I recently came across a video showing how a case of scientific fraud came to light as another research team tried to figure out how exactly certain published results were obtained.
One of the problems in published scientific studies that involve data processing is that they sometimes are not detailed enough. Another investigator starting with the same raw data may sometimes not get exactly the expected output. Often the differences are inconsequential but sometimes they are not. This may cause serious aggravation to others trying to understand the reason for the discrepancy. A detective work trying to figure out what the first group actually did may be necessary. Sometimes the reason for the discrepancy is just carelessness, but sometimes it may be purposeful choice of some parameter to produce desirable results; Efforts to replicate the computation have even resulted in the discovery of fraudulent data. The solution to these difficulties passes from full transparency, a thorough documentation of the steps taken in performing an analysis. This is the basis of reproducible research. Continue reading