Chapter 8: A Broken Culture exposed the corruption of research in the biomedical field due to a ‘pressure-to-publish’ atmosphere. Organizations around the world have turned their research into factory work. These businesses choose select projects that they know will be cheap, fast, and have a “wow factor” for their employees to publish in a big name journal (like Nature, Cell and Science). Because these experiments are done quickly and with the main goal to gain profit, the discoveries published are often only “eye catching” and don’t contribute to solving current biomedical issues. Researchers are constantly rewarded for cutting corners with bonus checks and raises. Richard Harris’ view on the effect of this was “This perverse incentive is warping biomedical science,” and I completely agree. In addition, researchers who have insightful ideas for a progressive experiment won’t be funded if the proposal doesn’t seem enticing enough. How can we possibly be sacrificing people’s health for profit and fame?
This pressure to publish also applies when you are trying to get a job in the research field. Your entire reputation and how employers view you is based on how many studies you have published in journals with high impact factors (a measurement of how eye-popping something is). So with this “quantity-not-quality” attitude, research groups and universities are simply accepting people who will write “flashy” studies so money and distinction will flood to their name. Professor Gregory Petsko explained this by saying, “…they’re using where someone publishes as a proxy for the quality of what they published. I’m sorry. That’s wrong…A lot of great science gets published in [less flashy] journals, while crap gets published in single-word journals.” Similarly, when asked about impact factors, Randy Schekman stated, “It’s hand in hand with the issue of reproducibility because people know what it takes to get their paper into one of these journals and they will bend the truth to make it fit…” This subject of bending the truth brings me to my next point.
Many scientists have crossed the line in order to get their names into popular journals by resorting to writing lies. An example of this was when the journal, Nature, turned down research lab, RIKEN’s, submitted studies. RIKEN edited the papers, resubmitted them and had them accepted. They kept their modifications secret and were later accused of scientific misconduct, resulting in retraction of the papers. When doing my own research, I found timelines that revealed just how much false data had been published in past decades, and seeing records of all of the retractions was astonishing. In science, profit is not supposed to trump ground-breaking discoveries.
In conclusion, the corruption of today’s research is leading our society backwards. By writing this book, Richard Harris has informed people that we should be progressing in science, so we can increase the health of millions of people around the world, and all we need is rigor and integrity to do so.