Tuesday, January 31, 2017 by Ethan Huff
There is still this prevailing idea that if a scientific paper has undergone rigorous peer review and been published in a reputable scientific journal that it must be flawless. But one cancer researcher, a professor of molecular oncology with a solid track record of success in her field, has come to the shocking realization that not everything is as it seems when it comes to the integrity of “science.”
Jennifer Byrne from the University of Sydney began her truth journey after discovering some anomalies in a few scientific papers about human genes and cancer. She noticed that a DNA type mentioned in a few of these papers was apparently not the one that the researchers who wrote the paper actually tested, so she started writing these researchers, as well as the journal editors that published the papers in question, to let them know about the problem. (RELATED: Find more reports of fake science in science journals at FakeScience.news)
Along with her colleague Cyril Labbé from the University of Grenoble Alpes in France, Byrne utilized detection software known as SciDetect that knows how to identify fake scientific papers. Upon running the software, Byrne and her colleague found that all five of the papers in question had used a faulty primer. They published their findings in the journal Scientometrics.
Byrne had expected proper corrections to these papers, but instead was greeted with a mixed bag of responses. Rather than see all the papers either pulled or corrected with prudence, only two of the five that she identified were retracted, and it took as long as two years for this to happen — not exactly a rapid response in the interest of maintaining scientific integrity.
Interestingly enough, the five papers that Byrne and her colleague identified were not even authored by the same people, suggesting that scientific fraud is much more prolific than just in a few oblique corners of the scientific world.
“We wanted to make a reasonable comprehensive description of a phenomenon that if correct, is important,” Byrne stated as to why she took so much time away from her normal duties to pursue this major issue in the scientific literature. “Many of those papers may be fine, but if there is any hint of a systematic issue in the literature that is not as described, that is really serious.”
After encountering more than their fair share of resistance in trying to correct these five particular papers, Byrne and Labbé came to realize that there are far more of them out there with similar problems. After probing both PubMed and Google Scholar, the duo stumbled upon at least another 30 papers utilizing the same flawed methodology as the original five. (RELATED: See Scientific.news for more coverage of problems in modern science.)
This is just one area of science, after all, where problems were observed — a relatively limited area of research focused on just one type of cancer gene known as TPD52L2. Chances are, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of other papers looking at other areas of cancer research and disease in general that are wrought with similar flawed premises.
In their paper, Byrne and Labbé highlight how, based on evidence that some of the papers in question contained information that was gathered from outsourced companies, “science” in general could be riddled with so-called purchased data that is laden with errors and incorrect information that serves as the basis, in some cases, for clinical practice.
“People do cancer research to improve cancer sufferers’ lives. It’s not funny, the consequences (of fraudulent research) can be dire,” their paper explains. “This is the start of the pipeline that translates to better cures for patients. If the start of the pipeline is basically a sham, then what’s the point in the end?”
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