Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Government Funded Fraud

   By Donna Cole

 "Doctors at the prestigious John Hopkins Medical School have breakthrough genetic research that could lead to a quantum leap in cancer treatment published in the esteemed scientific journal Nature." That headline sounds like the makings of a Nobel Prize winner, and it probably had a good chance for one except for the fact that the research is fraudulent. In other words, the books were cooked.

 The Washington Post has an in-depth investigative article on this research, how questions were raised during the research by one of the research doctors, a Dr. Yuan, who was then fired with this research paper being published in Nature a few months later. Without getting into the science nuts and bolts of this story, Dr. Yuan went on to blow holes in the research paper and submitted his challenge of the findings to Nature. This is how this scientific process works, and the authors of the original work had two weeks to respond.

 What Dr. Yuan did was show the Hopkins researchers lowered the bar, the standard needed, to show positive test results. The ever political Washington Post used this analogy, "it would be like a pollster declaring a winner in an election when the margin of error was larger than the difference in the polling results."

 One of the less fortunate results of Dr. Yuan's work was that once he brought this challenge, on the last day of the two week response period one of the lead researchers on the bogus paper committed suicide. He did this apparently because he had been exposed and could not refute Dr. Yuan. The other lead researcher has requested extensions, lasting months, and as of the time of The Post article has not refuted the fact his results were hoaxed.

 The story tells of how John Hopkins Medical School gets hundreds of  millions of dollars in research funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and how the school is under immense pressure to produce results to continue to receive the government funds.The pressure for results also comes from the fact that there are many other research schools, in all sorts of scientific fields, competing for this money. There is also the aspect of this that writing these papers can be a research doctor's ticket to scientific fame and fortune, so the temptation to fudge the numbers is there from that angle too.

  The Post article points out how nobody seems really motivated to expose this bad research. Dr. Yuan's debunking has never been published by Nature or refuted by John Hopkins. When Dr. Yuan went to the NIH and basically said, "Aren't you guys going to investigate this?" It is fraud, in essence they stole the research money. NIH said the matter is closed because the lead researcher is dead and any investigation into whether or not the research was good or any corrections were needed was being left up to John Hopkins. It looks like they are letting a bank robber investigate a robbery he committed. The journal Nature seems to be just fine waiting indefinitely for John Hopkins to respond, and not worried at all about publishing Dr. Yuan's debunking. Dr. Yuan has retained a lawyer and is in the process of going after the school for wrongful termination. But there is more to this story than just these details.

 This is not a one off case. Apparently this type of scientific fraud occurs quite often. Here are excerpts from The Post piece describing this problem;

 *His (Dr. Yuan's) suspicions arose as reports of scientific misconduct have become more frequent and critics have questioned the willingness of universities, academic journals and the federal government, which pays for much of the work, to confront the problem.
*Last year, research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that the percentage of scientific articles retracted because of fraud had increased tenfold since 1975. The same analysis reviewed more than 2,000 retracted biomedical papers and found that 67 percent of the retractions were attributable to misconduct, mainly fraud or suspected fraud.
 “You have a lot of people who want to do the right thing, but they get in a position where their job is on the line or their funding will get cut, and they need to get a paper published,” said Ferric C. Fang, one of the authors of the analysis and a medical professor at the University of Washington. “Then they have this tempting thought: If only the data points would line up . . . ”
 Fang said retractions may be rising because it is simply easier to cheat in an era of digital images, which can be easily manipulated. But he said the increase is caused at least in part by the growing competition for publication and for NIH grant money.
  He noted that in the 1960s, about two out of three NIH grant requests were funded; today, the success rate for applicants for research funding is about one in five. At the same time, getting work published in the most esteemed journals, such as Nature, has become a “fetish” for some scientists, Fang said.
  In one sense, the rise in retractions may mean that the scientific enterprise is working — bad work is being discovered and tossed out. But many observers note that universities and journals, while sometimes agreeable to admitting small mistakes, are at times loath to reveal that the essence of published work was simply wrong.
 *The trouble is that a delayed response — or none at all — leaves other scientists to build upon shaky work. Fang said he has talked to researchers who have lost months by relying on results that proved impossible to reproduce.
*Moreover, [as Adam Marcus, who with Ivan Oransky founded the blog Retraction Watch] have noted, much of the research is funded by taxpayers. Yet when retractions are done, they are done quietly and “live in obscurity,” meaning taxpayers are unlikely to find out that their money may have been wasted.

