The Politics of Scientific Fraudrnby Marcel C. LaFolletternC?^^HrnKrnk’y “*,rnItA-.^….. JrnMk i •t.uf M^aife* ‘Hftrn^ I3f Js^f^ ^S^H^^^^^H^^ ^^^1^91rn’^F 1MIKJ0^ ^^^SSHi^BWiraH*’^ s£^|Lrn!]• M-‘^^w. mrnii(«’-s; – • 1rnl^,«<»>^f • .rfS. fllrnJ K # ! ? JJ”^.<(^3^ r iMHrarnj|^^^^^H|^ii^K^!!^!9PR&^^^H^^rnfi^^^^^^^^^^^^H|^^5^^NHb^^^^^^^^^^^^L^rn^^ ^ muggier, embezzler, art forger, scientist.” Before the rekrnj e e n t eontroversy over scientific fraud, that list mightrnhave been used on an SAT: “The first three deal in deception,rnthe fourth deals in truth.” Today, however, science’s culturalrnimage is not so unambiguously positive: scientists no longerrnseem immune from the moral lapses that can inflict people inrnother occupations. Fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism arernb no means rampant within scientific laboratories, but sufficientrnethical problems have surfaced—man in places assumedrnto ha’e higher standards, as in prestigious journals—to raisernalarm. /nd although academies in the humanities and socialrnsciences might prefer to dismiss this as a dilemma only for sciencerndepartments, the federal regulations and political suspicionrnresulting from shaken public trust affect all academic researchers,rnnot just those in the physical and natural sciences.rnScientific “truth” matters for reasons other than moralityrn(even though that should suffice). First, we pav for it. As U.S.rnRepresentative John Dingcll recently admonished readers ofrnthe New England journal of Medicine: “The foundation ofrnpublic support for science . . . is t r u s t . . . that scientists and researchrninstitutions are engaged in the dispassionate search forrntruth.” We also care because scientific data and evidence—andrnthe secondary and tertiary conclusions based on them—influ-rnMarcel C. LaFollette is an associate research professor ofrnscience and technology policy at George WashingtonrnUniversity and author most recently of Stealing into Print:rnFraud, Plagiarism, and Misconduct in Scientific Publishingrn(University of California Press).rnence so many personal and political decisions: individualrnchoices about diet or health care, community choices aboutrnpower generation or water treatment, government standards forrnauto emissions, judicial convictions that rely on scientific analysisrnof blood stains. Modern society routinely accepts a preponderancernof information as “scientific knowledge” and doesrnso more out of habit than rational evaluation of each newrnfact. Experience counts. Science’s record for accuracy hasrnsimph given little cause for concern—until recently.rnAn intelligent consumer of scientific information, like the intelligentrnconsumer of other goods and services, would not, ofrncourse, necessarily assume that all such information is free ofrnerror or falsehood. Deception is not happiness, as Riccardo Nobilirnreminds us in The Gentle Art of Faking (1922): “to be wellrndeceived means to be living in a fool’s paradise, a most costlyrndwelling that promotes no eternal joy.” Nevertheless, science’srnreputation tends to deflate skepticism, to insure positivernacceptance of all scientists do or say.rnFven after following the issue of scientific fraud for over arndecade, 1 still find it incredible that a scientist could not onlyrnaccept public money to conduct research, fail to do it, and thenrncoolly fabricate data and nonexistent “experiments” for journalrnarticles, but also allow other professionals to base treatment ofrnpatients on the conclusions in those articles. And yet in thernease of Stephen E. Breuning, who in 1988 pled guilty to federalrncharges of having falsified research project reports to the Nationalrnhistitute of Mental I lealth (NIMH), that is exactly whatrnhappened. Breuning’s “data” indicated that psychotropicrndrugs were often o’eruscd—and that stimulant drugs werernSEPTEMBER 1993/21rnrnrn