Saturday, 11 July 2015


In his time DZ, in common with just about all hospital specialists, has done a little research. My own feeling is that the insistence that some research appearing on a CV is an absolute necessity for career progression is misplaced. Forcing the disinterested to do research can only produce poor quality research, and dilute resources, starving those who really want to do it, and produce good quality stuff.

But that's not what I'm going to explore today.

Imagine for a moment DZ does a research project. He collects the measured data and does the analysis. And gets results entirely unexpected and counter intuitive. His natural reaction is to doubt the data. So what does he do? Does he, doubting his results, submit what he actually found, or does he throw it in the bin and start again? Either would be acceptable ethically. But there's a third option. What if he looks at the data, and alters it, so that it supports his preconceptions? What if he tweaks the data here and there so that the results are completely altered to conform with what he expected to find?

In medicine that would rightly be called "falsification" or "fraud". If found out my paper, if published, would be redacted and my reputation destroyed. I might well lose my job, and have to answer to the GMC. And quite right too. Research fraud is a serious matter.

The point of research is to observe nature. The data you collect is sacrosanct. If you find you've made an error you can discard it, but you can't just alter it. Your measurements should be inviolable, whether you like them or not.

Altering your data is just not acceptable or excusable. Even worse is when you admit the fraud and try and sanitise it by calling your falsifications "adjustments". Present your data, like it or not unadjusted. Don't piss down my back and tell me it's raining.

Or you're no better than this guy.

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