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Ultimately, ethics in scientific publishing, as in life, comes down to one word

John F. Ahearne

Not So Fast

The virtue of honesty seems to be under great challenge in the world of blogs, Twitter and television “news” programs. Mark Twain identified the fundamental problem: “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” If only these media were used as often to expose lies and herald truths.

Honesty is necessary for science to advance. Unfortunately, it does not seem to be necessary for society’s leaders, the individuals who largely hold the purse strings for science, to practice honesty. Recently, The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote about this problem:

When widely followed public figures feel free to say anything, without any fact-checking, we have a problem. It becomes impossible for a democracy to think intelligently about big issues—deficit reduction, health care, taxes, energy/climate—let alone act on them. Facts, opinions and fabrications just blend together.

For the long-term health of the research community and of the individual, honesty is the best policy.


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