Livin’ on a Prayer

Ok, so after looking at a number of ethical issues, this article stood out to me:

This miracle study came out in October of 2001, right after the attacks of September 11th.  This study found that the success rate for in vitro fertilization increased by 100% because of prayers from people in prayer groups.  This could have been a good time in our nation’s history to have some extra hope.  But if it seemed to good to be true, it was!


What I find to be so outrageous is that this study was conducted by researchers at Columbia University.  This is no small school that people haven’t heard of.  The researchers claimed that this was a randomized controlled trial in which all of the women in the study were unaware that people were praying for them in various places of the world.  Following the link above, you can see how complicated this study was arranged, with prayers about prayers for the women being studied.  An investigation of the study found that there was no Internal Review Board (IRB) approval for the research and no informed consent was even given to the participants.  The authors of this study either refuse to comment or claim no affiliation with Columbia University in the third author’s case.  And that third author has since been indicted for fraud separate from this study.  I don’t even understand all of the convoluted details of this study, so if you want to know more, the link above is the place to go.

I find myself wondering why researchers would even attempt to fabricate these findings and how they would think that nobody would look deeper into it.  A study with this amazing of findings would seem to me to draw a lot of attention.  I recognize that there is pressure to “publish or perish” in higher education, but what is it that leads people to so blatantly create false data?  I can see how some researchers would want to edit a couple of numbers here and there to make their research look better.  Who would ever find out?  I couldn’t live with myself for doing that, but I can understand how some may have motives for such actions.  But this prayer study that is so clearly fabricated probably wouldn’t go unnoticed!


It seems like many of the studies we have been discussing in class are related to human subjects.  People can be hurt with these false results!  Part of me wants to take more of an active role in monitoring research in my field for unethical kinds of research.  What is it that journals can do to reduce these instances of fake research?  How is it that we as students, and someday faculty, can help improve ethics in research?  We spoke in class about how high the percentage is of high school and college students that cheat.  It would appear that cheating doesn’t stop completely at the researcher level.  One would imagine that we are held to a higher standard at that point, but somehow these unethical research projects keep popping up.  If anyone has answers as to how to reduce these infractions, I am open to hearing it.  I think we have to keep an open dialog about this because ignoring the problem won’t make it go away!

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