Science on Trial

U27111 at uicvm.uic.edu U27111 at uicvm.uic.edu
Sat Jan 20 02:56:19 EST 1996



Hey Guys... I go away for a few days and look what we have going
on?  So much stuff flying back and forth I can barely keep up!

Now, to somewhat change the subject.

What I have learn while I was gone.

Well... I just finished reading Sarasohn's book "Science on Trial:
The Whistle-blower, the Accused, and the Nobel Laureate"

Sort've made me feel stupid... here I discovered people have come
to the exact same conclusions as I about this scientific community
of ours - but years previously!

I should've    read all this years ago - instead of wasting 7 years
of my life to discover it first hand.  But then again, would have
I believed it back then?  Probably not.

Some things which struck me about the book was the how familiar the
'language' was.

For indeed, if I had a nickel every time someone told me it was due
to 'a personality problem'... I would indeed be rich!  I have
finally gotten to the point of an automatic reply to this one...
"Yes, it is a personality problem... I just can't work with people
of a lower caliber and standards!"   And of course, then I come off
sounding arrogant (which is actually a more acceptable behavior?).
Oh well.

Anyway... "there is no scientific bases for 'fill in the blank'
statement"  Another one I've heard before.

Even comments which have been thrown around in this thread appear
in this book:

You are risking scientific freedoms...
Creativity will be driven out of science...

Same statements which have previously been made by Baltimore when
waging his media war against Dingel's investigation.

Interesting how old such arguments really are?

Anyway... I think the main thing I discovered in this book, of
which I can relate to, was an excerpt of a commentary by Paul Doty
on this whole Baltimore affair which was published in Nature.

In response to Baltimore's statement that it was up to other
scientists to prove or disprove the 'Cell' experiment (which is not
unlike Gallo's recent comments about leaving it up to history to
decide"... Doty wrote:

"To forgo this obligation - to leave to others the responsibility
of establishing the validity of what you have published - is not
only a fundamental retreat from responsibility but, if it became
accepted practice, would erode the way science works.  For the
cutting edge of science moves forward by building rapidly on what
is published on the tentative assumptions that is correct, not by
waiting for others to test each paper's validity."

And about Baltimore's misleading statements concerning O'Tool's
assertions...  Doty wrote:

"This pattern of behavior stands in deep contrast to the
traditional view that authors of scientific papers have a special
obligation to be responsive to criticisms and to test their work
from every possible angle - to pursue the truth relentlessly"

Gee... he could've wrote the same thing about Gallo?

Doty then goes on to say, "to let this lapse pass in silence would
be to condone it and to fail to recognize the very standards of his
other work as well as the harm that has come from the posture he
has taken" "...its silence can be interpreting as condoning the
standards of research and reporting embodied in the [Cell] paper"

Same thing I have been saying about Gallo.  The silence of this
community *is* condoning his behavior and is hurting the work of
all of all with the AIDS research community.  As well as allowing
for Gallo to continue to pursue funding for his institute as he
has.  Sorry, Keith, but you just can't put all the blame on
Maryland's general Assembly here!  *We* are allowing this to occur
by our silence.

In referring to the exact same issues we have been talking about
here for weeks now (cutthroat competition, problems with peer-
review, etc).  Doty goes on to write, "All these contribute to the
pressure to compromise and erode the high principles of the past."

"As a result, the scientific community may already be experiencing
a gradual departure from the traditional scientific standards; this
could be abetted by condoning the behavior seen in this present
case."

"In this way we risk sliding toward the standards of some other
professions where the validity of action is decided by whether one
can get away with it.  For science to drift towards such a course
would be fatal - not only to itself and the inspiration which
carriers if forward, but to the public trust which is its
provider."

Earlier in the book, during a meeting, Doty also brought up the
Feynman Principle (which, this is the first time I ever heard about
it!)...

According to Feynman, the underlying principle for the conduct of
scientific research is: A scientist should explain what is wrong
with his experiment, not just what is right and will prove his
results.

"Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be
given, if you know them.  You must do the best you can - if you
know anything at all is wrong, or possibly wrong - to explain it,"
Feynman has said in the past.

And Doty felt that Baltimore's actions (comments) in this whole
affair showed the opposite of this Feynman's code of conduct... "to
publish whatever you can get away with"

And I think this pretty well sums up what I have been attempting to
express these many weeks.  Indeed, this is the new science in the
90's.

Thank you for your time,

-Kathy



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