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The Great Betrayal: Fraud in Science 1st Edition

8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0151008773
ISBN-10: 0151008779
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Editorial Reviews Review

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt; 1 edition (October 11, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151008779
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151008773
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #968,641 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Nikola on January 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover
To me the most valuable parts of the book are those exposing the details of investigations and the politics of fraud. In my experience the general public is not aware of how science actually works, but rather embraces an idealistic, naive picture of science as a self-correcting system that reveals "truth" about the world. In reality, this is true about science inasmuch as it is true that politicians make decisions that are in the best interest of the general public.
My experience as a scientist is also that scientific community does not discuss fundamental problems of fraud openly, if at all, but leaves it to young scientists to learn it the hard way that science nowadays is not very different from politics or show business. Cherry-picking the data that fit your needs in a highly competitive environment has become a standard that only a few can afford to violate, and faking the data is not that rare either.
This book is therefore a valuable document for both the general public and young people considering science as a career. Much of the criticism I see in the reviews boils down to staring at the finger when someone is pointing to the Moon. The book raises important questions by documenting the workings of modern science, and these questions should not be ignored.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By T. Eagan on December 16, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I really wanted to read about fraud in science. It is an important topic, which should interest most of us, not least those who research. And, there are interesting stories told here indeed, and much to think about. I especially enjoyed reading about the Baltimore case. And, I can think of many reasons to discuss the potential problem with current science funding and system for academic recognition. Personally I find that this book has plenty enough of information to deserve more stars than some reviewers give it here at Amazon.

However, I too found that the book lost energy after a while, the same arguments were repeated, the analysis seemed a bit thin, but the pages long.
Fraud in science is interesting stuff, and I was a little sad to admit to myself I was getting bored. Please someone, follow-up with a deeply researched and detailed account of later cases, and dare to discuss more the motives of fraud.
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35 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Konstantin Momot on December 17, 2004
Format: Hardcover
First of all, this is not really a book about fraud in science. The analysis of specific cases of scientific fraud is thin and focused mostly on procedural matters; actual science behind each case is almost completely missing from Judson's analysis. His analysis of fraud as a phenomenon is even more superficial. For all the 400-plus pages of pomp, he fails to look at the obvious: what drives scientists to work in science? A quick look at a randomly selected group of postgraduate students would have revealed that there is a very broad distribution of reasons, ranging from the very global (desire to better understand the surrounding reality) to practical (making a living), to idiosyncratic personal reasons (e.g., looking smart in the eyes of the opposite sex). Where there is a distribution of motivations, there will be a distribution of rules by which people play - including some people bending the rules unacceptably far. Sociology of science is probably as complex as of the society at large; and as in any complex group, fraud is unavoidable.

Which brings us to the second point. Judson's real reason for writing this book seems to be the critique of the ways by which science is funded and by which scientific publishing works. He uses the existence of fraud to attack the existing system of scientific publishing (formal, peer-reviewed, commercially run journals) and claims that a transition to an arXiv-style system will all but eliminate scientific fraud. Unfortunately, his arguments are thouroughly unconvincing. The way scientific results are reported and published may well have a second-order effect on the incidence of fraud, but it is hardly the determining factor of the latter.
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8 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Michael Emmett Brady on February 21, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Judson has done an excellent job in exposing intellectual fraud in general ,as well as concentrating specifically on the attempt by David Baltimore to cover up the extremely shoddy,error filled work of a colleage,Imanishi-Kari.Baltimore had agreed to put his name on a paper that he had not read carefully,if at all. Margot O'Toole exposed the paper,showing that it was riddled with errors.Baltimore engaged in an attempted coverup ,believing that his great reputation,based on his being a Nobel Prize winner with a number of accomplishments ,would serve to sidetrack any call for the retraction of the paper.An excellent summary of this scientific fiasco is given on p.242 by Judson when he cites the final judgment of another Nobelist,the late Howard Temin:" David's misconduct was-When an experiment is challenged no matter who it is challenged by it's your responsibility to check...When you publish something you are responsible for it.And one of the great strengths of American that even the most senior professor,if challenged by the lowliest technician or graduate student,is required to treat them seriously...It is one of the most fundamental aspects of science in America".
In fact,what Temin is stating is not just the most fundamental aspect of American science.Transparency,the requirement that results be checked and rechecked before the publication of an article in a scientific journal,is the most fundamental aspect of science.Error correction is a necessary condition for any field to be called "scientific ".Fields or disciplines that do not prevent or correct error filled articles from being published or that do not retract such articles once they are exposed ,like most social sciences,economics and psychology in particular,are not considered hard science.
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