Peter Dizikes: Writings on Science and Society

Under the Microscope
Recent revelations of fraud have caused some editors of scientific journals to rethink their responsibilities. But can journal editors be muckrakers?
By Peter Dizikes. The Boston Globe, January 22, 2006
» Read this article in PDF format

Earlier this month, the journal Science formally retracted two papers by South Korean scientist Hwang Woo Suk and his colleagues, whose claims about creating stem cell lines from cloned human embryos were revealed to be false. In December, The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) declared that a report it published in 2000 on the painkiller Vioxx contained “inaccuracies” due to incomplete data on potential side effects. And on Friday, the NEJM issued an “expression of concern” that two cancer-research studies it published in 2001 and 2004 appeared to contain misleading evidence-just days after the British medical journal The Lancet made its own announcement that a 2005 study from the same Norwegian-based research team included fabricated data.

In the wake of these and other science scandals in the past several years-ranging from fabricated findings to misleadingly incomplete data-some editors of science publications are rethinking their roles and asking themselves whether they should act more like muckraking investigators than purveyors of scientific discovery. Yet journal editors, even those associated with successful investigations into malfeasance, demur when asked if sleuthing is, or should be, part of their jobs. “Journals cannot be investigating prosecutors or detectives,” says Edward Campion, senior deputy editor at the NEJM, expressing a view common even among reform-minded science editors.

Read more


Pharmacy Mall
Features and Profiles
Essays, Reviews, and Misc
All Posted Articles
Bio and Contact Info
RSS for Articles


My work has appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Slate, Salon, Technology Review, and numerous other publications. You can learn more about me here.


E. Coli and You
The New York Times, June 29, 2008

The Meaning of the Butterfly
The Boston Globe, June 8, 2008

Joseph Needham's Grand Question
Seed, May/June 2008

Pure Science
The New York Times, April 13, 2008

Nature Nurtures Learning
The Boston Globe, December 31, 2007

Genes Open New Frontier in Privacy Debate
The Boston Globe, September 24, 2007

Cambridge Scientists Put on a Show
Nature Network Boston, May 1, 2007

Edward O. Wilson Sees Accord on Climate Action
The Boston Globe, January 29, 2007

Genome Human
The New York Times, July 30, 2006

Galileo Groupies
Slate, February 3, 2006


Peter Dizikes: Writings on Science and Society


Measure for Measure
Technology Review, July/August 2010


Andrew Hearst


Photo credit: Flickr user alb Marcos, via a Creative Commons license