Alternative title: Man bites dog!
Why isn’t data fraud a crime? In a working paper I wrote in 2019, I proposed charging researchers who fabricate data with wire fraud. Here is an excerpt from my 2019 paper (edited by me for clarity):
The literature on data fraud and data fabrication views these bad practices through a purely ethical lens …. This paper, by contrast, will explore the possibility of criminal sanctions against academic researchers who fabricate data. My previous work in this domain (Guerra-Pujol, 2017 [available here, by the way]) explored the possibility of imposing various forms of tort and contract liability for data fraud committed by academic researchers. Building on my previous work, I will explore the possibility of criminal liability when a researcher knowingly fabricates research data in a published paper. In a word, the fabrication of data–the attempt to publish fake data, to be more precise–should be treated as a crime * * * * for it is beyond question that the outright fabrication of data … not only calls into question the integrity of academic accounting; a strong case can also be made that fraudulent research constitutes the crime of wire fraud.
Fast forward to 2021 and this report by Scott Jaschik: “Ex-Dean at Temple Indicted on Charges of Manipulating Rankings.” (Hat tip: Brian Leiter.) In brief, federal prosecutors have charged Moshe Porat (pictured below), the former dean of Temple University’s business school (from 1996 to 2018), with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of wire fraud for submitting fake data to U.S. News & World Report about Temple business school’s online MBA and part-time MBA programs in order to inflate his school’s rankings in the annual U.S. News surveys. (Here is some additional background about this remarkable case, and here is the official announcement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. If convicted, this disgraced former dean faces up to 25 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.)
Given the problem of fabricated data in science (see, for example, RetractionWatch), who will be next?