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The Fetid Little Fingers of Science

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The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that a large percentage of research scientists admit to fabricating or manipulating data because of a sense of “being wronged.” Reporter Lila Guterman explains that The Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics will report that “perceived injustice” and scientific misbehavior are linked.

From the article:

Raymond G. De Vries, an associate professor of medical education at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and three colleagues last year reported surveying more than 3,000 scientists about whether they had ever engaged in misbehavior, such as changing a study because of pressure from a source of funds, or failing to present data that contradict one’s own research. One-third of the scientists acknowledged they had committed some form of research misbehavior.

“Why are people engaging in these behaviors that they feel uncomfortable about?” Mr. De Vries and his colleagues wondered. “There’s something about the way science is organized that is putting these people under pressure.”

When scientists perceive injustice in their workplace, particularly regarding how rewards are distributed, they are more likely to compromise their integrity, the researchers found.

What’s more, the correlation is stronger for scientists whose “scientific identity is vulnerable,” Mr. De Vries said. Younger researchers and women in male-dominated fields were more likely to respond to perceived injustices by cutting corners.

The authors of the ethics paper caution that, as a result of such pressures, simple training in ethics at individual institutions may not be enough to encourage scientists to play by the rules. Instead, journal editors, peer reviewers, and leaders of professional societies must find ways to judge work fairly and bestow rewards based on merit, not simply because of a research project’s “glamour” or grant size.

The article is of interest primarily because it details the extensiveness of scientific misconduct. Our society tends to place inordinate trust in science and in scientists, assuming that the scientific method effectively removes the risk of misbehavior. The Korean stem cell and cloning scandal should be sufficient warning. This article brings the issue much closer to home.

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Comments
Given the religious status of the theory of evolution, it is no wonder that "scientists admit to fabricating or manipulating data because of a sense of 'being wrong'"Matz
April 12, 2006
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What about covering up tracks in modern science so as not to give an opponents theory ammunition? Related to an earlier post and this one, Credit to IDTF's Paul Nelson, noting a scientist that did just that re: a paper in Nature for rebuttal to Behe's IC.... http://www.idthefuture.com/2006/04/say_it_aint_so_joe_thornton_pu.html#more LOL, I'd say actions of the scientist(Thornton) in question verge on paranoia - to borrow from a purposed meme by MacNeil at TT. Either Thornton 1) did not want to admit a worthy adversary in Behe, DI, et al, or 2) He did not want his peers to see he made such an admission having been pointed to by Nelson at IDTF. Either way, removal of "irreducible complexity" from a paragraph speak loudly of today's scientific in-house breeding and humorously of its actors which follow a script, to the absurd action of a post-edit IR-Removal(IRR) Rating System. Like movies, reality takes leave. Lest any poor child of evolution should see! Proclamations must go forth wherin IR is discussed, public warnings: Beware Public - this paper is Not "IRR" Rated! Only safe IRR Rated papers are allowable for public consumption! Much like Tel Dan in northern Israel, evidence is left for all to see, even their meanderings leave traces to the trained eye. Bold men, nonetheless, left with false idols, blind they become. But still one has hope in writing even to those long lost. So too has Thorton's quick edit left traces here: http://www.gigablast.com/get?q=http://www.uoregon.edu/~joet/&c=main&rtq=0&d=148140890714 For words "irreducible complexity", see second paragraph as quoted; "Our goal is to illustrate how a complex, tightly integrated molecular system -- one which appears to be "irreducibly complex" - evolved by Darwinian processes hundreds of millions of years ago." So, lets get this straight for Rules of Fencing in the venacular of MacNeil's post on TT, En Guarde. 1) Each man shall be allowed a sword? Uhhh no, not according to Nature and Thornton, only those opposed to ID may put forth their material. Rule 2) Each man shall abide by the same rules. As long as ID does not get a sword he may thrust, advance, parry all he wants. Shawmar, Mr. MacNeil, indeed, Shachal's await wolves as they prance and are patient, smiles. 10 years and still no answer from evolutionist who deny the controversy, yet leave traces for all to see the battle is on. Hey Joe, where you goin with that 'cut' in your hand....Michaels7
April 11, 2006
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Dr. Einstein said it best: "Science without Religion is lame."
Ethics training just raises the bar on unethical behaviour - its just a crutch and does not cure the condition of lameness.

A great hatred of cheating, misrepresentation, and falseness in all its forms has to be instilled (along with a great love for cheaters, fakers, and poseurs). This requires a conviction of the heart that makes crawling before ethics un-necessary and unappealing.

The irony borders on pathos.

Collin DuCrâne
April 11, 2006
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Barry, Ha ha! Big surprise there. But I guess I was talking about the scientists in the article. I wonder if the "religious" ones were less likely to commit the offenses.Doug
April 11, 2006
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Doug, You say: "I wonder if there is any correlation between misbehavior and moral relativism as a worldview." Here is a quote from a man some would call the father of moral relativism: “In extreme cases there can be little doubt of the superiority of one race to another.... It seems on the whole fair to regard negroes as on the average inferior to white men, although for work in the tropics they are indispensable, so that their extermination (apart from questions of humanity) would be highly undesirable.” — Bertrand Russell, Marriage and Morals (1929) What do you think the answer to your question is?BarryA
April 11, 2006
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I wonder if there is any correlation between misbehavior and moral relativism as a worldview (Darwinism).Doug
April 11, 2006
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a) One should examine studies supporting darwinian claims very carefully. b) This post implies that fraud detection (an explicit application of the design inference) has job security. c) Don't trust arguments from authority.jaredl
April 11, 2006
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Perhaps part of the problem is the way negative results are treated. It is probably difficult to get an experiment that did not have a positive result published, despite the time and money that went into it. Likewise, an over-emphasis on empiricism can lead to the early death of good theory. Science has several times had theories where the early data was against them, but it was the _scientist's commitment_ to the theory that led to it eventually being shown to be correct - either by minor reformulations or figuring out what other phenomena were interfering. If the data is over-emphasized, such theories might be shot down too early, and it would probably cause many scientists to possibly forge early data while the theory is still in development, in order to secure adequate funds for a full persuit. Just a thought.johnnyb
April 11, 2006
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