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Anatomy of Scientific Error

2nd term
Molecular Microbiology and Immunology
3 credits
Academic Year:
2019 - 2020
Instruction Method:
Auditors Allowed:
Yes, with instructor consent
Grading Restriction:
Letter Grade or Pass/Fail
Course Instructors:
Gundula Bosch

Introduction to Online Learning is required prior to participating in any of the School's Internet-based courses. none


To err is human and we must be aware that studies can have errors. While sometimes, errors can be sources of innovation, we are facing a retraction epidemic of scientific articles.

Interested in learning how you can help?

Equipped with guidelines to recognize errors in science practice, you will get to do “science detective work” by researching the retraction database and other repositories to find experimental flaws or signs of ethical misconduct in published studies, and write a critical review for the retraction watch consortium. This course is part of the R3 Science Education Initiative series (

Examines sources of error in scientific practice (misconduct or honest mistakes, methodological or systematic errors). Presents real-world examples to analyze errors that cause problems in science across the disciplines. Introduces methodological and mathematical approaches to error reduction. Explores the review- and retraction mechanisms for journal articles and grants as methods of science self-correction. Discusses historic and contemporary cases where errors constitute sources of innovation.

Learning Objectives:

Upon successfully completing this course, students will be able to:

  1. Define the current understanding of experimental rigor, the meaning of academic ethics and the limits of reproducibility in an interdisciplinary context
  2. Describe the sources of error in scientific practice as well as approaches for reducing errors
  3. Formulate recommendations for avoiding mistakes and misconduct in scientific practice
  4. Explain the procedures, advantages and disadvantages of review and retraction mechanisms for scientific journal articles
  5. Appraise the role of errors in discovery and innovation
Methods of Assessment:

Discussion participation and peer feedback: 30%; Case study exercises: 20%; Retraction watch assignment: 20%; Final project and presentation: 30%

Enrollment Restriction:


Instructor Consent:

No consent required