In the autumn issue of Antiquity is a fine debate piece (behind a pay wall) by William Meacham of Hong Kong about the Russian Baptist science fraudster Dimitri Kouznetsov. In 1989, 1996 and 2000, Kouznetsov managed to trick three peer-reviewed journals to publish papers full of faked data, references to non-existent journals and thanks at the end to fictional scholars. And all three papers are in different fields. Much of the information about the Russian’s scams has been unearthed by Italian skeptic Gian Marco Rinaldi who published his findings in his mother tongue in 2002.

Kouznetsov’s 1989 paper in International Journal of Neuroscience reported fake findings about voles intended to call evolutionary theory into question. After five years, my Swedish Skeptics buddy Dan Larhammar became the first to blow the whistle on that.

In 1996, Kouznetsov reappeared with a paper in Journal of Archaeological Science. Here he claimed to have found a mechanism by which the Shroud of Turin might have a High Medieval radiocarbon date but still actually originate around the death of Jesus of Nazareth. Radiocarbon specialists protested vigorously, and the following year Kouznetsov was arrested in Connecticut for passing stolen cheques.

In 2000, Studies in Conservation published a paper titled “Biochemical methods in cultural heritage conservation studies: an alkylation enzyme, S-adenosylmethionine”. This paper featured a list of archaeological textile samples from Ireland, including the shroud of a man named in the Annals of the Four Masters, who died in AD 640! All samples were fake.

This is chilling but fascinating stuff, particularly if you happen to edit a scientific journal. A Swedish translation of Meacham’s paper will appear in the winter issue of Folkvett.

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Comments

  1. #1 Monado
    October 13, 2007

    The first Kouznetzov paper might have been a recycling of a former fabrication. I also found “Kouznetsov, D. A., and A. A. Ivanov. 1991. Does the Darwinian principal of homology work at
    the genome level? Creation Research Society Quarterly, 28:33-35″

  2. #2 kai
    October 14, 2007

    It is of course a bad thing to get fake papers into journals, as they are obviously credibility-enhancing, on the other hand, that it took so long for anyone to notice suggests that nobody cared much for the paper–certainly one of the things I do when reading interesting papers is look up the references. (Though of course if all references were to have been to publications by, say, Akademii Naukii SSSR it would have been difficult to find them anyway.)

  3. #3 ArchAsa
    October 14, 2007

    Fraud is as old as science itself. What makes me furious are fellow researcheers who do not that such things seriously, and prefer to sweep it under the carpet rather than having to deal with the embarassement and controversy. People who actively forge results or misrepresent experiments should be tried at a true international court, to show the public that science does not take such things lightly. As with doping in sports, no one can stop cheaters from trying, the only thing one can do is to punish the guilty ones severely and publicly, to make their name mud for any other set of editors.

    If the scientific community cannot properly deal with their shortcomings, then peer-reviewed should be abolished. It has the added danger of lending an air of tested and accepted. You do believe that the reviewers of Journal of Archaological Science had a little more stringency in accepting texts, or what is the whole point with peer-review? Just spouting off the right code words?

    When National Geographic stepped on a land mine when publishing an article on the first avian dinosaur having been found, where it later turned out to have been due to a falsified fossil (by the professional fossil hunters), they responded by not just publishing a retraction, but actually hiring a freelance journalist to do extensive examination about where all their checks and critical thinking went wrong, which was published at length.

    Now that is at least trying to prevent similar things from happening again!

  4. #4 Christina
    October 15, 2007

    Hey, Martin, if you speak to Dan L, give him a big heartfelt thank-you from me. By now, you probably know how I feel about the issue of religion in the area where I live. As someone who tries to be an archaeologist, I am often the target of snyde comments about having a useless profession, since the world has only existed for 4000 years anyhow, and so on. It has been a real pleasure to be able to refer back to Dan’s work at those times, and it has been a good tool for me to understand where these people went wrong.

  5. #5 Mary
    October 15, 2007

    At first I thought you were just dealing with a crank, crackpot, hoaxer for the fun of it, but it sounds like there was real malicious intent to defraud and misrepresent. Russian and baptist. now that is scary.

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