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ORI Fraud

The central idea of my web publication "Statistics of Scientific Fraud" --  direct and objective estimation of the rate of misconduct in modern (bio)science, or at least, demonstration of feasibility of finding such estimate -- was stolen recently by Office of Research Integrity. In November 2000, ORI conducted a conference to announce a grants program boosting research on exactly this same theme -- i.e. obtaining estimates for exactly this same unknown. Predictably, without a single reference to this my work despite my rather numerous (always unpleasant) contacts with this organization concerning my work.

In more details, in 1995-2000 I had several contacts with ORI concerning various technical deatails of my work. Finally, in March 2000 I have received strange pair of letters (one on paper and one e-mail) both signed by Alan R.Price which apparently had to be interpreted as if ORI has no further interest to this my work.
Yet soon afterwards, in November 2000 ORI announced a grants program with a primary objective PRECISELY coinciding
with the theme of my work while obviously pretending that my work does not exist or they know nothing about it.

It is necessary to define more correctly what I mean by PRECISE coincidence between my work and the theme of ORI conference. It is simple.

The background report of ORI conference written by Dr.Steneck describes two sharply divided "schools" of estimating the rate of sci. misconduct.
First school presents ridiculously low estimates by dividing the cases of sci.misconduct confirmed by federal government by the total number of researchers. Such estimates may be taken seriously only if allowing that there is surely a 100% probability that every scientist commiting fraud is caught by competent organisation. Obviously, it is not true and
this probability is a perfectly unknown value. Therefore, actually, these low estimates are just meaningless rhetoric
trick of expressing one unknown through another equally unknown value.

The second "school" yielding estimates of 10% or more is based mostly on works performed on specials sets of data where it really seems possible to identify nearly 100% of fraudsters. I like best the approach (by Prof.Bloomberg of Univ.Virginia) on estimating amount of students' works copied from Web resources  and works on checking the citation errors (it is described in the background report - p.8).
Unfortunately, students are not researchers and distorting citations is a too trifling sin usually insufficient for talking about fraud. So these approaches are listed in ORI report among "other research practices" being of indirect relevance to estimating of research misconduct.

So, both "schools" have serious troubles with estimates they propose. And ORI announces the objective to receive some BETTER estimates. Alas, that is exactly what I have proposed in my work. I have already found the estimates which ORI is now looking for. That  is, the estimates lacking the drawbacks described above.

I denote this behaviour as plagiarism, but this word does not fit
perfectly well.
Rather unusual sort of plagiarism; I am not sure whether it may be called plagiarism at all. At least, I don't think I can do anything more than just expressing my displeasure from such behaviour on the base of complaining about plagiarism.

I hope, this case looks more promising from another point of view. ORI now collects public money for solving problem which has been already solved by me. Of course, I have not any sort of monopoly on this field of research. I can well believe that ORI may wish to have different estimates more compatible with its bureaucratic interests. It may also wish this estimates to be received by different people and to be based on different methods. All this does not constitute anything more than just "political censorship".  Perhaps, it is unethical, but, certainly, it is not punishable.
Yet, what I mean is that concealing information about my work is a serious financial infringement. It's like collecting money for digging Panama channel concealing the fact that it was already built by somebody else. It's FRAUD!
So, expecting response rates around 10%, I think I should write now a dozen whistleblows to a dozen of inspectors in HHS and above... Suggestions about more appropriate directions would be greatly appreciated.

Below is my posting to SCIFRAUD maillist of 29 December 2000 devoted to this trouble. It also quotes Science article overviewing ORI conference. More information about ORI conference may be found at their website here -- some items are interesting.

PS I have received a rather meaningless response from N.Steneck, author of background report for ORI conference. He said that he disregarded my work because it was not published on paper. It does not change anything in my accusations.

