The New York Times (Inadvertently) Demolishes Mann's Defence

If this doesn’t kill Mann’s attempts to avoid FOI, I don’t know what will. The New York Times reports about the latest example of (massive) scientific fraud:

Outright fraud may be rare, these experts say, but they contend that Dr. Stapel took advantage of a system that allows researchers to operate in near secrecy and massage data to find what they want to find, without much fear of being challenged. “The big problem is that the culture is such that researchers spin their work in a way that tells a prettier story than what they really found,” said Jonathan Schooler, a psychologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “It’s almost like everyone is on steroids, and to compete you have to take steroids as well.” […]

Dr. Stapel was able to operate for so long, the committee said, in large measure because he was “lord of the data,” the only person who saw the experimental evidence that had been gathered (or fabricated). This is a widespread problem in psychology, said Jelte M. Wicherts, a psychologist at the University of Amsterdam. In a recent survey, two-thirds of Dutch research psychologists said they did not make their raw data available for other researchers to see. “This is in violation of ethical rules established in the field,” Dr. Wicherts said.

For the reading-challenged amongst us, the point is that secrecy and refusing to share research material is the perfect environment for fraud. That’s why every sharing tool is important including FOI.

And before anybody asks I don’t believe Mann is a fraudster. His emails will likely be as interesting as Sarah Palin’s or even less. But the principle of FOI must be defended to protect ourselves from the fraudsters out there.