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On Fact and Fraud: Cautionary Tales from the Front Lines of Science Hardcover – 21 Feb 2010

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (21 Feb. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691139660
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691139661
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 14 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 808,957 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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"The strength of this slim volume is that the author knows and understands his subject well and can talk from experience and from the heart."--Michael J.G. Farthing, Times Higher Education

"Physicist David Goodstein asks why some scientists are driven to misrepresent results. His book On Fact and Fraud uses well-known cases to look at how science is conducted and to remind us that not all 'fraudulent' scientists are guilty."--Joanne Baker and Sara Abdulla, Nature

"A textbook on scientific ethics that begins with a primer on inductive reasoning and ends with university guidelines for research conduct sounds dull, but David Goodstein has created an entertaining book studded with laugh-out-loud moments. . . . Goodstein's candour and humour make this book a delight to read, and he's very good at explaining physics, too."--Jonathan Beard, New Scientist

"Offers a short and engaging education for those who want to know more about understanding and detecting true fraud. . . . Since scientific fraud is not going away, we need greater understanding and education to help us detect and deal with it. David Goodstein's book fulfils an important need. This is a valuable book and one not to be missed."--Laura H. Greene, Physics World

"I was very happy to find a book that starts out from the same assumption that I have: that cases of fraud in science--including alleged, suspected and actual cases--can reveal something about the way science works. On Fact and Fraud: Cautionary Tales from the Front Lines of Science is an accessible, well-written contribution to a relatively understudied area."--Eugenie Samuel Reich, Geochemical News

"On Fact and Fraud is a thought-provoking analysis of scientific ethics and, in particular, the way the 'reward system' and 'authority structure' of research can lead people astray."--Clive Cookson, Financial Times

"Offers a useful and lucid account of different examples of scientific fraud or misconduct, and describes the motivations or risk factors."--Federal Technology Watch

"A genial guide, [Goodstein] shows that sometimes the deciding line between fact, self-delusion and outright fraud is hard to spot."--Peter Forbes, The Independent

"This excellent little book . . . challenges some of the conventional notions of where the line lies that separates good from bad or real from phony science."--Harry Eagar, Maui News

"Sadly for science, not all fraudsters get caught. For starters, David Goodstein says, serious misconduct isn't always easy to identify. Self-deception, an ends-justifying-means mentality and concealing controversial research can muddy the ethical waters. Goodstein, head of the fraud squad at Pasadena's California Institute of Technology, claims it's possible to set up protocols to reduce faking, fabrication and plagiarism."--Leigh Dayton, Australian

"This short book, written by an insider, challenges the reader on the nature and ethics of scientific endeavour."--Tony Stubbings, Chemistry World

"On Fact and Fraud is a much larger story than the book's brief number of pages suggest. Writer and physicist Goodstein fully describes components necessary for fraudulent science and provides fascinating case studies illustrating a variety of nuances to the major thesis. He carefully constructs chapters to reveal personalities, circumstances, and evidence behind claims of fraud. . . . This cautionary tale will beguile readers while providing a basis to assess future claims."--Choice

"[T]his short but lucidly written book, enlivened by subtle wit, does far more than recounting cases of fraud. It throws an insider's light on the nature of scientific endeavor, which is rather different from the way outsiders often portray it. While some passages require specialist knowledge, the general message is clear and so the work can be appreciated by lay readers with an interest in science."--Gustav Jahoda, Metapsychology Online Reviews

"Goodstein's book really shines as an insider's perspective of how science works in the nitty-gritty, hardscrabble, competitive world of professional research."--Michael Shermer, American Journal of Physics

"This volume is essential for anyone interested in the history of science in Norway and in the history of Trondheim, but it also offers excellent material for comparison with other scientific societies in Europe and elsewhere during the last 250 years."--Karl Grandin, ISIS

From the Back Cover

"Bracing reading. On Fact and Fraud is important because it combines a considered ethical stance and an analysis of the conditions under which fraud takes place with recognition of the all-too-real difficulties of handling, under pressure, hard-to-reproduce effects. This is a smart, deft book by someone deeply familiar with the moral and ethical complexities in contemporary science."--Peter Galison, Harvard University

"The success and credibility of science is anchored in a culture of complete openness. For more than twenty years, Caltech physicist David Goodstein has been on the front lines defending that culture against attacks of fraud and self-delusion. In this tightly written book, he shares insights drawn from cases that have shaken the physical sciences."--Robert L. Park, author of Superstition: Belief in the Age of Science

"This is a superb book. Goodstein not only discusses the subject in an accessible way, but his thoughts are refreshing to a working physicist such as me, one who has wrestled with many of these issues. It will be the definitive book on the subject. I know of nothing that competes. Goodstein is clearly an expert."--Richard A. Muller, University of California, Berkeley

"This book includes considerable material of interest. On Fact and Fraud offers an interesting read for anyone who has a career focus on these topics."--Michael W. Kalichman, director of the Research Ethics Program at the University of California, San Diego

"Goodstein's important book explores how science is really done, and distinguishes itself from other books on the topic in that it is a story told from the inside, by a physicist. Goodstein examines the structure of the entire enterprise, from the motivations of individual scientists, to the reward system, to the corridors of power. Along the way, he destroys a number of popular and enduring myths."--Anthony Tyson, University of California, Davis

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Christian Jongeneel on 29 Jun. 2010
Format: Hardcover
Most books that deal with scientific fraud, concentrate on one or more spectacular cases, often leading to excellent reading. David Goodstein doesn't shun those cases, but his mission is not mainly to entertain while educating in passing. As the man responsible for judging on scientific fraud at Caltech he wants to tell a more nuanced story.

