Defending Decency in Science

Choose language  

David Tománek studied Physics in Switzerland and received his Ph.D. from the Free University in Berlin. While holding a position as Assistant Professor of Physics in Berlin, he got engaged in theoretical research in Nanostructures at the AT&T Bell Laboratories and the University of California at Berkeley. He established the field of Computational Nanotechnology at Michigan State University, where he holds a position as Full Professor of Physics.

His scientific expertise lies in the development and application of numerical techniques for structural, electronic and optical properties of surfaces, low-dimensional systems and nanostructures. Since he was working on his Ph.D. Thesis, he promoted the use of computer simulations to understand atomic-level processes at surfaces and in atomic clusters. Witnessed in several hundred publications and invited talks are his results on the electronic structure, mechanical, thermal, and optical properties, as well as quantum conductance of nanostructures.

His contributions to Computational Nanotechnology, in particular in the field of fullerenes and nanotubes, have been rewarded by a Fellowship of the American Physical Society, the Alexander-von-Humboldt Foundation Distinguished Senior Scientist Award and the Japan Carbon Award for Life-Time Achievement.

David Tománek studied Physics in Switzerland and received his Ph.D. from the Free University in Berlin. While holding a position as Assistant Profess . . .
Scientists generally enjoy a good reputation in our society. Even those, who do not quite understand what Science is about, suspect that it benefits everyone by promoting knowledge and understanding. Most would concede that devotion to Science is an idealistic attitude that, while not highly rewarded financially, brings along a deeper sense of fulfillment than selling used cars. Scientists are generally regarded as unbiased and trustworthy, which should make them better candidates to distinguish right from wrong  than, say, used car salesmen.

While most scientists justifiably benefit from a favorable reputation, some have misused it for their own benefit. Scientific misconduct is commonly misjudged as a purely academic offense with little impact on society. In reality, there is no fundamental difference between counterfeiting data and counterfeiting bank notes, between claiming ownership of someone else’s published findings and someone else’s car. Only the latter offenses are typically prosecuted by criminal law and punished. It is then up to the scientific community to take action and to protect itself from dishonest behavior including fraud and plagiarism.  Decisive action is required to prevent the plague of plagiarism and other forms of academic misconduct from spreading and infecting the fountain of human knowledge.

The mission of is to reveal concealed cases of academic misconduct and to defend those affected. Open communication through various media helps ensure that published scientific data, which are identified as forgery or plagiarism, are effectively sequestered from scientific literature. The perpetrators lose their respect and, depending on the gravity and extent of their offense, are shunned by the scientific community. This alone is an efficient deterrent against the temptation to compromise scientific integrity.

The infectious disease of scientific dishonesty has spread differently across different countries and cultures. Dishonesty, plagiarism and data falsification, protected under the cloak of political correctness, seem to blossom especially in totalitarian regimes. In Romania as a prominent example, this ill-fated heritage of the communist past to posterity still seems to survive and pollute the political process of today.

In the best of the worlds, there will be no need to defend scientific integrity and its benefits for our society. Until then, there is

Prof David Tomanek
Michigan State University

Leave a comment

Email will not be shown. Required fields are marked *.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>