> Subject: Ungratious Pastors
> Date:    Fri, 29 Dec 2000 17:36:02 +0300
> From:     Dmitriy Yuryev <d.yuryev@mtu-net.ru>
> To:          SCIFRAUD <SCIFRAUD@listserv.albany.edu>
> Apparently, I should respond  to posting with Science article about
> ORI conference ("The size of the problem" of 19 Dec.)
> There is certainly, a suspicious coincidence between the theme of
> Science article and my work "Statistics of Sci.Fraud"
> (see www.orc.ru/~yur77/statfr.htm).
> Of course, its a great honour for me that the problem for which
> I  derived some estimations 3 years ago has now attracted
> so close attention of US academic bureaucracy. Yet, predictably,
> I am slightly disappointed by absence of any reference to my
> pioneering contribution to this field.
> It becomes apparent from the content of Science article that my work
> still provides the only available direct statistical estimation for the
> frequency of instances of sci. misconduct. It is also obvious that ORI
> pretends that my work either does not exist or they know nothing about it.
> It is not true, I wrote letters concerning this work both to N.Steneck
> and to C.Pascal (no responses). A strange response came from A.Price,
> director of div. research investigations after the "ORI fraud laundry"
> thread in this maillist (March 2000). He sent (almost?) simultaneously two
> letters -- e-mail demonstrating some interest to my work which even might be
> interpreted as a hesitant preliminary invitation to send abstract to ORI
> conference; and a letter on paper which definitely said that ORI has no further
> interest to my work. Both letters were shortly quoted in my postings
> under the same "ORI fraud laundry" subject.
> I am not going to talk now about the grief or surprise that I am experiencing
> from the fact that my ideas were stolen again by an organization presumably
> created to fight plagiarism. Actually, I am not surprised at all.
> By the way, I remember 400 years ago fair Ophelia described a similar
> case of some ungracious pastor who recks not his own rede.
> I am more interested to find out how this behaviour of ORI should
> be qualified and, perhaps, what it actually means. I would greatly
> appreciate comments as, understandably, I am not a too great expert
> in English usage nor in definitions of fraud.
> In my view, in this case I could not do anything more than just mumbling
> abouth some abstract "dishonesty" but that the fact that ORI is now
> collecting public money for solving this problem.  It transfers this
> whole story from the field of scientific ethics to the field of financial
> infringements.
> Again, it's not where I am copenhagen, yet I believe that intentional
> misrepresentation or withholding information about the status of object
> to which the requested money would be applied should be a very
> serious sin.  It's like collecting money for digging Panama channel concealing
> information that it is already built (or half-built or 1%-built) by somebody
> else.
> Please correct me if I am wrong, because I can't believe my eyes -- it's FRAUD!!!???
> I am 90% sure that disregard of my work by ORI is explained by "racial"
> considerations. Yet, it seems more interesting to note two other significant
> conflicts between my work and misconduct research as it was presented at
> ORI conference. It also may be helpful for understanding of what sort of research
> and what sort of conclusions ORI requires.
> 1. Apparently, the range of acceptable estimations of fabrication rates avowed
> by N.Steneck is somewhere between 0.001% and 1%. Therefore, my estimating
> it as "at least 5-10%" seems to be illegal falling too far beyond. What an unjust
> thing! The more so, that my estimates are perfectly compatible with data
> received on students.
> 2. Regarding studies of students' tricks, I remember that I have
> seen a more interesting work. If memory serves me, it was a note in Nature
> published little more than a year ago: the talk was about some software which could
> directly identify the Web resource from which papers written by students
> have been plagiarized. So some professor said to his students that
> their works would be inspected, nevertheless the result was that
> over 30% of papers have been found plagiarized. (Please, has anybody
> reference to this work?).
> Surprisingly, this study is also disregarded by ORI conference.
> Methodology of this work resembles to some extent that of mein. Something
> like "catching fraudsters for statistics" -- obviosly it differs from
> least "invasive" approach of innocent surveys presented in Science article.
> There is a chance that such practice also seems illegal to ORI which may
> think that fraudsters should be caught for execution purposes only.
> Perhaps it just suggests an easier view at scientific fraud challenging the
> notion of it as an extremely rare and very serious crime.
> --
> Dmitriy K. Yuryev
> d.yuryev@mtu-net.ru
> Al Higgins wrote:
> >
> >                               The Size of the Problem
> >
> >      A couple of weeks ago, ORI held a conference at which
> > discussions of "needed research" and "supportable research" were
> > apparently discussed.  According to Science, some 70 participants in
> > discussions of the prevalence of fraud in science were involved.
> > Guesstimates vary on the size of the problem.
> >
> >      Here is the Science article.
> >
> >                             ++++++++++
> >
> >       \Marshall, Eliot.  "How Prevalent Is Fraud?  That's a
> >      Million-Dollar Question," Science 290 (1 December 2000),
> >      pp. 1662-1663.\
> >
> >      Charles Turner still doesn't know whether his experience was
> >      like finding a rare bad apple in the barrel. But he is sure that
> >      there was something rotten in the survey data going into his
> >      federally funded study o1 sexual behavior. And he knows
> >      that it has taken him 2 years to pluck out the spoiled fruit and
> >      piece together a clean report for publication.
> >
> >           Turner, a social scientist at City University of New
> >      York/Queens College, offered his cautionary story last month
> >      at a conference' called by a key federal watchdog agency to
