Unfortunately, fraud occurs in all research, but often occurs in medical and other life science research. The Macchiarini case came a few years ago to annoy not only the profession but also the wider public. One of the many investigations that followed was of Karolinska University Hospital’s handling of the clinical portion of this work led by Kjell Asplund. He was judged particularly suited to the task with his vast experience in healthcare, research, central authorities, and a number of intense investigative assignments.
Asplund has now written a great and facts-packed book called “The Cheaters.” The accepted definition of scientific misconduct, the official term in the field, is based on the “fabrication, forgery, or plagiarism” triad. However, Asplund takes a broader approach to all kinds of unacceptable deviations from good research practices, which he chooses to summarize under the term “cheating”.
The book is based on a number of known cases, from Ptolemy, Freud and Mendelian to recent cases of Covid-19 research. Some particularly notable cases, such as psychologists Eysenck and Stapel, stem cell researchers Obokata and Woo-Suk, vaccine researcher Wakefield and surgeon Macchiarini, are described in detail, while other cases, also from Sweden, are mainly used as illustrations of various forms of fraud. search.
The story is based on a metaphor invented by psychologist Jennifer Kish-Giffart, who explains the phenomenon of cheating with the picture “rotten apples, poor packaging, and fermented barrels” as various explanations for why the cheating occurred in the research. Thus, it usually concerns people with special personality traits who work in research environments that lack an ethical environment and in a system that lacks regulation and leadership. Plus, there’s also the observation that it has a lot to do with male cheaters.
Asplund is particularly interested in the gray areas of cheating, like they can find expression in honors writing, spreading prejudice, predatory journals and conferences and more. Moreover, the concept of truth is discussed postmodern, as it is said that truth is manifold and negotiable. Particular emphasis is placed on image manipulation, which appears to be a particularly common form of fraud.
One of the chapters revolves around different methods of detecting research fraud, with examples from known whistleblowers, including from Karolinska Institutet. In this story, Asplund refers to the difficulties that whistleblowers often face due to a lack of academic leadership.
The author writes fluently and interestingly, making the book almost leaf. It provides a realistic account of the problem but does not hesitate to constantly comment on various forms of cheating based on personal experiences, making the reading both enjoyable and fascinating. It’s hard to imagine a better guide in this area than that of Kjell Asplund.
The author explains that cheating is not a unique exception but a phenomenon that can be found in many, and possibly most, academic settings. Surveys of researchers and doctoral students, also from Sweden, show that a large proportion of respondents themselves have witnessed or carried out some form of research fraud. This makes the book especially suitable for anyone working in medical or other research. It can be warmly recommended to researchers at all levels and should be a mandatory literature in all postgraduate courses in research ethics.