Scientists Whistleblowers and Faulty Peer Reviewed Studies

This week saw the revelation that a so called peer reviewed study, claiming a correlation between vaccinations and the cause of autism was invalid, despite its being published in the respected medical journal The Lancet. The two critical qualifications for acceptance of findings of major scientific studies has been peer review and publication acceptance in a major “reliable” publication. However, the findings of these studies and testing as to whether the findings are valid and can be reproduced is now underway There is a growing recognition of the failings of our acceptance of so many scientific findings. This does not even factor in potential bias from funding sources for the studies. Jonah Lehrer wrote an article in the New Yorker recently in which he examines the “decline effect”. This is where scientists repeat experiements and find that their results are harder to replicate. He references in the article several experiments that were published in prestigious journals which were believed to adhere to strenuous controls and careful design. Despite this, the results could not be replicated. This is not a revelation and not new. It is bad science. It is even more troubling as much science is funded with U.S. taxpayer dollars by grants from the NIH or other funding mechanisms. Some is a result of blatant fraud. In 2004, the Journal of Reproductive Medicine published a study claiming that women were twice as likely to get pregnant when Christians prayed for them, the lead author took his name off the study saying he hadn’t actually participated in the research. One of the other authors wasn’t a scientist and was incarcerated for unrelated fraud. Where science is manipulated and taxpayer dollars are involved, true scientists should be required to report this fraud. Whistleblower laws are designed for just this and have built in protections from retaliation. We rely on science to be honest and true and spend previous resources based on what is published.