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Psst…did you hear? The effect of gossip on misconduct – Retraction Watch (Alison McCook: October 2016)0

Posted by Admin in on October 22, 2016
 

If scientists are hesitant to formally report their colleagues when they suspect them of misconduct, can simply gossiping about their concerns in informal settings – at meetings, conferences, etc – clean up the literature? That’s a question Brandon Vaidyanathan and his colleagues tried to answer in “Gossip as Social Control: Informal Sanctions on Ethical Violations in Scientific Workplaces,” published last month in Social Problems. We spoke with Vaidyanathan, now the director of research at The H.E. Butt Family Foundation and Public Policy Fellow at the University of Notre Dame, about how scientists use gossip to warn others of potential misconduct – and whether it works.

Retraction Watch: What prompted you to discuss the role gossip can play in scientific misconduct?

Brandon Vaidyanathan: We didn’t set out to study gossip initially. It emerged unexpectedly as a theme during our interviews with scientists across national contexts, when we asked them about their encounters with misconduct.

Read the rest of this interview
View a Resource Library link to Brandon Vaidyanathan’s paper

Gossip as Social Control: Informal Sanctions on Ethical Violations in Scientific Workplaces (Papers: Brandon Vaidyanathan September 2016)EH0

Posted by Admin in on October 22, 2016
 

The described phenomena might be a part of peer-based social control, but it also might be a recognition of the problems of whistleblowing.

Abstract: Research on misconduct in science has largely focused on egregious violations such as fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism. Recent scholarship, however, calls for greater attention to forms of everyday misconduct and how scientists navigate ethical ambiguity when they are unable or unwilling to make formal accusations. Drawing on interview data from 251 physicists and biologists from both elite and non-elite universities and research institutes in the United States, United Kingdom, and India, we find that scientists are often reticent or unable to take formal action against many behaviors they perceive as unethical and irresponsible. As a result, they resort to informal gossip to warn colleagues of transgressors. Many express confidence that such pro-social gossip can serve as a means of social control by tarnishing the reputations of transgressors. Yet its effectiveness as a form of social control is limited, particularly when transgressors enjoy higher status than gossipers. We identify two types and three consequences of such gossip and assess the effectiveness of gossip as a means of social control. Finally, we consider the implications of our study for understanding and decreasing misconduct in science.

Keywords: Gossip; Misconduct; Science; Scientists; Ethics

Vaidyanathan B, Khalsa S and Ecklund EH  (2016) Gossip as Social Control: Informal Sanctions on Ethical Violations in Scientific Workplaces
Social Problems DOI: 10.1093/socpro/spw022
Publisher: http://socpro.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2016/09/19/socpro.spw022.abstract

Read Retraction Watch’s interview with Brandon Vaidyanathan about this work

What publishers and countries do most retractions for fake peer review come from? – Retraction Watch (Alison McCook September 2016)0

Posted by Admin in on October 21, 2016
 

A new analysis – which included scanning Retraction Watch posts – has identified some trends in papers pulled for fake peer review, a subject we’ve covered at length.

For those who aren’t familiar, fake reviews arise when researchers associated with the paper in question (most often authors) create email addresses for reviewers, enabling them to write their own positive reviews.

The article – released September 23 by the Postgraduate Medical Journal – found the vast majority of papers were retracted from journals with impact factors below 5, and most included co-authors based in China.

Read the rest of the news story

Academic Research in the 21st Century: Maintaining Scientific Integrity in a Climate of Perverse Incentives and Hypercompetition (Papers: Marc Edwards and Roy Siddhartha 2016)0

Posted by Admin in on October 19, 2016
 

Over the last 50 years, we argue that incentives for academic scientists have become increasingly perverse in terms of competition for research funding, development of quantitative metrics to measure performance, and a changing business model for higher education itself. Furthermore, decreased discretionary funding at the federal and state level is creating a hypercompetitive environment between government agencies (e.g., EPA, NIH, CDC), for scientists in these agencies, and for academics seeking funding from all sources—the combination of perverse incentives and decreased funding increases pressures that can lead to unethical behavior. If a critical mass of scientists become untrustworthy, a tipping point is possible in which the scientific enterprise itself becomes inherently corrupt and public trust is lost, risking a new dark age with devastating consequences to humanity. Academia and federal agencies should better support science as a public good, and incentivize altruistic and ethical outcomes, while de-emphasizing output.

Edwards MA and Siddhartha R (2016) Academic Research in the 21st Century: Maintaining Scientific Integrity in a Climate of Perverse Incentives and Hypercompetition. Environmental Engineering Science. September 2016, ahead of print. doi:10.1089/ees.2016.0223.
Publisher: http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/ees.2016.0223

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