Scientists are viewed as objective researchers seeking out the truth without taking shortcuts. But that is being questioned.
Last month, a research team at Stanford University, after reviewing 500 reports, found two-thirds of animal experiments did not say if their subjects were dropped. Moreover, only 30 percent of experiments reported it.
This is important because dropping animals affects data in reports. When humans are involved, scientists say who dropped out, died or left the study. But if the same is not applied with animals, then no one can trust the data.
For some Queens College students, this is not a surprise. Students studying the natural sciences work as associates in laboratories on campus. Usually, they work with animals like rats or worms.
Jeremy Pagirsky, a graduate student, is one of those students. He said the the figure was shocking.
“Here, if an animal is lost or dies, you report it. It’s just what you do,” he said.
Pagirsky was worried researchers would misreport their figures if they rushed their experiments.
“It can be very taxing to work day in and day out without any results,” Pagirsky said. “People might try to justify cheating the system a bit based on this alone.”
Another student who works at the college’s laboratory facilities was not surprised. She did not give her name to protect her career, but preferred Rachel Carson.
“Many researchers here see animals as little more than data fodder. Namely, if they aren’t useful, then they don’t matter. It’s very possible that animals aren’t being counted because the researchers involved simply don’t care,” she said.
Both students said the misreported data is because of one thing—funding.
“The industry is so competitive. The platform that some researchers are on gives them a lot to lose. They literarily can’t afford it,” Pagirsky said.
But Pagirsky added the bureaucracy of science as another reason for the faulty experiments.
Carson agreed as many animal accident are not careful, especially at larger institutions with greater funding and a “tight” operation.
“As far as research labs go, the ones at the [QC] are so low on the totem pole. Any issues that we have here are usually accidental,” Carson said.
Pagirsky said there is a lesson in the report for other scientists to follow. If they are not truthful, then it hurts their credibility.
“We put so much effort into what we do [as researchers],” Pagirsky said. “But really, we need to be truthful about the data we provide and have a certain level of respect for our animals. We wouldn’t be able to do this without them.”