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On the Path to Scientific Fraud

On the Path to Scientific Fraud
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eric poehlman scientific fraudAcademic research at the highest levels is as much a game of popularity as it is one of academic excellence. Everyone is smart. Everyone is accomplished. Finally, what separates one researcher from another is how he or she plays the game: how much grant money they raise, how many students and postdocs they employ, how many other scientists benefit from sharing grant money or authorship on publications. Eric Poehlman (pictured at right) knew how to play the game, even when that meant conducting scientific fraud in the process. In an article appropriately titled "An Unwelcome Discovery," this week's New York Times Magazine presents the story behind the criminal conviction of the former tenured faculty member at the University of Vermont. Poehlman was convicted to a year and a day of prison and two years of probation for using fraudulent data to obtain millions of dollars in federal grant money from the National Institutes of Health. What's particularly interesting about the Poehlman article is what it reveals about the inner workings of academic research and how the system permits such fraud to be committed over years or even decades. The article paints a picture of Poehlman as one who is an expert at telling people what they want to hear - even going so far as to falsify data to fit the hypothesis. Though ironically, it's when data doesn't fit the hypothesis that new scientific discoveries are made.
Submitted by elementlist on Oct 22, 2006
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