We've had any number of discussions about the changing face of academic research given the fact that we keep being told America doesn't do enough science education but there aren't enough jobs in research to go around.

With success in an ever-more competitive post-doctoral environment requiring more excellent science than ever to achieve the next step, it's not a surprise some will boost their standing by holding others back.

Brendan Maher, writing in Nature, discusses the case of Vipul Bhrigu, a former post-doc at the University of Michigan who was videotaped sabotaging the work of graduate student Heather Ames.  Bhrigu confessed after he was caught on videotape but the issue, Maher notes, is a bigger one - namely in the bond of trust between researchers.

Poaching in science is nothing new.    In The Lost Letters Of Francis Crick Found I note that Francis Crick writes to DNA competitor Maurice Wilkins "so cheer up and take it from us that even if we kicked you in the pants it was between friends. We hope our burglary will at least produce a united front in your group!" - not only happily admitting he took their ideas but making fun of the dysfunction everyone knows exists in that group, with the Rosalind Franklin issues and such.

Oddly, neither theft nor sabotage are prohibited in an academic career.   Far too much research is federally funded but actual research misconduct by definition is limited to plagiarism, fabrication and falsification of data.

Overt sabotage is a rare occurrence.   Subtle sabotage, like punitive peer review or withholding protocols from colleagues, is impossible to monitor.   In Falsified Research - A Meta Analysis Of Scientific Misconduct, Daniele Fanelli of the University of Edinburgh, claims 2% of scientists admitted they had 'fabricated' data, 34% to practices like  "failing to present data that contradict one's own previous research", yet 14% knew someone who had manipulated or created data and up to 72% knew someone who had committed other questionable research practices.  Is that accurate?  I have no idea nor does anyone else - a self-reported meta analysis is not going to have a great amount of rigor, but even if the numbers are off they are surprisingly high.

Some out there are going to argue out there that given the chance some fold under pressure and act unethically there should be no competition in science - that means no rewards.  It's a silly assertion.   Some researchers went into academia because they didn't want to have the performance pressure of corporate funding so the culture shifted in favorite of a government model, which has made science both a political football and reliant on taxpayers spending more money each year - a supply glut that has resulted in low salaries for smart people if they stay in academia.    Taking away incentives for scientists to do excellent research would leave science in a bad position.

Science, like humanity, has a lot of diversity and that includes in the ethics of participants - a few people lacking moral clarity are no reason to take a system with flaws, but that produces good science, and make it worse.