him recently – still hoping to find out.

It begins:

Last September I [Rogeberg] sent an email with a bunch of stuff to Jonah Lehrer, hoping he might do a story on Ned Feder and Walter Stewart, a pair of “scientific fraud investigators” active in the eighties and nineties. He replied that the story was “absolutely fascinating” and that he would look into it. . . .

Now that Lehrer is unavailable, maybe Gladwell or someone else could do a story on this, perhaps centering the story on a current hero-figure such as Ioannidis or Simonsohn. That could work, I think.

4 Comments

  1. fred says:

    There’s already a hagiography on Ioannidis in The Atlantic

  2. There are some uncanny parallels to recent events in psychology and between Walter Stewart and Uri Simonsohn.

    • Andrew says:

      Sanjay:

      A key difference is that Simonsohn has an academic job which I think gives him more freedom to do this sort of thing, compared to the government job that Stewart had.

      • For sure. Chalk one up for the tenure system.

        Another difference I’m hoping for is that Simonsohn’s professional peers will be more receptive than Stewart’s appear to have been. It’s still early, but I’m seeing some hopeful signs in how people are responding to his work.