What is the proper penalty for scientific fraud the culture that is China what would Gary Becker say?

by on June 24, 2017 at 2:57 am in Current Affairs, Law, Science | Permalink

In the past few months, China has announced two new crackdowns on research misconduct — one of which could lead to executions for scientists who doctor their data.

Scientists have been sounding alarms for years about the integrity of research in China. One recent survey estimated that 40 percent of biomedical papers by Chinese scholars were tainted by misconduct. Funding bodies there have in the past announced efforts to crack down on fraud, including clawing back money from scientists who cheat on their grants.

This month, in the wake of a fake peer review scandal that claimed 107 papers by Chinese scholars, the country’s Ministry of Science and Technology proclaimed a “no tolerance” policy for research misconduct — although it’s not clear what that might look like. According to the Financial Times, the ministry said the mass retractions “seriously harmed the international reputation of our country’s scientific research and the dignity of Chinese scientists at large.”

But a prior court decision in the country threatened the equivalent of the nuclear option. In April courts approved a new policy calling for stiff prison sentences for researchers who fabricate data in studies that lead to drug approvals. If the misconduct ends up harming people, then the punishment on the table even includes the death penalty. The move, as Nature explained, groups clinical trial data fraud with counterfeiting so that “if the approved drug causes health problems, it can result in a 10-year prison term or the death penalty, in the case of severe or fatal consequences.”

Here is the story, via the excellent Mark Thorson.

1 prior_test2 June 24, 2017 at 3:15 am

Let excellent reign ever more over MR.

However, it isn’t as if the U.S. does not follow similar policies, if not quite as extreme as the death penalty. Back when China was likely still communist, one should note – ‘In what prosecutors say is the first criminal conviction of a federally funded researcher on charges of scientific fraud, a prominent researcher in the field of mental retardation pleaded guilty Monday in Baltimore to falsifying scientific data.

Stephen Breuning, a 36-year-old psychologist and expert in drug treatment for hyperactive mentally retarded children, pleaded guilty in federal court in Baltimore to charges of making false statements to a federal agency funding his research.

The conviction was hailed by law enforcement officials and others as one step toward stemming what some believe is a rising tide of research fraud–an apparent increase that has prompted Congressional concern and the proposing of new federal rules.

“This should be a warning to other people who have those proclivities,” said Robert L. Sprague, a former colleague of Breuning who first reported the alleged fraud. “It has to be that way when we’re dealing (in biomedical research) with people’s lives.”


Breuning, scheduled for sentencing Nov. 10, faces up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine on each of the two counts of making false statements on grant documents. The prosecutor intends to ask that Breuning be barred from receiving federal grant money for 10 years.

The case, the prosecutor said in an interview, should act as a deterrent to others.

“Some of these researchers don’t realize the ramifications of what they’re doing,” said Assistant U.S. Atty. E. Thomas Roberts. “Now that they are aware they can be prosecuted criminally and face going to jail, hopefully they will be a little more reluctant.”‘ http://articles.latimes.com/1988-09-20/news/mn-2318_1_research-fraud

Of course, one can judge for themselves the efficacy of this approach, which the Chinese now seem to be copying.

2 Franklin June 24, 2017 at 10:00 am

” rising tide of research fraud ”

thank heavens the legal profession is above reproach in its analytic construction and practice of law.

but otherwise in America– Congress clearly must now strongly oversee and regulate scientific research by establishing a new “Science Research Administration” (SRA) with broad powers to eliminate fraudulent or inferior research… and large budget to issue government grants to proper research projects.

Science is too important to be left to scientists, lawyers & law-givers must firmly intervene.

3 Enrique June 24, 2017 at 5:52 am

Why not just impose regular tort penalties on academic fraudsters? See: https://priorprobability.com/2016/11/21/legal-liability-for-research-fraud/

4 Alan June 24, 2017 at 8:39 am

And hold their supervisors abd institutions accountable when appropriate.

5 Troll Me June 24, 2017 at 11:01 am

People who are negatively affected by the types of academic fraud specified are unlikely to be in a good position to use existing legal infrastructure to obtain justice.

Also, for the case of China, the government doesn’t generally want people to take it upon themselves to solve problems like that, which may involve habituation to taking on things larger than themselves.

6 Borjigid June 24, 2017 at 11:23 am


7 dearieme June 24, 2017 at 6:49 am

All over the world “climate scientists” shiver with fear. Or how about Ancel Keys and his disciples: has their appalling dietary advice shortened more lives than Mao?

