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IN DEPTH Cyril Burt Ideology over Honesty 20 CNRS INTERNATIONAL MAGAZINE T he past 15 years have been marked by a series of revelations of major scientific fraud published in prestigious journals and involving reputable researchers working in highly-promising fields like cloning, cellular reprogramming, and nanoelectronics. Enough to raise doubts as to whether this apparent wave of misconduct is actually a media illusion, blown out of proportion by the echo chamber of the Internet, or whether the proliferation of such scandals is only the tip of the iceberg, suggesting that something is deeply amiss in the realm of global scientific research. Long downplayed or even denied, fraud is now taken very seriously at all levels of research. Scientists, host institutions, funding bodies, scientific publishers are well aware that failing to address the problem puts them at risk of being discredited in the eyes of both the general public and decision-makers. As far back as 1992, the Canadian sociologist of science Serge Larivée observed in a report on fraud2 that “despite constant emphasis on the integrity and objectivity of researchers, and the existing safeguards built into the scientific process, fraud does exist.” 2. Serge Larivée and Maria Baruffaldi, Les fraudes scientifiques-Rapport préliminaire (Montréal: Université de Montréal et Conseil de Recherche en Sciences Humaines du Canada, 1992). 3. L. Letellier, “Sur l’intégrité de la recherche: quelques considérations éthiques sur l’organisation et les pratiques de recherche,” Revue Prétentaine n°27-28, 2011. 4. Z. A. Bhutta and J. Crane, “Should research fraud be a crime?” British Medical Journal, 2014. 349: 4532. 5. B.C. Martinson, M. S. Anderson, and R. de Vries, “Scientists behaving badly,” Nature, 2005. 435(7043): 737-738. 6. M. Leduc and L. Letellier, “Sommes-nous toujours honnêtes dans nos pratiques de la recherche?” Reflets de la Physique, 2014. 37: 44-45. 7. http://pmretract.heroku.com 8. Visiting Professor at EBSI–École de bibliothéconomie et des sciences de l’information, Université de Montréal. 9. D. Fanelli, “The Black, the White and the Grey Areas: Towards an international and interdisciplinary definition of scientific misconduct,” in Promoting Research Intergrity in a global environment (Singapore: World Scientific Publishing, 2011). 10. X.Bosch, “Safeguarding good scientific practice in Europe,” EMBO Reports, 2010. 11(4): 252–257. 11. Délégation à l’intégrité scientifique. 12. Agence nationale de la recherche. © ILLUSTRATIONS: J. GERNER POUR CNRS LE JOURNAL Once regarded as Britain’s greatest psychologist, Cyril Burt spent part of his career attempting to prove the heritability of intelligence by comparing the IQ test scores of identical twins. Among other assertions, he claimed to have established a strong correlation between the IQs of identical twins, including those who had been separated at birth. These results, combined with Burt’s academic reputation and ideological activism, exerted a strong influence on public education policies in both the UK and the US. But following his death in 1971, an investigation revealed that the correlation rates he had recorded were far too stable from one study to another to be statistically credible. It later emerged that some of the twins had never existed—their IQ scores and related correlations were thus complete fabrications.


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