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Investigation: Top German scientist fabricated data

Fraud in science: A just released investigation has found that one of Germany’s most cited psychologists fabricated data in a government-financed study.

Hans-Ulrich Wittchen, one of Germany’s top psychologists and an expert in treating anxiety and phobias, is not shy about promoting himself. His email signature says he is a “highly cited researcher,” and with good reason. He has almost 1000 articles to his name, according to the Web of Science, and has racked up nearly 70,000 citations. He is an editor of Germany’s diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders—the bible of clinical psychology—and until 2017, he led a psychology research institute at the Dresden University of Technology (TU Dresden).

Yet his reputation is under fire after an investigation into one of his studies found evidence of manipulation—and elaborate efforts to cover up the misdeed. The investigation report, turned over to TU Dresden in February and obtained by Science, also shows Wittchen intimidated whistleblowers and pressured senior TU Dresden staff. The Federal Joint Committee (G-BA), a public health organization, is suing the company it paid to do the study. And the Dresden public prosecutor’s office is now investigating criminal charges related to the study.

Apparently the study only surveyed about 75% clinics on its list, and then simply copied data to complete the survey for the other clinics. Then Wittchen made veiled threats to investigators, manipulated documents to hide what had been done, and even tried to get two whistle-blowers fired, accusing them of doing the misdeeds.

This report illustrates a reality that few are willing to recognize. The science field is rife with corruption in the areas where government funds and government-employed scientists converge. The dishonest scientists are likely a very tiny minority, but they are often the ones who have pushed their way up to the most powerful posts, not by doing science but by playing the politics required to gain power. The result is that the science coming from the government institutions they run is now frequently suspect.

We have seen this in the past year in the world’s health agencies worldwide. Their leaders have repeatedly made statements concerning COVID-19 that simply have no backing in research, have no consistency, are repeatedly contradictory, and seem based on politics rather than data. This same problem has also exhibited itself for decades in the climate field, as well as many other sociological and medical fields.

The only long term solution that will really work would be to separate government from science, a goal that is likely unrealistic. At a minimum at least we should be trying to shift the government research money so that it goes to independent private companies on a case-by-case basis, rather than permanent government agencies that are run by the government.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

 
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

4 comments

  • Kyle

    I think you hit the nail on the head in your last paragraph. Get government out of the sciences. It would be hard, but not impossible.
    I mean we as a country separated religion from government, why not science? To the “Follow the Science” and “The Science is settled” crowd, their religion IS “science” or at least their interpretation of science, which often turns out to be false.

    We dont have state-sponsored bishops, rabbis, or imams mandating rules and regulations, so why do we have state-sponsored doctors and scientists who do just that?

    Don’t get me wrong, I do NOT want my elected officials to be anti-religion or anti-science, rather I would want them to use their religious and scientific backgrounds and apply morality, logic, and reason (and the constitution and liberty) when they govern.

  • eddie willers

    I think you hit the nail on the head in your last paragraph. Get government out of the sciences.

    Liberals LOVE to quote the “Military Industrial Complex” warning in Eisenhower’s Farewell Address, but never quote the next section. That of warning about exactly what you are talking about. Government grants.

    “Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades. In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.

    Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers. The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present — and is gravely to be regarded.”

  • wayne

    eddie–
    Great Stuff.
    (unfortunately, that ship has sailed)

  • Jeff Wright

    I don’t have a problem in funding research-you get this in private concerns too. More shocking to me are the problems the Germans are having with rail. They were the finest engineers the planet has ever seen-until…Now shrinks are all subjective anyhoo. Elective proceedures took such a Covid hit to where doctors are like mechanics at an expensive new shop: guess how they’ll make ends meet? Oh! NEVER let them drain the transmission-even if they don’t do the shavings trick. Say ‘bleed the brakes’ and they hear ‘new master cylinder’ with Biden Bucks hitting the mailbox. Did I ever say I hate mechanics?

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