Every human being has a selfish personal agenda that they're attempting to advance through their professional life. In scientific fields, the system is supposed to work in such a way that the scientist reaps the most personal benefit if he follows a certain set of rules and always acts honestly and without philisophical bias. Unfortunately -- as in all human systems -- that lofty ideal is rarely met, and in some cases reality falls far short indeed. As an example, take the case of professor Reiner Protsch von Zieten, who apparently lied about the age of skulls he discovered in Northern Europe.

Reiner Protsch von Zieten, a Frankfurt university panel ruled, lied about the age of human skulls, dating them tens of thousands of years old, even though they were much younger, reports Deutsche Welle.

"The commission finds that Prof. Protsch has forged and manipulated scientific facts over the past 30 years," the university said of the widely recognized expert in carbon data in a prepared statement. ...

Among their findings was an age of only 3,300 years for the female "Bischof-Speyer" skeleton, found with unusually good teeth in Northern Germany, that Protsch dated to 21,300 years.

Another dating error was identified for a skull found near Paderborn, Germany, that Protsch dated at 27,400 years old. It was believed to be the oldest human remain found in the region until the Oxford investigations indicated it belonged to an elderly man who died in 1750.

These weren't just mistakes, they were purposeful lies, and these lies led to a whole host of subsidiary mistakes when other researchers relied on his results. Professor Protsch thought he could beat the system and advance his career without playing by the rules, and he succeeded for decades, only getting caught by chance. Anyone who thinks this example is singular within the academic community is sadly delusional.

Why? Because there isn't much acclaim to be gained by going back over the work of others and seriously checking it for errors. No one wants to be seen as a backstabber, especially in tight-knit, incestuous scientific circles. Plus, it's hard to find lies, even when they're there, because even the liars have a lot of specialized knowledge that makes it difficult for others to replicate their work. See also, the downfall of Michael Bellesiles.

Update:
Raina points to another potential fraud from last year regarding Bernard Kettlewell and his peppered moths. Such examples likely abound, just waiting to be discovered.

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