Editorial of the ” World “. Anyone interested in the history of science knows how much this activity is human, and subject to the passions, the rivalries, and the quest for knowledge puts up some small arrangements to the bare facts, when it is not a case of fraud, pure and simple.
The astronomer claudius Ptolemy is suspected of having plagiarized the measures of the Greek Hipparchus, the monk Gregor Mendel who is suspected of having “arranged” the distribution of the peas to stick to his laws of heredity. Twenty years after its publication, an article by Andrew Wakefield in The Lancet claiming that the MMR vaccine was responsible for autism cases continues to hamper the immunization policy, while its results have been entirely “bidonnés” and they have done, since the object of rétractations.
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These cases are rare, but these instances scientists are only the most extreme form in a continuum that goes from simple embellishment of data fabrication, pure and simple. Progress, funding, and glory depend on the ability of teams to quickly produce publishable results. This knowledge-based economy induces perverse effects : overreaction, saucissonnage results, and the emergence of journals, predatory and congress cans, misconduct by scientists…
sites like PubPeer, intended to accommodate reviews of the scientific literature, including anonymously, are love by part of researchers, who see it as a vile instrument of denunciation. Flawed, yet it has unearthed the real fraud, and only exists because of the inability of science to replicate his results and to correct effectively.
The scientific institutions of the French do not seem to have fully learned the lessons of the phenomenon. The direction of the CNRS, in front of the “cases Olivier Voinnet,” in 2015, thought to have made an example which is able to build the community : hitting hard this star of the plant biology part for the Swiss, the public body showed that no one was safe.
But, to hit it hard, and it hit just right, and with consistency : the survey of 2015 has been sloppy, individual responsibilities have not been sufficiently researched, not more than the extent of the harm to science caused by such misconduct. And, three years later, the same arguments used against Olivier Voinnet – his responsibility as head of the group, the damage to the image of the organization – will be forgotten in the case of Catherine Jessus, head of biology at the CNRS. Several of his publications are, however, also involve manipulation of images, and the absence of a number of original data unfortunately does not allow to conclude.
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biology is a science so “soft” that its experts are unable to agree on the gravity of the facts or to say if, yes or not, the manipulations have changed the meaning of the “discoveries” ? The French Office of scientific integrity, all recently created, and the device that the CNRS is preparing to put on the foot will change-they give it to you ? It is time that the French research has clear rules and shared on the modalities of investigation and punishment of misconduct by scientists. That it does and weighs-in at the international on the conditions of production of knowledge that ” pushing to the crime “. And she was not afraid of the publicity and the scandal : this is not to damage the science to explain how it is correct and rédime.
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