Misconduct...reply to Kathy

Alexander Berezin berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA
Tue Dec 19 15:35:18 EST 1995

On Tue, 19 Dec 1995 U27111 at UICVM.CC.uic.edu wrote:

> Alexander Berezin <berezin at mcmail.CIS.McMaster.CA> wrote:
> >I don't know the particurities of the case, and in no way
> >attempt to vindicate Bendarik or Matsuguchi. All what I am
> >saying that we have to look deeper at the roots and then
> >for anyone it should be crystal clear that the existing
> >system (grantsmansip and many other aspects of it) is
> >highly conducive to such behavior. No offices, "ORI" or
> >whatever, will succeed in eliminating it for as long as
> >all what they treat are the symptoms, not the causes.
> I Agree!
> >Like police, it can perhaps curb the crime (cheers to ORI),
> >but it certainly can't restor the ethical values in
> >society (read - modern science). It is highly unlikely,
> >that institutions like ORI can get too much farere than
> >mere scapegoatting.

> I disagree.  I don't believe the Bendarik or Matsuguchi cases are
> mere scapegoatting.  They got caught, they didn't have enough
> political clout to be 'looked over,' like others, and then *they*
> [Bendarik and Matsuguchi] showed us their ethical values by
> volunteering to accept the ORI's decision [and not fight it with
> lawyers, like Gallo, and in one case, Fisher, lawyers and a PR
> firm!].

I agree with your correction above. Perhaps my inference of
'mere scapegoating' was expressed imprecisely. And of course,
John Cochran was not at hand for Bendarik and Matsuguchi to
help them out.

> As a matter of fact... I don't think there is much the ORI can do
> if those who get caught fight it with lawyers and the such?
> Thus, not only does this case help to deter future cases [as little
> as it does], but they also show us that when you do get caught, you
> should 'take your punishment like a man' and not try to wiggle out
> of it.
> But then again, I agree with you that this is still not enough...
> it will not restore ethical values into the field either.
> I don't know.

For as long as research community INTERNALLY operates
on such "moral values" as competition, grantsmanship, 
exploitation of postdocs and grad student, nothing much
could or will change. And you (as much as I) saw a lot
of posters where people vigourously DEFENDED the throat-cutting 
'competition' as the only mode of operation they subscribe to.

I got quite long (personal) letter .... yes... but... how you 
are proposing science without competiton ... Leonardo ? or... 
that't long ago ... now all is different ....     
 [  WHAT different ?!  Was Lorenzo Medici 'more educated'
than NIH/NSF/NSERC & guys  ?! ].    

For as long as everything based on 'winners-loosers' premise,
nothing change for the better and Tonya Harding will stay as
an icon (or rather martyr, for this matter).   

> About the only other thing we might try to do is to create laws
> where there would be legal consequences to pay for such misconduct.
> I mean, if the ORI is going to determine scientific misconduct on
> legal grounds [proving intent and all that instead of on scientific
> or ethical grounds]... then the price to pay should be on legal
> grounds as well [fines and jail time].

We don't need extra laws in this case. There are already needed
laws in existence - unrestricted public acsess of any person to ANY 
information collected on him or her. Anonymous peer review (APR) 
reports on your grant applications and/or papers fall into this
category, despite legal casuistics (and poweful lobby) manage
to get them exempted. I personally believe that it is legally
grey area at best. Only a successful court case against APR can 
make a difference. Howewver, for that new O.J. needs to be
caught for the scientific misconduct. Highly unlikely.
> Fraud is fraud after all... and in other fields, fraud is meet with
> legal consequences. 

Fraud is fraud only for as long as there are buyers for it.
Any swindler knows this ground rule. Create the market first. 
For as long as publish-perish & Co remains in force, cheaters
will always get smarter and smarter and will (generally)
oversmart 'ORI' or whatever.

> For what is the difference between supplying
> inferior building materials for a new structure which may cause a
> collapse of that structure and injuring or killing people... and
> supplying inferior data into the pool of scientific knowledge which
> would result in the loss of time, energy, and money pursuing the
> wrong paths for truths [all while people *are* dying]. ...what is
> the difference?

I certainly agree with your analogy above for such areas as
research on AIDS, drug development, etc. But most other areas 
are not that directly sensitive to the issues of public health
and safety. There are scors of people in any of these areas
who have all the magnificant life-time careers in science 
producing mountains of garbage nobody ever reads (except, peer 
reviewres, of course).  
> -Kathy

More information about the Bioforum mailing list