Not all scientific misbehaviour is fraud. There are small misdemeanours, simple errors, enthousiastic researches guilty only of overestimating the importance of their finds, and so on. All of these must be dealt with. As an antidote mr. Goodstein also gives an example of a completely improbable result that happened to be true after all. So, this makes excellent reading for those who are interested in all aspects of scientific misbehaviour, spectacular and less spectacular.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 8 reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Excellent book on academic standards of research 17 May 2010
By Ursiform - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
David Goodstein is a professor and former vice provost at Caltech, and led the development of Caltech's rules of conduct. In this volume he discusses the philosophy of honesty in research, the challenge of reducing it to enforceable rules, and presents some illustrative case studies.

Before addressing what this book is, let me address what it is not. It is not essentially a popularization of science, or even of the cases it discusses. While some casual readers may find it interesting, it is really addressed to active researchers and those who study ethics. Goodstein is a good writer, and a notable science educator, so his style is accessible; but the book is a serious one, and best suited to a reader concerned with the details of research ethics.

The author lays out the history and general concept of research ethics. He then sets up a strawman set of nice sounding rules, only to explain why they are deficient. He goes through cases of true fraud, of fraud accused but ultimately not committed, of bad science that was not fraud (cold fusion), and finally too-good-to-be-real science that was actually real (high temperature superconductivity).

Goodstein offers a deep exploration of the difficulty in defining fraud in the real--and complicated and not straightforward--world of research as scientists actually conduct it. Sometimes there is a fine line between filtering data and misrepresenting results, sometimes there is a fine line between emphasizing the result the researcher believes to have achieved and de-emphasizing contrary evidence. Goodstein addresses the real world with solid understanding and experience, and with practical advice.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Fabulous unputdownable book by someone on the front lines 29 April 2010
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I presented a "Case Studies in Scientific Ethics" course at the University of Maryland this past January, and I wish that this book had been available to me then. I will certainly use it next time. There is nothing like it, for it is written by someone who was quite close to the scene of action when scientific ethics became a focus of national attention in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and was engaged to some extent in spectacular episodes like the Baltimore affair. Moreover, there seems to me to be a prevailing impression - at least, I shared it before I designed a university course on the subject - that scientific ethics is a dry, compliance-oriented subject. NOT AT ALL, as this book makes most clear based on personal experiences of the author. In fact, the subject involves the intersection of a still imperfectly-understood field of philosophy, with one of the most dynamic and competitive arenas of human endeavor, scientific research. There are many "obvious" prescriptions that can be stated about ethical conduct of science, which are shown here, surprisingly, to fail in practice or in respect of their larger consequences. Much fruit for thought, pointing to the indispensable value of critical thinking informed by human experience. I rank this as the best general science book that I have read in some years. Its focus is on scientific ethics, but even those who have no particular interest in that subject will get valuable insight into the culture and practice of modern science.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Entertaining, Informative and Scholarly 18 May 2010
By G. Poirier - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
In most human endeavours one can find situations in which there is evidence of cheating, if one looks hard enough. And, as this fascinating book makes abundantly clear, science is no exception. After explaining how science works, reviewing the teachings of some philosophers of science and identifying "three conditions that are generally present when scientific fraud occurs", the author discusses, through six chapters, several cases in which questions of scientific misconduct or scientific fraud had been raised. Through careful analysis of each case, he shows that some of them were definitely not instances of scientific fraud - in fact, some turned out to be unexpected legitimate discoveries. Particularly captivating for me were the chapters on cold fusion and high-temperature superconductivity.

The writing style is clear, friendly, authoritative, widely accessible and quite captivating. The author's own personal anecdotes, peppered throughout the book, add a valuable special touch. Reading this book would be a definite asset for any research scientist, no matter what their field of expertise or their seniority. However, the book can also be thoroughly enjoyed by anyone interested in gripping stories from the front lines of scientific research - illustrating how science works and what constitutes scientific fraud (and what does not).
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
An excellent and timely book 6 Sept. 2010
By Alan Mazer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is really an excellent book. It's particularly timely given the growing distrust and misunderstanding of how scientists work, particularly in the climate science arena. I wish that the author had addressed this topic; it probably became an issue too late in publication. But what he does have is illuminating, and contrary to one of the other reviewers here, I think the book is easily accessible to anyone with an interest in research and a free afternoon.

The book starts by establishing some basic ground rules on how the scientific method is supposed to work, and how it actually works in practice, given that scientists are human and not entirely disinterested parties when it comes to their theories and discoveries. The author then follows with a few examples of what does and does not constitute fraud. I really wish there had been more case studies here, but as he says in the introduction, he's limited to reporting the details of things he knows about firsthand. Most research fraud is not widely publicized. He concludes the book with a rather dry (but still interesting to people in the field) copy of Caltech's policy on research fraud and its investigation.

The author (and some of the reviewers here) identify the book's target audience as ethicists and scientists, but I actually think this book deserves a wider audience. It's not difficult reading, and it brings a little objectivity to a discussion (the motives of scientists) that is only becoming more polarized and strident.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Maybe I'm missing something 4 Jun. 2011
By jessica m. hicks - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
It's not exactly accessible to a lay-person which is fine. I wasn't expecting anyone to be able to explain so many highly advanced scientific concepts in one small book. Some of the first-hand stories are nice. And Mr. Goodstein's sense of humor comes through with with some anecdotes. My main problem is that it also seems to be packed with filler. The photographs of scientists through out remind me of a high school student trying to pad out a research paper. They weren't really necessary. What I was really missing was main theme. Which I'm assuming is fraud does happen, but it's complicated. I would have enjoyed a book like that very much. But this book seemed to jump all over the place with stories, science, actual fraud and a republished lecture. The final chapter rehashed everything that was already covered which also wasn't necessary since the book is only 135 pages after take out the appendixes.
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