Issue Date: October 2, 2006
Ethics issues have been widely discussed following Woo Suk Hwang's scientific fraud case. Journal editors also grapple with ethics issues to avoid unfair shadow over the reputation of the journals (C&EN, April 10, page 62). However, as mentioned in the article, it is tough to discover falsification of data, even with rigorous peer review.
To me, it seems too late to detect scientific fraud during a manuscript's peer review process. First, policymakers and administrators should think about better ways to evaluate researchers, other than counting the number of papers published and the impact factors of the journals in which they were published. As indicated by Ronald D. Jones (C&EN, May 8, page 6), "The overwhelming pressure to publish and obtain grants to support partial salaries and bloated university indirect costs will continue to force a level of fraud into research."
Furthermore, the common sense of copyrights should be stressed in the science community. Research results published in a journal may solely relate to copyrights, which differ from patents in that they only protect against actually copying. A work created by others, without copying, is not an infringement, no matter how similar it may be to the published work. Moreover, copyright protects only the expression of an idea, not the idea being expressed. In other words, the information given in journals is not protected against appropriation and use by others, although copying of the presentation and arrangement is barred.
From the viewpoint of copyrights, policymakers and administrators should evaluate researchers by determining whether their works are useful or meaningful. If this could be accomplished, the motivating factor for science fraud would be eliminated.
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