This concerns a false presentation of the Baltimore case (1) in 2000 by selective citation from the journalistic literature and the addition of unjustified comments which affect the integrity of Baltimore. The allegation of selective citation was addressed to the Netherlands Royal Academy of Science (KNAW) who took the responsibility for the publication.
The whistleblowers (A. Rorsch and M. Hofstede), researchers of literature on scientific misconduct, requested the public retraction of the presentation, which was granted.
This case of making use of very selective quotation is most remarkable for the fact that the false description of the Baltimore case is part of a KNAW- booklet, addressed to young scientists, to educate them in 'Good Scientific Practice'.
The Baltimore case is (in 2000, [sic!]) introduced as an example of proven fraud in science.
With reference to Kevles (2) and Hull (3), the description of the case ends in 1990, when Baltimore was judge guilty of fraud, and he resigned as President of Rockefeller University.
No mention is made of the verdict of the HHS appeal board whose judgment was 'not proven' and of Baltimore's subsequent appointment as President of the California Institute of Technology.
The description ends with the moralistic statement: “One may wonder, what is more serious, fraud or systematical denial of it, in the presence of incriminating evidence?”
The first questions to be asked by the whistleblowers was: how could such a wrong presentation come into being and who is responsible for it?
The description of the case was made by non-scientists, probably journalists, hired by the academy. They are certainly guilty of deception for the reason that reference was made (2, 3) to sources, which give a fair presentation of the case and they nevertheless reversed the conclusions.
An editorial board of Academy members scrutinized the products of the outsiders, and apparently did not notice the false presentation. Lastly, the board of the Academy said, it was a pleasure to take the responsibility for the text, when it was first published. Thus, one cannot circumvent the conclusion that the mistake was due to insufficient knowledge of the literature of scientists, i.e., incompetence.
The case demonstrates one's more (4) how exonerated scientists may still be compromised and here as a result of selective citation. Allegations of scientific misconduct and their description require the greatest care.
1. Netherlands Royal Academy of Sciences. Scientific Research: Dilemmas and Temptations (in Dutch and retracted.) Amsterdam, 2002.
2. D.J. Kevles. The Baltimore Case: A trial of Politics, Science and Character.Norton, 1998. 509 pp
3. D.L. Hull. Scientists Behaving Badly.New York Review of Books, December 4, 1998
4. B. Goodman. Scientists exonerated by Ori Report Lingering Wounds.The Scientist, 11 #12 pp 1-3 1997