THE PROBLEM OF SABOTAGE

Andy Boden andy at elroy.jpl.nasa.gov
Tue Apr 11 14:45:20 EST 1995


In article <3mcd4i$kro at usenet.ucs.indiana.edu>, jgraham at bronze.ucs.indiana.edu (the End) writes:
> Interesting, if not a bit poorly put, the implication is the expected
> result of disproportionate competition for funds among an expanding
> pool of scientists in a climate of static or diminishing support.
> 
> The threat that 10-14% funding approval and ~10-1 qualified professionals
> per job may have in terms scientific institutional standards like
> peer review, sharing of results and materials, mentorship, and all the other 
> productive practices which have grown out of an era of scientific expansion is 
> not to be underestimated. Unless things change, the spector of administrative 
> "sabotage" by those whose "turf" is increasingly threatened can not be readily 
> dismissed.
> 
> Jim
> J. Graham 
> 

Jim's comments echo an argument put forward locally (here in Pasadena
at Caltech) by David Goodstein (Vice Provost/Physics Professor at
Caltech) a couple of years ago.  Writing about ethics in science,
Prof. Goodstein noted that the vast majority of scientific ethics
charges and actual "convictions" (something like 95%) occur in the
medical fields, where over the past 10 years the funding and
employment climate has been more competitive than in physics, for
instance.  Prof. Goodstein speculates that as the funding became more
competitive the peer review process breaks down because of the natural
self-preservation interests of the reviewers.  He goes on to argue, as
Jim does, that the ethics problems that the medical and biological
fields will spread to chemistry and physics with reduced funding
levels, as they are now.

I personally do not know of many cases of outright fraud in my
discipline (physics), but I expect that Jim and Prof. Goodstein are
right in expecting that ethical abuse rates are inversely related to
competition levels for positions and funding.  The challenge to all of
us is to maintain our integrity in the face of (increasingly) tough
times ahead.

							- A.B.

-- 


"...it doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter
how smart you are -- if it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong."

						- R.P. Feynman



More information about the Bioforum mailing list