On Some Possible Ramifications of the “Microplastics in Fish” Case

Science and Engineering Ethics 25 (4):1303-1310 (2019)
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Abstract

Cases of research misconduct in the ecological and environmental sciences appear to be relatively rare. A controversial paper published in Science in 2016 documenting the effects of microplastics on the feeding and innate behaviours of fish larvae has recently been retracted, with the authors found guilty of scientific misconduct. In addition to the expected fallout, such as individual and institutional reputational damage from a research misconduct finding, this case has two possibly wider-ranging ramifications. Firstly, there may be a presumptive notion that a strong negative effect could be more successfully published than a neutral effect. This presumption would belie the true stringency and rigor of research adopted by workers in the field. Secondly, the case may have a negative impact on the public’s perception of and trust in legitimate and good science that addresses critical environmental issues, such as anthropogenic climate change.

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