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No, but I can fake it.

Scandals involving falsified laboratory data are a spreading stain on the scientific community. The latest case of fabricated research implicated a Nobel laureate, now president of Rockefeller University, David Baltimore, and the laboratory chief at lofty M.I.T., Theresza Imanishi-Kari. A paper they co-published, which touted a major discovery in immunology, was exposed as fraudulent by a lab assistant named Margot O'Toole, who spent years in Coventry before her charges were upheld by a National Institutes of Health panel.

The image of the scientist as a noble, altruistic truth-seeker went out with Sinclair Lewis's Martin Arrowsmith. Science, like poetry, can be a mug's game. Some of those aseptic researchers in white coats would kill for a Nobel-class discovery like "cold fusion" and carve up some backs to snag a government grant. And such is the clubby nature of the scientific establishment that big names in the field will close ranks to defend one of their own, as Baltimore's colleagues did when he was attacked. Poor Margot O'Toole found herself with a job answering phones after she dared to challenge the eminent Dr. Baltimore.

But there's another sinister intruder into the supposedly cloistered labs of academe that is menacing open, objective scientific inquiry. As Leonard Minsky and David Noble wrote in these pages ("Corporate Takeover on Campus:" October 30, 1989), commercial considerations and corporate ethos dominate the large research universities, driving their labs to work in secrecy in a race to patent potentially lucrative discoveries and pressuring researchers to hype their data.

Well, hey-this is a country where C.I.A. disinformation is published in reputable newspapers, where Pentagon cooks ladle out processed war news. Why should science be different?

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Title Annotation:falsified laboratory data
Publication:The Nation
Article Type:editorial
Date:Apr 29, 1991
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