Data generated through years of hard scientific research is extremely valuable and must be guarded from destruction or tampering. The scientific process demands rigorous and open peer review, so data in support of research must always be available.
In 1992, the British Medical Association’s flagship journal published Indian doctor Ram B. Singh’s study, which stated that heart-attack victims who ate more fiber, fruits and vegetables for one year, cut their risk of death during that period by almost half. His study was cited more than 200 times in other scientific articles and guidelines for doctors.
A year later, the editor of the journal, Dr. Richard Smith, received two letters that didn’t agree with Dr. Singh’s findings. The letters stated that Dr. Singh’s research methods didn’t seem valid.
When Dr. Smith received the letters questioning the study’s validity, he wanted to analyze Dr. Singh’s research methods more. He requested to see the raw data for some new articles Dr. Singh had completed.
The editor received a box full of handwritten papers that would have taken months to inspect. When investigators wanted more of his research later, Dr. Singh said the rest of his handwritten research had been on a wooden bookshelf and termites had destroyed much of it.
Around 12 years later, the journal finally declared they had “reasonable grounds to doubt the validity of the 1992 paper” and stated that the data in another paper he submitted in 1994 to be “fabricated or falsified.”
Dr. Singh admits to his mistakes, but also says British scientists don’t understand his situation. He had to work without steady electricity or research grants. If he had taken steps to guard his papers (even a simple, cheap safe), the effort required by his peers would’ve been greatly reduced.