Scientists who falsify data had better watch out. Analysis of their writing can help tell good science from bad.
Two researchers at Stanford University have come up with a way to see if a scientific article contains fraudulent data. How? By measuring the degree of obfuscation in the writing.
Liars lie predictably. Poker players have certain “tells” and financial fraudsters write “foggy” reports. Scientists who falsify data have their own tricks.
Communication professor Jeff Hancock and graduate student David Markowitz examined a PubMed corpus of research published between 1973 and 2013. (PubMed is a database of articles from life sciences journals.)
Liars lie in predictable ways. Amateur poker players have certain “tells” that indicate when they’re bluffing. And fraudulent financial reports contain linguistic “fog.” This language keeps readers from detecting bad information either by diverting their attention or by masking reality.