Omni Brain

i-04dd91ea562b0d6567c0b2d79d7fdb9b-credit-fraud.jpgI’ve pretty much ignored all the academic fraud cases lately since I don’t know what good can come from getting upset/annoyed/whatever about asshole scientists who screw it up for the rest of us. But lately I haven’t been able to ignore them anymore – they are really starting to affect both my day to day life as well as how I read actual science.

Day to Day:
At Illinois we had a married couple who while perhaps not committing academic fraud (although that has been questioned) were committing actual monetary fraud by essentially double charging their respective grants for things like travel expenses and walking away with something like 100k+ (at least that’s what I heard). Now people are required to jump through a ridiculous number of hoops to even go to a conference. Things signed by 3 different offices, photocopies of your left pinky toe, boarding passes, abstracts, copies of the conference program with your name on it somewhere, only allowed to stay at an official conference hotel, etc, etc, etc, etc…. What a pain in the ass! and anyway…If I really wanted to fake all these things it wouldn’t be very difficult – jeez.

Actual Science:
Even since the cold fusion bit and all the stem cell fraud I can’t even take stories like this seriously anymore:

Scientists from Université Laval’s Faculty of Medicine have succeeded in producing neurons in vitro using stem cells extracted from adult human skin. This is the first time such an advanced state of nerve cell differentiation has been achieved from human skin, according to lead researcher Professor François Berthod. This breakthrough could eventually lead to revolutionary advances in the treatment of neurodegenerative illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease. Berthod and his team described the method used to produce these neurons in a recent issue of the Journal of Cellular Physiology.

This is almost certainly completely legitimate – but I’m sure you understand what I’m talking about. Ohh well – enough whining for this morning.


  1. #1 D.D.
    February 25, 2007

    Wait, I don’t get it. Are you being sarcastic, because this does NOT look legit at all.

  2. #2 Katherine Moore
    February 25, 2007

    I heard about that fraud thing from the Illinois people last year (Mike, Laura, etc).

    So are you going to VSS this year? I just registered and whatnot, in spite of not having something to present…haha. It just always puts me in a better mood research-wise and I have some travel money to use so I figure why not go to the beach again? 😉

  3. #3 steve
    February 25, 2007

    Yeah it is supposedly legit. But I don’t have any way of really judging from a simple press release. I don’t know the field.

    And Katherine,
    I don’t think I’m going to go – it’s pretty expensive and don’t know if I can justify the expense If I’m not really presenting anything (except a couple 2ndish author things from Penn). Especially since someone else wouldn’t be paying.

  4. #4 YodaYid
    February 26, 2007

    I always figured the risk-to-benefit ratio was too high for scientific fraud to be worth it. Sooner or later, someone is going to try to replicate the faker’s experiment (sooner if the “results” are something “revolutionary”), and when they fail, the truth will come out. If it’s a really obscure topic that no one cares about, it might take a while longer to get discovered, but in that case, why bother with the fraud in the first place? And once a scientist is caught committing fraud, their career is over. I just don’t get the logic.

  5. #5 The Neurocritic
    February 26, 2007

    “Photos of the in vitro development of neurons from human skin stem cells available upon request” – does anyone want to request them and report back?

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