Saturday, February 26, 2011

Misconduct in Science and Research

Recent news about procedural misconduct by scientists is easy to find.  However, searches of JSTOR uncovered zero articles about misconduct in scientific research from 1900 to 1950.  From 1950 to the present, 40 articles addressed the related problems.  An obvious upswing occurred after 1987. Gale CENGAGE yielded 56 titles, many of those reports of headline news about Jan Hendrik Schön and other immediacies.  On the other hand, if you search via Google or Bing for "research misconduct" or "misconduct in science" etc., there is no shortage of popular news stories and formal reports.  This summary from The New York Times is from 1991.  In fact, the NYT Articles database offers embarrassingly many such stories (link here).

Police chiefs know the easy generalization that 80% of your problems come from 20% of your addresses regardless of the neighborhood.  Crime is a universal problem. Nonetheless, variations in crime statistics show that predation and fraud are more common in some cities and states and nations than in others.  Harms flourish where they are wanted. 
So, while fraud in science research is known across all studies, it is now most common in health and medicine.  Tremendous funding is one factor.  Willy Sutton robbed banks because that's where the money was.  

And to be fair, living things are more complex than rocks and stars, so experimental results can be harder to duplicate. Not all researchers have the same finesse; and it is easy to believe that you have it, but your critics do not.

These same factors cause fraud in forensic science.  Joyce Gilchrist, Fred Zain, and Pamela Fish made headlines when their counterfeit lab reports were exposed.  [Annie Dookhan is added to the list.] The problems with fingerprinting go deeper (NecessaryFacts here).  As with other instances, the causal factors may be the pressure for results, the huge and easy funding for such work, and a desire to believe your own results, coupled with a faith in altruistic ends that justify any means.  But the rational choice theory of crime stands against such excuses and denials. 

According to the theory of crime based on objective psycho-epistemology, criminals act from the lack of thought.  When pressed later, words come out of their mouths, often generated by an intuitively correct feeling for what the interrogator wants to hear.  They don't mean it. 

The Office of Research Integrity of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports on its findings.  Defrauding the federal government is a federal crime, no surprise in that.  Every university has some similar "institutional review board" for human and life science experiments.  No similar agencies assure integrity in the physical sciences.  None exists for criminology. 

New age and post-modernist professors teach future police officers that there is no such thing as right and wrong.  According to Stuart Henry, Bruce A. Arrigo, Christopher Williams, and Mark M. Lanier, taking their cues from Paul Feyerabend and Jacques Lacan, the Enlightenment was a Euro-centric, phallo-centric conquest.  They claim that the senses are invalid, that logic has no validity.  Such assertions are the deepest expression of academic fraud. 

Four Books about Bad Science
Criminalistics: Science or Folkway?
Junk Criminology as Pseudo-Science
Science Fair Science Fraud
David Harriman's Logical Leap
Great Scientific Experiments
Fantastic Voyages: Teaching Science with Science Fiction


  1. You're implying that you think there are objective standards for right and wrong; what are they? How does one determine what is right and wrong?

    I think that right and wrong is always agreed upon by people who wish to live peacefully together. The Mormon household agrees that alcohol consumption is wrong, and a household in Kentucky shares bourbon with the entire family at dinner time. Each has its own determination of right and wrong.

    Even violence and murder have different levels of agreed upon acceptability. A soldier who commits murder is a hero only because the people with whom he wishes to live peacefully have all agreed that he is moral.

  2. Yes, I find an objective standard for right and wrong. Why should the household rule an individual? Whether bourbon - or oatmeal stout beer - is good with (or before) breakfast is easy to determine: does it promote your best interests?

    War is difficult to justify. Harry Browne had an essay in Monetary Crisis about "Rheingold" a mythical nation that maintained its prosperity by refusing to fight.

  3. ... and fraud in scientific research is wrong, even if all the scientists in the world vote otherwise.


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