 "Universities and journals, while sometimes agreeable to admitting small mistakes, are at times loath to reveal that the essence of published work was simply wrong." When people, mainly conservatives, question whether or not global warming is man caused, they are shouted down. Climate change skeptics are dismissed as crack pots, others are said to be "science deniers." It is said those on the right who question global warming is man caused are driven by political motivations, backed by moneyed interests such as big oil, and not by scientific fact. When in fact it could very well be the other way around.

 We have been told man caused global warming is not even open for debate because all the evidence is agreed upon by a scientific consensus. Could it be this consensus is built upon "shaky work" done by scientists driven by interests other than science? Could it be these liberal scientists and the politicians who fund their work are in fact are driven by the left's obsessive and wrongheaded hatred of fossil fuel use? Could it be those scientists not only want more and more government funding for their research but also seek the fame and fortune which can come from making great discoveries? Things like publishing books, traveling the world giving lectures, winning Nobel Prizes and to be revered, and famous as, another Albert Einstein. Could this drive them to invent these great discoveries? Could they be used by greedy liberal politicians to demand action in the form of industry crippling carbon taxes as a lucrative new revenue stream for their ever growing welfare state? Could these same politicians use global warming as an excuse for onerous regulations to shape social behavior to their liking?

 Perhaps these factors are more powerful motivations than actual scientific fact. It is known people given the right motivations can convince themselves to believe almost anything, even in face of evidence otherwise. Naturally, people do not like to be wrong, or admit it, and in many cases they will go to any length to prove they are right. Those scientists at John Hopkins are just one example of this. I do not doubt for a minute that even though they had to change their methodology to make the numbers add up, they were able to look past this and actually believe their results to be true. This is what allowed them to publish the work with a straight face. It was also what, when forced to confront this, drove the one doctor to take his own life.

 Another example of this desire to prove one is right with regard to man caused global warming was recently in the NY Times. In the 1970s, climate scientists predicted that by now in the second decade of the 21st century the world would be in another ice age. They said the northern hemisphere would be covered in ice, glaciers miles thick covering cities like New York and Milwaukee. Of course this has not happened, or anything even close to it. Climate change skeptics have always pointed to 21st century ice age that wasn't as an example of how wrong the climate scientists long term predictions are, and how they don't understand all the forces like changes in the sun that drive Earth's temperature.

 The Times report is on scientists who now make a government funded effort to explain away the 1970s ice age predictions. In it, they say their research shows that global temperatures are warmer than they have been in 4000 years, and that we should be headed for an ice age but because of man's actions this ice age has not happened. How convenient. The scientists in the 70s were actually right, but they didn't account for man caused global warming to avert this disaster. When one stands back, and looks at this with an open mind, it becomes quite laughable, yet I am sure those scientists believe this without question. It is this without question that is the real issue here.

 Most climate skeptics like myself do not deny the planet is warming. What we question is that man's actions have caused it, and if this warming is such a bad thing to be so worried about? We have seemingly saved the Earth from another ice age after all. Who is to say what the right temperature of the Earth is? Al Gore, who has plenty of his own economic motivations for it to be caused by man's actions? We know that not just in human history, but in all of the Earth's history climate has been in near constant flux and can change relatively quickly due to a host of factors having nothing to do with human activity.

 Climate skeptics are told that our denial of their consensus amounts to a denial of science itself. Skeptics concerns are dismissed in much the same way many scientists dismiss the existence of God. It is a waste of their time to even debate it. They say skeptics denials amount to having our heads in the sand.

 However, the man caused global warming promoters believe their own consensus as an unquestionable faith. Questions and evidence to the contrary are dismissed as coming from ignorance. The questions themselves are brushed aside, and the questioners are demonized by the political left. This makes one wonder who really has an open mind, whose motivations are driven by special interest, and whose heads are really buried in the sand?

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