Every year, over 1.4 million scientific articles are published worldwide. How many of them are objective and unbiased descriptions of real phenomena? Increasing evidence suggests that malpractice and publication bias are seriously affecting modern research. Their effects, combined with biased science communication, are potentially distorting scientific knowledge to an unprecedented degree. Research agendas and political agendas risk being misdirected, and human and financial resources risk being wasted on scientific questions that are based on false assumptions. The nature and gravity of this phenomenon, as well as its consequences, are only starting to be investigated. The project aims at assessing the level of bias in the natural and social sciences by focusing on three fundamental phases in the production of scientific knowledge: data collection, publication, and popularization of results. With interviews and a survey sent to thousands of European researchers in all scientific fields (astronomy, biology, chemistry, earth science, physics, sociology, economics, political science), the project will investigate research malpractice (e.g. data falsification, fabrication, plagiarism) in Europe. With advanced statistical techniques and a very broad data set, it will quantify publication bias in all scientific disciplines, producing the first comparative and interdisciplinary study of this phenomenon. By analysing discourse and narrative in popular science articles and in editorials of scientific journals, it will investigate public’s attitude towards research integrity and bias. The project will contribute to maintaining the reputation of excellence of European research, and it will be of great interest to decision makers and to scientists in all disciplines. In addition, it will allow the fellow to train in many techniques of social research, and to resume a scientific career addressing a largely unexplored field of study.
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