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ResourcesResearch IntegrityRevoking a Doctorate – Inside Higher Ed (Colleen Flaherty | September 2017)

Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

Revoking a Doctorate – Inside Higher Ed (Colleen Flaherty | September 2017)


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U of Arizona professor’s Ph.D. is withdrawn after her findings on violent video games are questioned. Some wonder why her mentor and co-author, a senior scholar, has not shared the blame.

Two matters for institutions and HDR candidates to note from this US case: a professor had a PhD revoked because of a problem with a paper she coauthored with a supervisor while a candidate at a different institution (creating uncertainty about her current appointment); and would your institution’s arrangements have taken commensurate action against the supervisor (who was the senior collaborator and coauthor of the retracted paper)?

Ohio State University took the extraordinary step of revoking a graduate’s doctorate last week. Now her future at the University of Arizona, where she is an assistant professor of communication, is unclear.
Jodi Whitaker’s problems started in 2015, after scholars in two countries noticed irregularities in the data in her 2012 paper on video games. The study in Communication Research, called “‘Boom, Headshot!’ Effect of Video Game Play and Controller Type on Firing Aim and Accuracy,” found that playing a violent video game improved real-life shooting skills. Initially, it was something of a boon for both Whitaker, then still a graduate student at Ohio State, and her co-author and dissertation committee chair, Brad J. Bushman, the Margaret Hall and Robert Randal Rinehart Chair of Mass Communication there. That’s because Bushman served on President Obama’s committee on gun violence and his research challenges what he calls myths about violence, including that violent media have a trivial effect on aggression.

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