Science - Never fake it to make it

21st September 2012 at 01:00

What it's all about

How much should you believe what you are told by a scientist? Isaac Newton, John Dalton and, most famously, Cyril Burt (pictured) - the educational psychologist who studied IQ - all falsified data, writes James Williams.

In the case of Burt, he not only made up data that confirmed his ideas on the heritability of IQ, but doubts were also raised about whether his research assistants actually existed. His fraud was discovered five years after his death in 1971.

Newton fudged his data in order to confirm his universal law of gravitation. To show that his idea was "true", he needed an exact correlation mathematically. His data did not show this, so the master of mathematics fudged his calculations.

In 2004, a public announcement was made that the first human embryonic cells had been cloned. Hwang Woo-suk, a biomedical scientist, claimed that he had succeeded in creating 11 cloned stem cell lines. If true, there was the real possibility of producing, for individuals who were ill, stem cell lines that could be used to treat them.

A full investigation of his claims was launched when mistakes and errors in his published papers were found. It was then revealed by Hwang that the stem cell lines did not exist and that data he was using to support his claims were fabricated.

How new scientific discoveries and claims are verified, substantiated and announced within the scientific community and to the public is all part of how science works.

What else?

Help pupils to prove Newton's theory with MissAli87 `s practical lesson, bit.lyproveNewton. You could also use the case of Cyril Burt's false data to explain the importance of validating research, with a resource from phildb, bit.lyfalsedata.

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