Scientific misconduct

After pondering on pseudoscience I stumbled across a debate recently emerging in some science blogs (Tiefes Leben, pharyngula, partial immortalization).

The bloggers discuss a paper on biochemical stuff (I am not familiar with at all), published in the journal Proteomics (2008 Jan 23, DOI: 10.1002/pmic.200700695). They questioned its title, its abstract and all the rest of its content. They tore it apart, smashed it to pieces, made fun of the „mighty creator“ the authors refer to explaining their „evidence“.

Finally, pharyngula got an email response by one of the authors feeling sorry. Because of all the mistakes he had requested the editorial board of Proteomics to retract the paper. In the meantime though, even a charge of plagiarism (pdf) has evolved.

The bloggers ask some very important questions: What went wrong in the review process? How come this creationist crap has made it into a so-called peer-reviewed science journal? Is it possible to distinguish the good from the bad and the fraudulent by just reading the title and the abstract?

Right now I just have an answer to the latter question: It’s almost impossible so at least in research papers on medical subjects, either randomized controlled trials, observational studies or any other design. They enclose difficult methodological issues and statistical decision making. As a result, these papers are prone to (intended?) inconsistencies between the nice abstract and the incorporated empirical evidence.