Data for Sale

Has anyone else been following the developing scandal relating to the falsification of scientific research? There is increasing evidence, it seems, that data of all types is being falsified or altered to suit the needs of those who provide public and private funding to the researchers. And it is being done on scales that are much larger than anyone previously suspected.

The implications of this scandal are huge. How much public policy argument is based on the sociological, environmental, medical, and economic research that is being generated by these sources? How does the FDA know that a drug is safe? How do we know that fossil fuel emissions are affecting the environment? And if we do know that they are having negative effects, how do we know whether current emission regulations are sufficient to address the issue? How do we know whehter federal welfare is making its way to communities where appropriate numbers of people are living in poverty? How do we know how many people really need the money? Or if enough people aren’t getting access to welfare funds somewhere else?

Its one thing to have a debate over how to interpret data about an issue like poverty or the effects of fossil fuel consumption. Its another thing entirely to not even be sure whether the data is real or whether the researcher can be trusted.

I don’t want our nation to go where this scandal is taking us – but, just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, it looks like political debate is about to reach a new low.

Research data, it seems, is now up for grabs to the highest bidder – liberal or conservative.

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