A couple of scientific sketchiness stories surfaced since New Year. Here is one:
What to do? What would you do?
- You could hope that nobody would notice: the presentation of the data [even if made up] were internally consistent enough to convince the editors at Science and 2 or 3 independent referees, after all. The results had the ring of truth.
- Or you can 'fess up, call Science and ask them to retract / suppress the paper. The Boss chose the latter, honest, option with a tweet (and an awkward phone call to Science) "I was a bit busy when this was submitted, and did not do my job well".
Who feels crap now? Well all three of the faces above. The two junior people probably don't have a career in science anymore, so that's a bummer. For the Boss, there are no sanctions for did not do my job well and eeee but we do love a Nobel Prize winner. From Twitter, all the responses I saw were positive and supportive - shucks that's tough, I'm sorry for your troubles - rather than condemnatory. The editor and the referees who midwifed the miscreant Science paper should be feeling crap too because they were too credulous and blinded by the glitter of the Nobel Prize. But I doubt if there are any sanctions for them, either.
And what's all that lead in about Pompeia about? Getting a Nobel Prize is not quite random, but there are lots of contributors who don't make the cut. Jocelyn Bell Burnell, for example. But having got the gong, life gets dialled up a notch. Not necessarily easier, but people listen to you even if you're being daft or cranky [Linus Pauling] ; you get a lot of free gigs and inhabit a lot of hotel suites. You owe it to the people who are fêting and feeding you to be above suspicion.