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Intense Pressure

The stem cell research field has been fraught with controversy, and the New Scientist surveyed researchers to try to determine why it seems susceptible to poor research practices.

Some 110 stem cell researchers responded to their survey and most lamented the level of pressure facing the field. Slightly more than half of the respondents said that their field faced more scrutiny than other biomedical research areas, New Scientist reports. About 16 percent also said that they faced pressure to submit papers, even with incomplete or unverified findings.

"There is a tremendous pressure to publish, in order to receive funding. Shortcuts are, therefore, not unusual," one respondent said, according to New Scientist.

The New Scientist adds that three respondents said they'd been pressured by colleagues or superiors to do something they thought was unethical, including falsifying data, and five people said that they or a colleague had falsified or enhanced data that wound up in an article

"I know of numerous instances where fellows with, at times, the knowledge of their mentors, have published falsified data," one professor said.

Respondents placed some of the blame for this level of pressure on their supervisors, but also on journals and journalists.

Still, respondents tell New Scientist that most of the work in the field is sound. "Just because there is an occasional controversy we must be careful not to damn the entire field and throw the baby out with the bathwater," said one scientist.