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I saw on the internet that many degrees are revoked due to data falsification, but the question here is: how come colleges cant identify data falsification or manipulation before the degree is awarded? Do colleges have to wait for another person to report the misconduct and waste time and money?

  • Sometimes data falsification is identified before a degree is awarded. Are you asking why it isn't always detected then? – ff524 Feb 5 '19 at 21:44
  • yes, my question is why isn't it always detected? – Carlos Varas Tello Feb 5 '19 at 22:08
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    "many degrees are revoked due to data falsification" - can you provide some context or citation for that statement? How do you define "many"? – Bryan Krause Feb 5 '19 at 22:44
  • @bryan krause search on google – Carlos Varas Tello Feb 7 '19 at 23:08
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There are two things to consider, in my mind, when thinking about your question.

The first is the possibility for sampling bias. If someone is caught falsifying data prior to their degree being awarded, they are likely expelled - and it's unlikely for the work to ever see the light of day. These detections are largely "silent", while the flashier ones that involve clawing back degrees, retracting papers, etc. are likely over-represented.

The other issue is to consider how data fabrication is detected. On a crude level, it's a function of both time and the number of people looking at the work. Inherently there's more time post-graduation than pre-graduation. There's also a larger number of people looking at it, especially if the work is being published. So if the detection of any given fraudulent work has a fairly low probability per person interacting with the work, it's entirely reasonable that the majority of these cases would arise after a degree is awarded.

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In some fields only a few people see the work before the degree is awarded and they may miss things since nobody knows everything. After the degree is awarded, and especially when publications result at that point, lots of people get to look and they may notice anomalies.

I suspect it is less of a problem in fields in which there is a lot of publication of data and results prior to publication and also less in fields (mathematics) that don't usually depend on things that can be easily falsified.

Sadly, some practitioners seem to believe that they can only succeed with "positive" results and so, when they get the opposite, try to fudge the data. This may be difficult to detect without a lot of eyes.

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  • however, data falsification is mostly detected in medicine, chemistry and psychology. Isn't it supposed to be a better review because of the field before publication? – Carlos Varas Tello Feb 5 '19 at 22:11
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    @CarlosVarasTello There is a lot of trust in science, mostly resting on the very severe career consequences if that trust is violated. Peer review asks whether the results are presented appropriately given the data. If the data themselves are fabricated, it may not be knowable unless the results cannot be reproduced. Some statistical methods can be used to estimate when data are not likely produced by natural means, but their utility depends on how clever the fabrication is. – Bryan Krause Feb 5 '19 at 22:41

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