Today I’m going to start a series of experiments for a paper that is almost done. It’s a collaborative paper and there’s a whole bunch of data there already. I’m going to do these experiments hoping that they show something consistent with the rest of the data, because otherwise they won’t go into the paper, which has already been mostly written. To make it even worse: getting the desired results will make me shared first author. Getting different results will make me author somewhere in the middle.
This makes me totally understand why it is sometimes too tempting for someone to make up data.
For me this is not the first time it happens that I have a last experiment that in order to be included in a paper should show certain results: at the end of my PhD we had a story that only ‘needed’ one extra experiment to show that two things were actually connected to each other instead of only a correlation.
I also don’t think we’re the only lab that has this happen. Often we build stories about our findings and then the last experiment for a paper should nicely fit this story. Is it unethical not to include that experiment if it doesn’t fit the story? And other than doing our experiments blind, what can we do to prevent this bias?
Alright, I’m off to do experiments, fingers crossed please!