Horace Freeland Judson, author of The Eighth Day of Creation, eloquently examines the nature and causes of scientific fraud in The Great Betrayal. Although the process of science has built-in checks and balances such as peer review and paper refereeing, Judson calls these "moribund" and asks "whether in fact and to what extent science really is self-correcting." After all, success and good results are sometimes valued above all in science, especially by the agencies or corporations that provide the funding for research. Upon examining hundreds of cases of suspected scientific fraud, Judson answers blind praise of science's self-policing with the terse statement, "Their claims about science are unscientific."
To make his case, Judson begins with some of the giants of science: Mendel, Darwin, Pasteur, Freud. It turns out that each of these men fudged their data in one way or another, whether by omitting numbers that didn't fit desired results, or manipulating photographs, or not using experimental controls. Judson recognizes that there are difficulties in examining historical scientists' behavior through a modern lens, and he deals with the associated complexities by asking tough questions: What if their cheating led to a correct answer? Where is the line between intuition and lying?
The Great Betrayal goes on to describe enough modern cases of scientific fraud to leave readers reeling. The most damning revelations in the book are those showing how whistle-blowers are treated by the scientific establishment, and Judson's showcase for this is Margot O'Toole, who called for correction or retraction of a paper co-authored by noted biologist David Baltimore and was subsequently vilified for her actions. The so-called "Baltimore case" became one of the ugliest and most revealing controversies in late-20th-century science. In the end, Judson offers hope that science may become truly open through electronic publishing. Whether the free exchange of criticism offered by the Internet will refresh science remains to be seen, but without learning from its defects, Judson writes, this great endeavor will ultimately fail. --Therese Littleton
From Publishers Weekly
Many high-profile cases of alleged scientific fraud have made the headlines in the last few years, including the dispute over whether the French or the Americans discovered the HIV virus and the long-running and poisonously acrimonious David Baltimore case. In this far-ranging study, science historian and MacArthur Fellow Judson (The Eighth Day of Creation) surveys how modern-day scientists pursue their research, the problems that ensue and the circumstances that contribute to fraud. Deceit in science isn't new; Judson starts by reviewing 19th-century physicist Charles Babbage's sardonic typology of scientific fraud, then finds Darwin retouching his pictures and Pasteur charged with misleading the public about his vaccine experiments. Several of Judson's categories rear their ugly heads time after time in his case studies, such as outright forgery, e.g., reporting experiments that were never done, and "trimming," or removing data that differ too much from the desired results. As for publication of research, Judson plots a distressing downward spiral in the peer review system, but holds out hope that "open review," which prevents reviewers from hiding behind anonymity, and open publication on the Internet rather than in peer-reviewed journals, may solve some of the problems. This book should have significant appeal for scientists, lawyers and judges, and other readers interested in how the pursuit of scientific knowledge is conducted today.
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