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Policy

Science ethics

August 21, 2006 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 84, ISSUE 34

I have read C&EN for many years, but I have never seen letters to the editor deteriorate to the level I observed in Ronald D. Jones's letter, "Forced Fraud" (C&EN, May 8, page 6). I believe I am obligated to remind readers of what should be obvious to all ethical and upstanding scientists. The argument that Jones presents is an unfortunate result of a growing culture of victimization that I see in the country as a whole today, although I had hoped it would never find its way into science.

Scientists' ethics are derived from the values instilled in us throughout our educations. We all know that it is wrong to cheat on exams, for example. Fraudulent research reports are not "forced" upon anyone. Those who commit such fraud have made a calculated, conscious decision to perpetrate fraud, and they need to be very careful to cover their tracks in doing so. Such a violation of the scientific community's trust is not done on a whim, given the time and work involved in preparing manuscripts, getting peer review, answering comments, and so on. This allows for plenty of time for the perpetrator to reconsider the gravity of his or her actions and to retract or correct such falsifications, yet some still go forward knowing full well that they are trying to deceive reviewers and the scientific community.

To imply that limited funding of areas "outside their training and passions" can in any way justify fabrication of research results is outrageous. To even suggest that restrictions on funding will "force a level of fraud into research" would lead to the logical converse that increasing funding will make everyone more honest in reporting results, which is absurd.

Fraudulent results come from unethical scientists, not from underfunded scientists. Some of the most unethical behavior in society comes from some of the richest people, and it is ludicrous to surmise that an unethical scientist would suddenly become more honest given more money for his endeavors.

Kevin Condroski
Broomfield, Colo.

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