The Law Winks for Corrupt Scientists

March 8, 2014

“(I)t’s against the law to do many things, but the law winks when a reputable man wants to do a scientific experiment.   For example, the criminal code of the City of New York holds that is a felony to inject a person with infectious material. Well, I tested out live yellow fever vaccine right on my ward in the Rockefeller Hospital. It was no secret, and I assure you that the people in the New York City Department of Health knew it was being done.  Unless the law winks occasionally, you have no progress in medicine.”

Thomas Milton Rivers

gallo636To most Americans, the effects of medical and scientific misconduct and corruption are as distant as Neptune.  But if we take a closer look, we understand how that corruption affects us in our daily lives and take it more seriously.

When police officers and private investigators are caught lying or fabricating evidence, few object when they are charged criminally and lose their careers permanently.  But unlike licensed and sworn investigators, academics and scientists like Robert Gallo MD, who have knowingly and deliberately fabricated scientific research, continue to accept millions of dollars in research funding from US taxpayers, while the honest scientists who ask questions are targeted with retaliation and the withholding research funding.

The costs of scientific misconduct – and the acquiescence of the institutions and universities that employ them – is incalculable and goes much further than the waste of a few billion tax dollars.  Honest scientists and doctors who question the corruption are routinely attacked, while ordinary Americans are threatened with the taking of their children or criminal charges, based entirely upon legislation that relies upon junk science.  When looked at more closely, we find that many of the dangerous laws and policies are drafted by the same industries that profit from junk science, and the funding that is wasted to investigate the problems they’ve produced.

In addition to the recent reports about scientific corruption by Achilleas Kostoulas, Curt Rice, and Andrea Saltelli, Professors Ferric C. Fang MD and Michael Farthing further acknowledged the problem.

Dr. Fang reports that a detailed review of all 2,047 biomedical and life-science research articles indexed by PubMed as retracted on May 3, 2012 revealed that only 21.3%of retractions were attributable to error:

In contrast, 67.4% of retractions were attributable to misconduct, including fraud or suspected fraud (43.4%), duplicate publication (14.2%), and plagiarism (9.8%). Incomplete, uninformative or misleading retraction announcements have led to a previous underestimation of the role of fraud in the ongoing retraction epidemic. The percentage of scientific articles retracted because of fraud has increased ∼10-fold since 1975. Retractions exhibit distinctive temporal and geographic patterns that may reveal underlying causes. (see report)

University of Sussex Prof. Michael Farthing agrees:

Research misconduct is now acknowledged to be an important global issue for both researchers and the wider community. Guidance on the responsible conduct of research is now widespread, but many are still concerned by the apparent rising tide of serious cases of research misconduct, and perhaps the more worrying widespread presence of questionable research practices. I would suggest that guidance and training, while essential, are not sufficient. Additional interventions, including enhanced monitoring of research outputs and random audit using the available technology should be considered, as should the desirability of having a register of “licensed researchers.” In addition, I would support a culture change in the research community in which researchers are encouraged to admit their mistakes; this should be accompanied by a spirit of forgiveness and programmed rehabilitation for the individual concerned.  For multiple “premier league” offenders who are reluctant to face their misdemeanors, it is difficult to see how they could continue in the role of a researcher, and their “registration” should be revoked. Research is increasingly undertaken by researchers who cross national boundaries. The globalization of research demands greater collaboration between organizations that are responsible for ensuring standards of research integrity; the need for international standards and guidance has never been greater. (see report)

Unfortunately, many of Dr. Farthing’s proposed standards are dictated by governments and the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries that profit from the corruption.  Until universities and researchers are held accountable with criminal charges, lost careers and significant fines, nothing will change.

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