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(US) Boston University rejects geologist David Marchant’s appeal of termination – Science (Meredith Wadman | February 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on April 28, 2018
 

Boston University (BU) has denied geologist David Marchant’s appeal of its decision to terminate him, the Massachusetts-based institution announced yesterday. Late last year, the university moved to fire Marchant after an investigation concluded that he sexually harassed a graduate student during fieldwork in Antarctica nearly 2 decades ago.

This is an update on a story we have previously included in the Resource Library

Marchant has not yet exhausted all options in attempting to save his job. Marchant “has the right to have a faculty committee determine whether termination is the appropriate sanction, and the timing of the initiation of that committee’s work is being determined,” BU spokesperson Colin Riley wrote in a 27 February email.

Riley said that Marchant remains on paid administrative leave. He declined to identify who at the university denied the appeal, or when and on what grounds the decision was made.

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Chileans Criticize US Scientists Over Treatment of Ata the “Alien” Mummy – Futurism (Kristin Houser | March 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on April 26, 2018
 

It looks like an alien, but its story is much stranger. And now it’s causing an international incident.

This case provides a useful opportunity to reflect upon the respectful and ethical handling of human remains, which calls to mind the historical failures of national museums – such as the long-overdue repatriation of Australian indigenous material

Chilean scientists and government officials are protesting a study published in the journal Genome Research on March 22. It’s not the study’s conclusions or science they take issue with, though. It’s the study’s subject: the body of a mummified Chilean girl.
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Alien enthusiasts are pretty obsessed with Ata, a 6-inch-long skeleton that was discovered in 2003. Oscar Munoz found the tiny mummy in a leather pouch in a Chilean ghost town near the Atacama Desert (hence its name), and soon after, rumors began swirling as to Ata’s origin.
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Ata had a conical head shape and large eye sockets that looked straight out of a sci-fi film. The mummy was barely the length of a 19-week-old human fetus, but had bones as mature as those of a six-year-old. It also had hard teeth and only 10 pairs of ribs while humans have 12.

 

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Cambridge University rejected Facebook study over ‘deceptive’ privacy standards – The Guardian (Matthew Weaver | April 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on April 25, 2018
 

Exclusive: panel told researcher Aleksandr Kogan that Facebook’s approach fell ‘far below ethical expectations’

A Cambridge University ethics panel rejected research by the academic at the centre of the Facebook data harvesting scandal over the social network’s “deceptive” approach to its users privacy, newly released documents reveal.

Perhaps, like us, you’ve been wondering what happened with the research ethics review of the initial data collection by Kogan (who is a researcher based at a UK university). That rumination may have deepened given Mark Zuckerberg’s reported testimony to the US Congress committee. But this latest revelation turns the story in a surprising direction. The work was in fact denied ethics approval by the Cambridge research ethics committee!

A 2015 proposal by Aleksandr Kogan, a member of the university’s psychology department, involved the personal data from 250,000 Facebook users and their 54 million friends that he had already gleaned via a personality quiz app in a commercial project funded by SCL, the parent company of Cambridge Analytica.

Separately, Kogan proposed an academic investigation on how Facebook likes are linked to “personality traits, socioeconomic status and physical environments”, according to an ethics application about the project released to the Guardian in response to a freedom of information request.
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The documents shed new light on suggestions from the Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, that the university’s controls on research did not meet Facebook’s own standards. In testimony to the US Congress earlier this month, Zuckerberg said he was concerned over Cambridge’s approach, telling a hearing: “What we do need to understand is whether there is something bad going on at Cambridge University overall, that will require a stronger action from us.”
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A real-life Lord of the Flies: the troubling legacy of the Robbers Cave experiment – The Guardian (David Shariatmadari | April 2017)0

Posted by Admin in on April 17, 2018
 

In the early 1950s, the psychologist Muzafer Sherif brought together a group of boys at a US summer camp – and tried to make them fight each other. Does his work teach us anything about our age of resurgent tribalism?
……Read an extract from The Lost Boys

July 1953: late one evening in the woods outside Middle Grove, New York state, three men are having a furious argument. One of them, drunk, draws back his fist, ready to smash it into his opponent’s face. Seeing what is about to happen, the third grabs a block of wood from a nearby pile. “Dr Sherif! If you do it, I’m gonna hit you,” he shouts.

A useful example of the degree to which such work not only fails modern ethical standards, its results were cherry-picked and stage managed. We note again our caution about using such cases to justify current human research ethics/research integrity arrangements. Also see James Kehoe recent post.

The man with the raised fist isn’t just anybody. He is one of the world’s foremost social psychologists, Muzafer Sherif. The two others are his research assistants. Sherif is angry because the experiment he has spent months preparing for has just fallen apart.
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Born in the summer of 1905 and raised in İzmir province, Turkey, during the dying days of the Ottoman empire, Sherif won a place at Harvard to study psychology. But he found himself frustrated by the narrowness of the discipline, which mainly involved tedious observation of lab rats. He was drawn instead to the emerging field of social psychology, which looks at the way human behaviour is influenced by others. In particular, he became obsessed by group dynamics: how individuals band together to form cohesive units and how these units can find themselves at each other’s throats.
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