Ethicist Trisha Phillips discusses the fall-out from the Michael LaCour scandal.
Researchers are still debating what academia can learn from last month’s political science scandal: a now-retracted paper in Science reported that gay canvassers could sway voter opinions on same-sex marriage (Science http://doi.org/4zt; 2015).
Michael LaCour, a graduate student in political science at the University of California, Los Angeles, has admitted misrepresenting some aspects of the work, and there is now little evidence left that he ever conducted the survey he detailed in the paper. An investigation is ongoing at LaCour’s institution, while Princeton University in New Jersey, where he was due to start a new job in the coming academic year, rescinded its employment offer.
The LaCour case is symbolic of a larger problem in science, says Trisha Phillips, a research ethicist at West Virginia University in Morgantown who studies the factors that lead people into research misconduct. She spoke to Nature about her research, which suggests that, in some ways, political science seems to be less committed to research ethics than other disciplines.