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Scientific fraud could be reduced by… video games?

Scientific error doesn’t always come from botched equations or faulty theories but bad behavior, too, sometimes scientists crack under pressure and contaminate their results by crafting fraudulent, retrospective hypotheses or cherry-picking data to verify a bias. It’s a constant problem within the scientific community, but researchers from Carnegie Mellon and Stanford Universities may have stumbled upon an unconventional solution: video games. Specifically, EteRNA, an educational game that teaches players to design RNA molecules online.

One way to combat the rising level of errors and fraud in life sciences research is through massive online laboratories, which use videogames to engage large numbers of non-professional investigators and prevent scientists from manually testing their own hypotheses, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and Stanford University say.¬†Though unconventional, CMU’s Adrien Treuille and Stanford’s Rhiju Das argue that this online, game-like approach actually is more scientifically rigorous than the standard practice of scientists proposing an explanation for some phenomenon and then testing that hypothesis through experimentation. In a commentary published online today by the journal Trends in Biochemical Sciences, they maintain that massive online labs could be a model for the entirety of science.

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