Not so fantastic
I have reviewed Eugenie Samuel Reich’s new book Plastic Fantastic in the Sunday Times (here). The book tells the story of the fraud perpetrated by physicist Jan Hendrik Schön between around 1997 and 2002, during which time he fabricated data in a string of papers about organic microelectronics and nanoelectronics. It was something of an eye-opener to discover the details behind the affair, even though I thought I was fairly well aware of the basic facts. I missed, by the skin of my teeth, being implicated in the matter as a Nature editor, since I quit that job shortly around the time that Schön’s papers started to roll in.
For understandable reasons of space, the Sunday Times lopped off the final sentence in my review, which cited a quote from Cambridge physicist Peter Littlewood that, to my mind, captures the essence of what went on, as Reich makes clear: ‘For a long time I didn’t believe it could have been fraud, because I didn’t believe one person could make all that up. Then I realized, we all made it up.’