Neuroskeptic looks at the new phenomenon of vigilante science where people are taking it upon themselves to closely examine science research papers for plagiarism, falsification, and fabrication.
Some worry that this might turn into witch hunts, with people with ideological axes to grind harassing scientists and wasting their time with nit picking questions. We have see this happen with climate change deniers and opponents of evolution, who have on occasion pestered scientists with queries about their data, even though there was no evidence of any wrongdoing.
But neuroskeptic thinks that good can also come out of it. Although the word ‘vigilante’ has negative connotations, neuroskeptic thinks that this is a good thing because journals do not seem to be giving manuscripts the kind of close reading they deserve.
But are the vigilantes really doing something that requires explanation?
All they’re doing is reading papers – carefully. In an ideal world, this is what all readers would be doing – paying close attention, not taking anything on faith, checking the sources. And all writers dream of readers giving their work their full and undivided attention.
I worry that the increased demands for university scientists to get large amounts of external research funding in order to get tenure, coupled with decreased allocations for basic research by the US government due to the insane budgetary policies emerging from Washington where the highest priority seems to be to not require rich people to pay taxes they can easily afford, is going to increase the pressure on weak-minded, ethically challenged scientists to cut corners or outright cheat. Then we all lose. This kind of public scrutiny may serve to deter temptation.