I've spent years in and around academia, which is an interesting position to be in. And it's made me sensitive to one sort of conspiracy theory, the one that sounds like
A person discovered [random world-changing good thing] but scientists agreed to cover it up.
And as much fun as conspiracy theories are, this one makes it impossible for me to suspend my disbelief enough to enjoy it. The problem is in the following two words:
No they didn't. This posits that all of academia set aside a core aspect of their very nature to cover up some specific fact. The heart and soul of research is arguing. Convincing the entire “scientific community” to hide something beggars the imagination.
This isn't to say that research doesn't get buried for unethical reasons. It does! All the time! But not because all of “science” agreed to cover it up. If you're going to create a conspiracy about academic malfeasance, go with a more likely scenario. Here are some for your perusal:
Likely ways to Bury Research
Doctor F discovered a great new thing, but:
- The Chair/Dean/Provost/President of the University cancelled the project.
- Their funding was pulled and given to a project with military application.
- The results were entangled in a battle over Intellectual Property/Patent rights
- Someone on the peer review committee had a grudge against them and stonewalled the results from ever being published.
- Their research methodology was called into question and the project was discredited.
- A rival researcher found a previous paper that had a similar basis to Doctor F's work, thus tainting the research with the stain of plagiarism.
- A rival researcher found a previous paper that seems to disprove the basis of Doctor F's work, thus discrediting all the new work.
- Doctor F sold their research to a private entity/government/military group, who had them sign a non-disclosure agreement, but then lost interest in the project.
Try one of these and your “hidden research” conspiracy theory will not only hold (slightly) more water, but will be more entertaining to boot.