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On Fact and Fraud

On Fact and Fraud: Cautionary Tales from the Front Lines of Science

David Goodstein
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: STU - Student edition
Pages: 184
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  • Book Info
    On Fact and Fraud
    Book Description:

    Fraud in science is not as easy to identify as one might think. When accusations of scientific misconduct occur, truth can often be elusive, and the cause of a scientist's ethical misstep isn't always clear.On Fact and Fraudlooks at actual cases in which fraud was committed or alleged, explaining what constitutes scientific misconduct and what doesn't, and providing readers with the ethical foundations needed to discern and avoid fraud wherever it may arise.

    In David Goodstein's varied experience--as a physicist and educator, and as vice provost at Caltech, a job in which he was responsible for investigating all allegations of scientific misconduct--a deceptively simple question has come up time and again: what constitutes fraud in science? Here, Goodstein takes us on a tour of real controversies from the front lines of science and helps readers determine for themselves whether or not fraud occurred. Cases include, among others, those of Robert A. Millikan, whose historic measurement of the electron's charge has been maligned by accusations of fraud; Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons and their "discovery" of cold fusion; Victor Ninov and the supposed discovery of element 118; Jan Hendrik Schön from Bell Labs and his work in semiconductors; and J. Georg Bednorz and Karl Müller's discovery of high-temperature superconductivity, a seemingly impossible accomplishment that turned out to be real.

    On Fact and Fraudprovides a user's guide to identifying, avoiding, and preventing fraud in science, along the way offering valuable insights into how modern science is practiced.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3457-0
    Subjects: General Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. One Setting the Stage
    (pp. 1-28)

    Fraud in science is, in essence, a violation of the scientific method. It is feared and denigrated by all scientists. Let’s look at a few real cases that have come up in the past.

    Piltdown Man, a human cranium and ape jaw found in a gravel pit in England around 1910, is perhaps the most famous case. Initially hailed as the authentic remnants of one of our more distant ancestors, the interspecies skeletal remains were exposed as a fraud by modern dating methods in 1954. To this day no one knows who perpetrated the deception or why. One popular theory...

  6. Two In the Matter of Robert Andrews Millikan
    (pp. 29-50)

    Robert A. Millikan was a founder, first leader, first Nobel laureate, and all-around patron saint of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). In his day, Millikan was a lionized titan of American science, but his reputation has received critical scrutiny in recent times.¹ He has been accused of male chauvinism, anti-Semitism, mistreating his graduate students, and—last but not least—scientific fraud. We shall now look into these charges.

    Millikan was born in 1868, the son of a Midwestern minister. He attended Oberlin College, got his Ph.D. in physics from Columbia University, did some postdoctoral work in Germany, and in...

  7. Three Bad News in Biology
    (pp. 51-58)

    In the late 1980s, Caltech, one of the nation’s premier research institutions, was stunned when two apparently unrelated instances of research misconduct showed up in the laboratory of one of its star performers, biologist Leroy E. Hood. Accused of misconduct were Vipin Kumar, a recent graduate of the prestigious Indian Institute of Science, who had come to Caltech from an initial postdoctoral appointment at Harvard University, and James L. Urban, a trained pathologist who had by then gotten his Caltech Ph.D. with Professor Hood and moved on to a regular faculty position at the University of Chicago.¹

    Kumar and Urban...

  8. Four Codifying Misconduct: Evolving Approaches in the 1990s
    (pp. 59-68)

    In the late 1970s, matters of scientific integrity (and the occasional lack thereof) in the nation’s research laboratories began to capture the attention of the American public. In 1981, future vice president and then Tennessee congressman Albert Gore, Jr., chairman of the Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee of the House Science and Technology Committee, held the first hearings on the emerging problem. In 1985, Congress enacted the Health Research Extension Act, which required institutions seeking research funds from the Public Health Service (PHS), the oversight body of the NIH, to establish “an administrative process to review reports of scientific fraud” and...

  9. Five The Cold Fusion Chronicles
    (pp. 69-96)

    On December 6–9, 1993, the Fourth International Conference on Cold Fusion took place in Hawaii, on the island of Maui. The event had all the trappings of a normal scientific meeting. At least 250 scientists took part, mostly from the United States and Japan (hence the site in Hawaii), with a sprinkling from Italy, France, Russia, China, and other countries. More than 150 scientific papers were presented, on such subjects including calorimetry (a measurement of how much something warms up when you put a given amount of heat into it), nuclear theory, materials, and so on. The founders of...

  10. Six Fraud in Physics
    (pp. 97-106)

    “The physicists have known sin,” J. Robert Oppenheimer is famously said to have remarked after the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In more recent years, it had seemed that the physics community might be immune or at least highly resistant to another form of sin—that of fabricating scientific data. Nearly every case of scientific fraud in the last three decades seemed to involve biology and related sciences, not physics. In the first years of the twenty-first century, however, two high-profile cases of cheating in physics emerged into the harsh light of day. One involved the announcement...

  11. Seven The Breakthrough That Wasn’t Too Good to Be True
    (pp. 107-126)

    This chapter has its origins in a talk on the discovery of high-temperature superconductivity that I gave in 1989 as part of the Caltech Watson Lecture series, which regularly presents public lectures by Caltech professors. The subject captured my attention not only because low-temperature physics (to which superconductivity belongs) is my own research field but also because it offers a rare instance in which a physical phenomenon that just about everyone had always known to be impossible turned out to be not only possible but quite commonplace once a couple of persistent and enterprising researchers had ferreted out its existence....

  12. Eight What Have We Learned?
    (pp. 127-134)

    We have been through quite a lot, in this little book, having to do with honorable and dishonorable conduct in science. Our first chapter introduced our general framework, elaborating on various theories of how science works, particularly those of Bacon and Popper. To this day some people teach the scientific method as if Bacon’s dictum were the final word. But it isn’t. We sketched out three conditions that are generally present when scientific fraud occurs, and considered fifteen plausible sounding ethical principles, all of which would be damaging to science if anyone actually tried to apply them. We then revealed...

  13. Appendix Caltech Policy on Research Misconduct
    (pp. 135-146)
  14. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 147-148)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 149-154)
  16. Index
    (pp. 155-168)