> >      announce a $1 million grants program to investigate the
> >      prevalence of fraud, data fabrication, plagiarism, and other
> >      questionable practices in science. The 8-year-old Office of
> >      Research Integrity (ORI) a small unit within the Department
> >      of Health and Human Services, hopes to support studies
> >      aimed at gauging the frequency of misconduct and how to
> >      raise ethical standards.
> >
> >           Turner's story was the most dramatic of a series of case
> >      studies presented at the ORI conference. In 1997, he
> >      explained, the National Institutes of Health funded his
> >      proposal to ask 1800 Baltimore residents about their sexual
> >      behavior. The project, an epidemiological look at AIDS and
> >      other sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea and
> >      chlam dia was mana ed b the Research Triangle Institute
> >      (RTI) of Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. Eleven
> >      months into the study, Turner, who has an appointment at
> >      RTI, got a call from a data collection manager who was
> >      troubled by the apparent overproducnvity of one interviewer.
> >      A closer look revealed that the worker was faking results; the
> >      address of one interview site, for example turned out to be an
> >      abandoned house. The worker was dismissed, and others
> >      came under suspicion.
> >
> >           After "a horrible 6 months" pulling apart the entire
> >      study, Turner and his colleagues discovered an "epidemic of
> >      falsification" that they linked to a cessation of random quality
> >      checks. As the schedule slipped, says Turner, some staffers
> >      may have felt pressure to hurry up. Despite a "significant"
> >      loss of money and time, the investigators painstakingly
> >      plucked out data from tainted sources, sorted the remains, and
> >      pieced together a final report that has been submitted for
> >      publication.
> >
> >           Turner says the exercise taught him several hard
> >      lessons, the most important being to "validate the work
> >      yourself." Scientists should start analyzing survey data as
> >      soon as it is submitted, he says, with a sharp eye for
> >      anomalies. Turner says he doesn't know if other projects have
> >      faced similar problems, because most journal articles don't
> >      discuss the issue. And the incident never became public, he
> >      says, because no one was ever publicly accused of
> >      wrongdoing and the institute chose to avoid the risk of
> >      litigation.
> >
> >           How often does misconduct like this occur? There
> >      appears to be no consensus on the answer, although science
> >      historian Nicholas Steneck of the University of Michigan,
> >      Ann Arbor, co-chair of the conference, has drawn up a range
> >      of estimates. At the low end is an estimate of 1 fraud per o
> >      100,000 scientists per year. That's based on 200 official
> >      federal cases that fit a narrow 3 definition that counts only
> >      fraud, data fabrication, and plagiarism, out of a community s
> >      of 2 million active researchers over 20 years.
> >
> >           At the same time, Steneck notes that 1 in o 100
> >      researchers "consistently report" in surveys that they know
> >      about an instance of s misconduct. A broader definition
> >      yields even more hands. There is a "troubling discrepancy,"
> >      Steneck observed, "between public statements about how
> >      `rare' misconduct in research supposedly is and the more
> >      private belief on the part of many researchers o that it is
> > fairly
> >      common."
> >
> >           A study of students at one campus suggests that the
> >      practice of massaging data is a common, but the behavior
> >      decreases as students advance toward a career in science.
> >      Biologist Elizabeth Davidson and colleagues at Arizona State
> >      University in  Tempe asked students in seven introductory
> >      biology and zoology courses whether they manipulated lab
> >      data to obtain desired results. A huge majority - 84% to 91%
> >      - admitted to manipulating lab data "almost always" or
> >      "often." Most said they did this to get a better grade. Other
> >      studies, however, show that the willingness to fake data
> >      declines sharply as students move on to graduate and
> >      professional-level work, leading Davidson to speculate that
> >      their behavior improves as the "research becomes important
> >      to them personally."
> >
> >           Some institutions have attempted to remedy the
> >      problem of scientific misconduct with special education
> >      programs. The University of Minnesota, 'for example,
> >      reported on an ambitious
> >      ethics training program at the medical .school that in 1 year
> >      spent $500,000 on 60 workshops and signed up 2200
> >      researchers as participants. But Steneck and others say that
> >      it's hard to measure the effectiveness of such training, and
> >      that the meager results to date are disheartening.
> >
> >           A study of 172 University of Texas students enrolled in
> >      a "responsible conduct of research" course, for example,
> >      found "no significant change" in attitudes after training, says
> >      Elizabeth Heitman of the University of Texas School of
> >      Public Health in Houston. The finding is consistent with what
> >      Steneck has seen, including a 1996 study that found that
> >      people who had gone through a training course were actually
> >      more willing to grant "honorary authorship" to colleagues
> >      who had not performed research than were those who had not
> >      been trained.
> >
> >           ORI director Chris Pascal says his office has received
> >      several favorable comments about the new grants program
> >      and that 70 scientists interested in the topic showed up last
> >      month for an ORI workshop on how to apply for biomedical
> >      research grants. The first round of winners will be announced
> >      next year.
> >