Babbage, Charles. Reflections on the Decline of Science in England, and on Some of Its Causes.

 

Babbage, Charles. Reflections on the Decline of Science in England, and on Some of Its Causes.
New York: Craig, 1969. (Originally, B. Fellows, 1830)

This is a frequently cited reference to cheating in science. The referers cite Babbage typology
"On the Frauds of Observers," (pp. 175-183) including Hoaxing, Forging, Trimming, and
Cooking. The first two are obvious from the names while the last two require an explanation:
"Trimming consists in clipping off little bits here and there from those observations which are in
excess of the mean, and in sticking them on to those which are too small..." The trimmer's object
"...is to gain a reputation for extreme accuracy in making observations. But from a respect for
truth, or from a prudent foresight, he does not distort the position of the fact he gets from nature,
and it is usually difficult to detect him." (p. 178)

"Of cooking. This is an art of various forms, the object of which is to give to ordinary
observations the appearance and character of those of the higher degree of accuracy.

"One of its numerous processes is to make multitudes of observations, and out of these to select
those only which agree,... If a hundred observations are made, the cook must be very unlucky if
he cannot pick out fifteen or twenty which will do for serving up." (pp. 178-179)

The fascinating thing about this book is not the typology which Merton - and others - cite so
often. It is rather that those who cite the book fail to mention its other major contributions.
Babbage is after the whole of the Royal Society of his day for its "politics," for the power it gives
to its President, for its pandering to the nobility, and to the system of management by means of
which the Royal Society is governed. "The Society has, for years, been managed by a party, or
coterie, ...united by no expressed compact or written regulations, but who act together from a
community of principles... The great object of this, as of all other parties, has been to maintain
itself in power, and to divide, as far as it could, all the good things amongst its members. It has
usually consisted of persons of very moderate talent, who have had the prudence, whenever they
could, to associate themselves with other members of greater ability, provided these latter would
not oppose the system... The party has always praised each other most highly...(they) have
invariably opposed all improvements in the Society, all change in the mode of management.
They have maintained that all those who wished for any alteration were factious..." (p. 141)