Friday, July 15, 2005

Fake Research? Says Who?

Apparently there is a growing trend for people to fake research for large federal grants. A valid commerce clause spending program I'm sure, Congress doles out large amounts of money for research grants every year. [Go here for a summary of the various decision making processes.]

We learn important things from many of these, like for 1.2 million dollars, we learned that conservative thought, like Hitler and Reagan, is a mental disorder.

Few of these projects are as important or as ground breaking as studies like this study, which received no Federal funding.

Anyway, the fake research is now becoming as big a problem as the just plain stupid research.

Allegations of misconduct by U.S. researchers reached record highs last year as the Department of Health and Human Services received 274 complaints -- 50 percent higher than 2003 and the most since 1989 when the federal government established a program to deal with scientific misconduct.

Chris Pascal, director of the federal Office of Research Integrity, said its 28 staffers and $7 million annual budget haven't kept pace with the allegations. The result: Only 23 cases were closed last year. Of those, eight individuals were found guilty of research misconduct. In the past 15 years, the office has confirmed about 185 cases of scientific misconduct.

You know, it is bad enough that my tax dollars go to fund stuff that should be done in the private sector, but the costs to the tax payer doesn't end there. Because these research grants are often quite large, the incentive to cheat is quite high.

The study mentioned above about conservative political thought, which was funded with $1.2 million in government money. In a current high profile case, Eric Poehlman, once a prominent nutrition researcher, will be sentenced in federal court in Vermont on July 18 for fabricating research data to obtain a $542,000 federal grant while working as a professor at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. He faces up to five years in prison.

Moreover, the desire to have get grants, and make headlines, makes reaching a controversial conclusion profitable. As a result, we actually have two problems: research that is designed to lead to certain conclusions, and thus is basically useless, or research that is doctored and fraudulent, and thus basically useless.

And to top it off, in the case of federally funded grants, we have to pay to investigate and prosecute the cheats.

Find them all. Fine them all. Fine them heavily.


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