The data thugs

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Science  16 Feb 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6377, pp. 730-732
DOI: 10.1126/science.359.6377.730

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When it comes to correcting problematic data in the scientific literature, styles vary. Some scientists prefer to go through "proper channels," such as private conversations or letters to the editor. Others leave anonymous comments on online forums, such as PubPeer, for airing concerns about papers. Then there is the more public approach taken by Nick Brown and James Heathers. The two researchers—Heathers has called himself "a data thug"—have been remarkably effective at uncovering problematic data—and publicly airing their concerns on websites and in the media. Their work has led to corrections to dozens of papers, and the full retractions of about 20. But although the duo concedes that their assertive style might rub some scientists the wrong way, they've attracted relatively little criticism from academic peers. Indeed, many credit them with addressing an uncomfortable problem in the science world, and even send them tips on suspect papers.

  • * Adam Marcus and Ivan Oransky are co-founders of Retraction Watch. This story is the product of a collaboration between Science and Retraction Watch.

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