Feynman on scientific integrity


Oil drop experiment: The history of published results for this famous experiment is an example given in “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” – in which each new publication slowly and quietly drifted more and more away from the initial (erroneous) values given by Robert Millikan, rather than all having a random distribution from the start around what we now believe the correct result is. This slow and linear drift in the chronological history of results is unnatural and suggests that nobody wanted to contradict the previous one, instead only submitting for publication “agreeable” results.(1)

Also,

“I was shocked to hear of an experiment done at the big accelerator at the National Accelerator Laboratory, where a person used deuterium. In order to compare his heavy hydrogen results to what might happen with light hydrogen” he had to use data from someone else’s experiment on light hydrogen, which was done on different apparatus. When asked why, he said it was because he couldn’t get time on the program (because there’s so little time and it’s such expensive apparatus) to do the experiment with light hydrogen on this apparatus because there wouldn’t be any new result. And so the men in charge of programs at NAL are so anxious for new results, in order to get more money to keep the thing going for public relations purposes, they are destroying–possibly–the value of the experiments themselves, which is the whole purpose of the thing. It is often hard for the experimenters there to complete their work as their scientific integrity demands.(2)”

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