, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 553-556
Date: 27 Oct 2010

Fraud from the frontlines: the importance of being nice

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In this charming and engaging book on scientific fraud, David Goodstein draws on his extensive experience as a practicing scientist and vice provost at Caltech. The subtitle is appropriate—the book is full of Goodstein’s personal stories about differentiating scientific misconduct from acceptable science. Such stories, supplemented with an examination of Robert Millikan’s oil drop work, provide an incisive look at actual scientific practice.

Goodstein defines fraud narrowly (and correctly, in this reviewer’s mind) as fabrication of data, falsification of results, and plagiarism. Thus, the book is not a sufficient treatment of all the ways in which scientists can misbehave (there is no discussion of other unethical research practices such as mistreatment of subjects, problems raised by conflicts of interest, or the mishandling of sensitive results, for example)—nor is it meant to be. Indeed, the detailed examples of fraud are largely cases of data fabrication, and thus plagiarism is not ...