Pathological Science is not Scientific Misconduct

Henry H. Bauer, "'Pathological Science' is not Scientific Misconduct (nor is it pathological)", HYLE (International Journal for Philosophy of Chemistry, ISSN 1433-5158), 8 (#1, April 2002) 5-20; available on-line at

Editorial comment in HYLE:

Henry H. Bauer, from Virginia Tech, explores the borderline between moral and methodological norms of research, between scientific fraud and error. He does that by discussing the three most prominent cases of what has been called "pathological science" (N-rays, polywater, and cold fusion) which are incidentally all related to chemistry or physical chemistry. As the title of his paper suggests, he argues that these cases violate neither moral nor methodological norms of research. Because innovative research essentially depends on trying unconventional approaches, and thereby carries a higher risk of going wrong, it requires more liberal norms than routine research.

Abstract of article:

Pathological science implies scientific misconduct: it should not happen and the scientists concerned ought to know better. However, there are no clear and generally agreed definitions of pathological science or of scientific misconduct. The canonical exemplars of pathological science in chemistry (N-rays, polywater) as well as the recent case of cold fusion in electrochemistry involved research practices not clearly distinguishable from those in (revolutionary) science. The concept of "pathological science" was put forth nearly half a century ago in a seminar and lacks justification in contemporary understanding of science studies (history, philosophy, and sociology of science). It is time to abandon the phrase.

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