Alt-Coin Trader

Why Scientists Lie -- and What to Do about It

The recent revelations of misrepresentation by CRU scientists about research on climate change should come as no surprise. Scientists, like all human beings, are sometimes tempted to lie or cheat, and occasionally they succumb to those temptations.

Actually, scientists don't do too badly.  According to a recent analysis of surveys of scientific misconduct:

In surveys asking about the behavior of colleagues, fabrication, falsification, and modification [of data] had been observed, on average, by over 14% of respondents, and other questionable practices [such as "dropping data points based on a gut feeling" and "changing the design, methodology, or results of a study in response to pressures from a funding source"] by up to 72%.

That's probably a better track record than sociologists or economists could muster. I shudder to think what the corresponding percentages would be for politicians or journalists.

But it's not good enough. Scientists are worthless if their data and reasoning cannot be trusted entirely. They have in effect signed a contract with society, pledging honesty and objectivity. When a scientist is caught in a lie, it should rarely, if ever, be forgiven or forgotten. So why did the scientists at CRU indulge in such reckless, career-shattering antics?

Posted via email from Anthony's posterous