Research Papers Whistle Blowing

If so, that’s a real problem, said Steneck, who suggested that the wildlife researcher seek advice and support from a supervisor or department chair, as well as the scientist’s institution.“When you do go into those situations,” said Steneck, “it’s best not to do it alone.” concerns about shoddy science have largely focused on problems in the areas of psychology and biomedicine, the field of ecology isn’t immune to the publish-or-perish pressures that encourage flawed and exaggerated research reports.(Such questionable research practices generally aren’t considered misconduct, though some people argue otherwise.) When I briefly described Scientist A’s concerns about the wildlife population dataset to Parker, an ecologist and evolutionary biologist, he thought the situation sounded problematic.

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Ecologists and evolutionary biologists commonly engage in so-called questionable research practices, according to a survey published last week by Hannah Fraser and Fiona Fidler of the University of Melbourne in Australia and Tim Parker of Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington.

Two-thirds of respondents admitted that they had, for instance, cherry-picked data on at least one occasion.

I received an email from a wildlife researcher — I’ll use the pseudonym Scientist A — who wanted to anonymously seek advice on a professional quandary.

This researcher believes that two colleagues are presenting data on a controversial wildlife species in a misleading way.

If a publication is inaccurate — whether due to honest mistake, or misconduct — it should be retracted.

Alternatively, if a study with otherwise sound conclusions nonetheless contains erroneous data, the paper should be corrected.

As a result, Scientist A is now pondering whether the right move is to write another commentary and continue discussing the issue publicly in the literature — or demand retraction of recent papers by Scientists B and C.

“Is this a case for scientific debate,” Scientist A wondered in the email message, “or a case of misconduct?

“The leaders did not want to retract their earlier research and the postdoc was not willing to risk a career,” Steneck said.

Dozens of the unreliable articles remain in the published literature, and while most experts in the field know that, outsiders may not have a clue.


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