Feds Cover Up Numbers On Fake Science

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Ethan Barton Editor in Chief
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One of the largest federal sponsors for academic research doesn’t report how many funding requests are rejected for skyrocketing misconduct like plagiarism and faked data.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) awards about $7 billion for research annually, but an agency report on the foundation’s merit review process doesn’t mention “plagiarism” or “misconduct” – problems that have increased tenfold since 2004, according to NSF’s inspector general.

“NSF declines approximately 37,000 – 40,000 proposals per year,” according the report.

“You will need to submit a FOIA request for more specific information than what’s contained there,” NSF spokeswoman Jessica Arriens told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Such information is critical since NSF’s watchdog estimates that 1,200 proposals contain plagiarism and another 800 proposals or results include “falsified or fabricated data,” according to the IG’s semiannual report.

NSF grants account “for about one-fourth of federal support to academic institutions for basic research,” Arriens previously told TheDCNF. The foundation awards 11,000 grants to 2,000 research institutions, according to the IG.

Additionally, research misconduct has increased from two findings in 2004 to 20 in 2014, according to the IG’s semiannual report. Just one 2015 investigation resulted in a total of 28 years in prison for two scientists who stole $10.6 million in grants from NSF and six other agencies.

“OIG does suspect that a significant amount of research misconduct goes undetected,” though there’s no exact statistics, IG Chief of Staff Susan Carnohan previously told TheDCNF.

This isn’t a new problem for NSF. Inspector General Allison Lerner estimated in 2013 that “1,300 proposals contain plagiarism and 450 to 900 could contain problematic data.”

Catching such issues before awarding grants is critical since the watchdog can only audit about 1 percent of the NSF-funded research institutes.

Yet, NSF’s proposal review process is internationally “considered the gold standard” according to an agency video.

Meanwhile, NSF has faced criticism for projects the agency has funded, like two experiments that ran shrimp on a treadmill for $1.3 million. NSF refused to disclose the projects’ budget information.

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