Where's my whistle?
This has been a week of uh-ohs.
The refrain that makes me want to hurl, because I've heard it multiple times from different people:
Uh oh, that gel from your collaborator seems to be completely fake
Luckily, none of these cases have affected me directly (yet?), but I have been thinking again about this question of what do you do when you suspect dishonesty in science.
It also got me thinking about how this is probably also contributing to why I'm not appreciated.
Yes, I've said it before and I'll say it again: I really am that good. But I sometimes wonder if the reason most people don't know real expertise when they see it is because they're willing to cut corners and falsify results, so they just assume I'm doing it too?
I'm tired of being treated like I'm mediocre, when at least I know my results are real, and I've had to watch several cases of liars getting High Impact papers and faculty positions.
But there is nothing I can do about it in the absence of hard proof or a confession that they spiked their samples, that the PI pressured them into producing the expected answers, etc.
I don't know what to do in these situations. It's the rare PI who will not get defensive if you even hint that maybe they didn't notice something fishy about that paper their favorite postdoc published last year.
And yet, I'm watching generation after generation of grad students get completely screwed, being made to feel inept when they can't reproduce data that probably never existed in the first place.
So I have to wonder, seriously, if I know a handful of these phonies are now professors, how many are there total? Are there more now than there were before? Will they ever get caught? Why do we tolerate it? How come nobody seems to know??
I also know a few people who left science during or after grad school when their PIs refused to admit that their new data invalidated the old, obviously massaged evidence published by past postdocs. They said they couldn't win, research wasn't what they thought it was, and went off to do other things.
I worry that unless we come up with a mechanism, maybe some kind of anonymous hotline, all of us trusting, honest souls will end up leaving out of sheer disgust, and there won't be any real science left.
And yet, the idea of being able to report people anonymously means you open up the possibility for false accusations. It's too 1984 for me, kids reporting their parents during the Cultural Revolution in China. It could be a whole new form of nastiness. Would that really be worth it?
Obviously, this is why we don't have The Truthiness Police. But I'm worried that science is hemorrhaging from being undercut by those who make it a game of ambition, while laughing at the noble pursuit of excellence.