8 Art Deco June 24, 2017 at 7:01 am

No one out-cucks me you limey bastard!

9 prior_test2 June 24, 2017 at 8:09 am

No they don’t – these people are doing excellent work. ‘

The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) supports research into our world’s frozen realms: the snow, ice, glaciers, frozen ground, and climate interactions that make up Earth’s cryosphere. NSIDC manages and distributes scientific data, creates tools for data access, supports data users, performs scientific research, and educates the public about the cryosphere.
ICSU World Data System

Member, World Data System. More Information »

annual report cover
NSIDC Annual Reports

Data management: Our data management professionals and scientists work with data providers and users to create or publish data products, tools, and resources. We work to ensure that past, present, and future science data remain accessible for studying the Earth and its climate.

Scientific research: Scientists at NSIDC specialize in remote sensing of snow and ice, Arctic climate, frozen ground, ice sheets, glaciers, and more. Our researchers use the data products we offer, helping us better serve our research communities.

Experience: NSIDC began in 1976 as an analog archive and information center, the World Data Center for Glaciology. Since then, NSIDC has evolved to manage cryosphere-related data ranging from the smallest text file to terabytes of remote sensing data from NASA’s Earth Observing System satellite program. Read more about NSIDC history.’ http://nsidc.org/about/overview

Of course, they aren’t the sort of people that people such as yourself care about, seeing as how they work with empirical (near) real time data. As a matter of fact, the work of climate scientists like these tend to be completely ignored in policy debates.

10 dearieme June 24, 2017 at 9:43 am

Well I’ve been cucked one too many times by so-called Climate Scientists. Also the local weatherman.

11 Cock Piss Partridge June 24, 2017 at 11:29 am

Tell me more!!!

12 dearieme June 24, 2017 at 11:31 am

Hey! Are you the one who wrote that graffiti on my car?

13 Cock Piss Partridge June 24, 2017 at 11:41 am


14 dearieme June 24, 2017 at 11:52 am

Look, that’s just bad manners. Clearly your parents didn’t raise you properly. Now I’ve got a meeting with top people from the BBC this afternnoon, now are you going to clean my car or not?

15 Troll Me June 24, 2017 at 11:14 am

Are you referring to the 1 in 20,000 publications that had known data problems or the other 19,999 researchers who did not have any such problems?

16 TMC June 24, 2017 at 12:11 pm

I thought it was always 97% with these guys. That 600 bad papers.

Really though, they torture data to get what they want and prefer theory over data. Given how much public money they spend, some oversight would be welcomed. Read why one of the leading climate scientists got out of it. https://judithcurry.com/2017/01/03/jc-in-transition/

17 Troll Me June 25, 2017 at 10:59 pm

The 97% is the percentage who agree with the “A” in “AGW”.

The 1 in 20,000 refers to a case of academic misconduct.

18 Thiago Ribeiro June 24, 2017 at 7:06 am

“Scientists have been sounding alarms for years about the integrity of research in China. One recent survey estimated that 40 percent of biomedical papers by Chinese scholars were tainted by misconduct.”
Such are the deeds of China’s monstrous regime, yet Americans keep supporting it.

19 Thiago Ribeiro June 24, 2017 at 7:37 am

No, it is not. Brazil is the leader of Latin America and the Portugiese-speaking worlds, its leaders are among the most respected in the world, its economy is among the greatest manking has ever seen, its Armed Forces have never known defeat and Brazil has made many great contributions to the art, science and technology.

20 Cptn Obvios June 24, 2017 at 10:42 am

There is no scientific misconduct in Brazil, obviously.

21 Thiago Ribeiro June 24, 2017 at 11:29 am

It is exceedingly rare both because Brazilians respect the rules and because the criminals face strict punishment.

22 Art Deco June 24, 2017 at 1:02 pm

Brazilians respect the rules

Which is why the place is a crime-ridden latrine.

23 Thiago Ribeiro June 24, 2017 at 1:54 pm

No, it is not. It is one of the greatest economies the world has ever seen, the home of many great corporarions, such as the best airplane-maker of the world and the biggest meat-processing corporarion of the word. Braziians such as Mr. Jorge Lemann decide what you will eat tomorrow. Brazil invented modern consummer electronics with a proto-Walkman, invented the radiotransmission and the airplane.
As Kissinger said, as Brazil goes, so goes South America. Dean Acheson admired the Brazilian people and its deeds.

