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ResourcesResearch IntegrityGossip as Social Control: Informal Sanctions on Ethical Violations in Scientific Workplaces (Papers: Brandon Vaidyanathan September 2016)EH

Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

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

 


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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



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