Opinion article* published in The Conversation co-authored by Jon Borwein, Laureate Professor of Mathematics at the University of Newcastle.

Fraud. It’s an ugly word, an arresting word. As with “cheating” it comes loaded with negative connotations, but can potentially lead to far greater penalties and consequences. And yet fraud in science is not unheard of.

The world of economics was shaken two weeks ago by the revelation that a hugely influentual paper and accompanying book in the field of macroeconomics is in error, the result of a faulty Excel spreadsheet and other mistakes – all of which could have been found had the authors simply been more open with their data.

Yet experimental error and lack of reproducibility have dogged scientific research for decades. Recall the case of N-rays (supposedly a new form of radiation) in 1903; clever Hans, the horse who seemingly could perform arithmetic until exposed in 1907; and the claims of cold fusion in 1989.

Medicine and the social sciences are particularly prone to bias, because the observer (presumably a white-coated scientist) cannot so easily be completely removed from his or her subject.

Read the full article in The Conversation.

* Opinion pieces represent the author’s views.