Organisation - January 15, 2015

Column: Fraudulent

My lip trembles when I read the headline. Now the Sharia triangle doesn’t exist either. Trouw journalist Perdiep Ramesar invented his sources and his quotes, apparently. ‘The Ramesar affair doesn’t just say something about Trouw,’ says Hans Laroes, chair of the Journalism Council. Such major articles should never have been written by just one person, he declares.

At parties people regularly like to rub it in that academic fraud is not a matter of isolated cases. ‘Don’t be so naïve, this is the tip of the iceberg. And that Wageningen of yours? Nothing but commercial interests.’ I can only sigh. I have no idea what is going on everywhere. But sometimes I talk to scientists about matters of the heart and then I am struck by how human they are. ‘He doesn’t accept that it’s over.’ ‘He never wants to see her again.’ Objectivity is nowhere to be found. And I am no better myself. Brain scans show that we decide first and come up with arguments afterwards. That is how our brains work. Objectivity is nonsense, objectively speaking. Scientific research is an individual process in which peo- ple test their own hypotheses. Of course, there is plenty of discussion about carefully distilled presentations and comprehensive articles. Sometimes there is even a dataset online. But no one knows as much as the researchers themselves. And that is the idea, as you hear at every PhD graduation ceremony: universities train individual, objective, independent researchers. The thesis is evidence of that. ‘A great achievement.’ I don’t get it at all. That it is allowed for such important work to be the product of just one person.

Stijn van Gils (27) is doing doctoral research on ecosystem services in agriculture. Every month he describes his struggles with the scientific system.