24 The Other Jim June 24, 2017 at 7:41 am

The corruption of science world-wide is a result of Obama’s policies.

25 Dr Honeydew June 24, 2017 at 8:24 am

Well, it looks like I owe my assistant, Beaker, an apology then.

26 Thiago Ribeiro June 24, 2017 at 8:33 am

Because scientists, specially Chinese scientists lack moral agency.

27 Hazel Motes June 24, 2017 at 1:01 pm

Because Mareseis is between Sao Paulo and Rio, does not mean it is not closer to Sao Paulo.

28 Thiago Ribeiro June 24, 2017 at 1:59 pm

Maresias? Ao how Obama overruled the Communist Party and convinced Chinese scientists to cheat? As Brazilian writer Machado de Assis said (denying the saying “opportunity makes the thief”) “opportunity makes the thievery, but the thief is born ready”. If the Chinese were honest, those things woukd never hapen. In Brazil, they do not happen.

29 Hazel Meade June 24, 2017 at 9:22 am

Somehow I think that the threat of execution is going to be a bit more chilling than on just misconduct.

30 Thiago Ribeiro June 24, 2017 at 11:30 am

I did not nothing wrong you have notjing to fear. I say, kill them all and let Mao sort them out.

31 Thiago Ribeiro June 24, 2017 at 11:36 am

I did not nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear. I say, kill them all and let Mao sort them out.

32 Evans_KY June 24, 2017 at 9:39 am

Could this include politicians and think tanks that peddle in false data? I cannot resist. Bring out the comfy chair and the drying rack!

Death is a bit extreme considering that intention or culpability may not always be obvious. Competition and achievement while desirable definitely has it’s downsides.

33 Tom T. June 24, 2017 at 10:51 am

Some Party official in a powerful position must have suffered a bad side-effect.

34 jdgalt June 24, 2017 at 2:11 pm

My first knee-jerk reaction is to imagine Michael Mann in the dock, and cheer.

But given the way government power is distributed in the real world, if the US had such a severe law, it would never be enforced against the likes of Mann. Instead the EPA and other bureaucracies which can’t stand to be told they’re wrong about anything would be using it to squelch all dissent from their party line.

35 dux.ie June 24, 2017 at 10:11 pm
36 dux.ie June 24, 2017 at 10:42 pm
37 dux.ie June 24, 2017 at 10:56 pm


Of the 20 countries that had retractions of 5 or more papers, the highest rate of retraction for plagiarism was found in Italy, where 66.7% of retractions resulted from plagiarism (Table 2). This was followed by Turkey at 61.5%, Iran and Tunisia at 42.9% each,and France at 38.5%. In total, 12 countries had rates of plagiarism higher than the 16.6% average calculated for the sample. China’s plagiarism rate was 16.8%, almost double the United States’ rate of 8.5%. Both Finland and Germany recorded rates of 0.

For duplicate publication, fewer countries had retraction rates higher than the 18.1% sample average, and the range of rates was smaller. Finland had the highest rate of duplicate publication at 37.5%, followed by China at 29.4% and Tunisia at 28.6%. Japan (22.8%) and Iran (21.4%) also had rates above the sample average, while the rate of duplicate publication in the United States was below the average, at 13.1%. Only Sweden retracted no papers for duplicate publication.

Shouldn’t these be normalized by the number of researchers in each countries?

38 dux.ie June 25, 2017 at 2:40 am

As above PctPlagiarism per 1000 researchers, data on the number of researchers from UNESCO via Global Innovation Index.

PctPlagi/K PctPlagi ReschrK Country

27.61 42.9 1.55 Tunisia

7.79 42.9 5.51 Iran

6.75 61.5 9.11 Turkey

5.48 66.7 12.17 Italy

1.37 38.5 28.07 France

0.11 16.8 153.57 China

0.07 8.5 130.54 USA

39 dux.ie June 25, 2017 at 3:27 am

More data

PctPlagi/K PctPlagi ReschrK Country

5.32 33.3 6.26 Egypt

2.93 20.0 6.83 Sweden

2.31 33.3 14.44 Brazil

1.92 21.1 10.99 Australia

1.76 36.7 20.85 India

1.54 11.8 7.64 Netherlands

1.35 16.7 12.36 Spain

0.94 15.4 16.43 Canada

0.36 10.0 27.69 UK

0.16 5.5 35.05 Korea

0.05 3.5 68.24 Japan

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