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A story in the March 9 issue of USA Today caught our eye. Under the headline "Scientists explain why they plagiarize," the article reported on a study in the current issue of Science that found that 28% of those who were caught red-handed denied plagiarism, 35% admitting wrongdoing and expressed remorse, and 22% said they were co-authors but did not write the manuscripts.
Far more disturbing, however, is what we found buried in the middle of the USA Today story. According to a study conducted by the federal Office of Research Integrity, about 3% of researchers observed scientific misconduct each year, consisting not only of plagiarism but largely of faked data.
We suspect that such misconduct is far more prevalent than 3% because some of it is never discovered or reported. We also suspect that it occurs more often when scientists are trying to prove a point on such controversial topics as evolution and global warming.
For instance, last November, the "Prison Planet" website reported: "Climate scientists allied with the IPCC (the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) have been caught citing fake data to make the case that global warming is accelerating." According to the article, "The data produced by NASA to make the claim, and in particular temperature records covering large areas of Russia, was merely carried over from the previous month."
And who can forget Piltdown Man - a fake that fooled an entire generation!