The Boston Globe, in an account by freelancer and scientific fraud sleuth Eugenie Samuel Reich, details suspicions and accusations concerning research honesty that are swirling at Oak Ridge National Lab. A team there, it says here, has admitted to misrepresenting key data in a paper it published 13 years ago on the atomic-scale behavior of certain materials. It appears that data graphs were manipulated to appear more complete than they were. Plus, Reich reports, the nimbus of suspicion is now reaching other papers the taxpayer-supported research group has published more recently.
Her source appears to be a reviewer who, on condition of anonymity, provided information to her. She says the source told her “there is direct, incontrovertible evidence for systemic data manipulation and scientific misconduct in this manuscript.” Most of it appears to be in the form of data sets that are too symmetrical to reflect the stochastic nature of real tests (as in the pic. The left and right wings of the proffered data plot are mirror images). In other cases, data from one experiment is duplicated by data supposedly from another experiment.
This may have been a tough story for the Globe’s editors to judge for news merit. Scientific fraud is an insidious thing that just about always requires exposure. But the research here is so arcane, the story barely clears the average reader’s “so what?” bar. The researchers, it says here, maintain that the errors are mere editorial slip-ups that do not undercut the legitimacy of the conclusions.
This article was originally published on Rumblings of data manipulation, perhaps deliberate, from Oak Ridge National Laboratory