Category Archive: Scientific Fraud

Can You Really ‘Train Your Brain’ with Games to Maximize Performance?

If you’ve listened to a popular podcast, used music streaming apps like Pandora and Spotify, or watched cable news recently, you’ve probably seen advertisements for Lumosity—a “brain training” program that claims its games could help consumers maximize their brains’ performance at work, school, and sports and stave off age-related cognitive decline. It sounds great—by simply playing fun games a few times per week, we could improve brain performance. Unfortunately, there isn’t any scientific research to back up Lumosity’s bold claims. Because of that lack of scientific evidence, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charges Lumosity “deceived consumers with unfounded claims." The agency...

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Bad Science Might be Costing Billions

Poor experiment design, accidental contamination, and inadequate data analysis are all major research problems we’ve pointed out on this blog. Now, a new study published in PLOS Biology estimates that problematic research that isn’t easily reproduced may be costing $28 billion per year. Of course, that doesn’t mean all those studies were complete wastes. Some studies included in that figure did find valid results, but for various reasons (such as confusing methodology) aren’t easily reproduced. Regardless of whether the figure runs as high as $28 billion, there’s little doubt that an alarming number of scientific studies are marred with severe problems. One of the biggest problems remains mislabeled cells. For...

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Whoops! The Most Memorable Scientific Retractions of 2014

In 2014, there were hundreds of stories about scientific fraud—including the publication of fake papers (like one submitted by Simpsons characters), manipulated images, and questionable peer review. With so many stories to choose from, it’s hard to choose the worst of the worst. The co-founders of Retraction Watch put together their list of the Top 10 most memorable retractions of 2014. Check out the article here: http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/41777/title/The-Top-10-Retractions-of-2014/

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Maggie Simpson and Edna Krabappel Paper Accepted by TWO Scientific Journals

I’ll bet you didn’t know that America’s favorite yellow pacifier-sucking baby and chain-smoking teacher were serious scientific researchers. Recently, a nonsensical study authored by these fictional characters was approved for publication by not one, but two scientific journals—the Journal of Computational Intelligence and Electronic Systems and the Aperito Journal of NanoScience Technology. Predatory scientific journals are a serious issue—these publications offer to publish just about any scientists’ (or fictional characters’) work for a fee without actually conducting peer review. Yet once the work is “published” by a reputable sounding publication, authors are able to point to their published research and promote...

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How hard it is to spot scientific fraud?

A University of Utah investigation recently uncovered that a graduate student in its chemical engineering department faked photos for a published research paper. The photos were the basis for his paper on microscopic structures called nanorods, which was published by the journal Nano Letters before being retracted. This story highlights one of the easiest and most common ways for scientists to fake results: image manipulation. The same tactic was used by Japanese researchers to fake data in what had been considered a “groundbreaking” study of stem cells. Earlier this year, Science was forced to retract two much-sited paper from a University...

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The Peer Review Process for Scientific Publications: Trouble in Paradise?

In February 2014, Nature Magazine published a report stating that between 2008 and 2013 more than 120 peered reviewed journal articles were retracted after scientists discovered that they were actually computer generated articles. Amazingly, this was not the first instance—Nature reported in 2005 that a major computer conference was fooled into accepting a paper that was generated by computer. These articles should have been through the peer review process, but what happened? Here’s how the process is supposed to work: When a researcher has finished with a series of experiments and feels he has enough data to report to the general scientific...

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