SciLifeLab The Svedberg seminar series, Suzanne Shale

Monday, April 20

Suzanne Shale

Independent Ethics Consultant; Research Associate at Ethox, University of Oxford

Noble and ignoble science: the long fight against fraud and fabrication

Sir Cyril Herman Hinshelwood, 1956 winner of the Nobel prize in Chemistry, described science as “an imaginative adventure of the mind, seeking truth in a world of mystery”. But what happens to science when scientists give more weight to their imagination than their evidence?

Nearly 200 years ago, Charles Babbage (inventor of the first mechanical computer) described ‘cooking’ and ‘trimming’ of data as almost routine abuses of science. In modern times, research malpractice is more common than we might think. Sheehan’s 2007 study revealed that 40% of US clinical scientists were aware of scientific misconduct they had not reported (Clev Clin J Med 74: S63-7.) And even Nobel laureates have come under suspicion.

I recount three recent stories of malpractice in life sciences to consider the boundary between what is acceptable and unacceptable, and how good scientists get tempted into bad practice.

More information about Suzanne Shale and Clearer Thinking

Host: Jonas Bergquist