I would have posted this a few days ago - as soon as I found out about it - but I've only had my internet connection activated yesterday, so here it goes.

I must say I was truly gutted to find out that Marc Hauser - evolutionary psychologist and biologist from Harvard University - had been found guilty of eight counts of scientific misconduct involving both published and unpublished studies (if you don't know what I'm talking about you can start by reading into it here). To my knowledge Harvard has not released too many details concerning the internal investigation, but data falsification appears to be one of the likely charges. I was personally devastated, not because I have any personal affinity to Marc Hauser as an individual, but because I have personal and academic stakes in the field of cognitive neuroscience and because I find its interaction with evolutionary biology to represent one of the most promising areas of scientific investigation at present. How someone can be as selfish as to act in a way that is certain to harm science's reputation and - by extension - humanity as a whole is truly beyond me. As if we didn't have enough problems with people still going on about "Climategate" and the Piltdown Man hoax.

How long do you think it'll take the Creationists to jump onto this bandwagon too?

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Lawyers have codes of ethics, land surveyors have them, plumbers have them, most professions have codes of ethics.

Science in this century holds a place it never has in the past, it is adulated by many, even by religious people. The results of scientific investigation are more profit driven than ever. Pharmaceutical companies are more and more often caught with their pants down for lying about healing properties, publishing misleading study results. All over the spectrum, whether it be pharmaceuticals, biotechnologies, engineering, the profit to be earned by cheating has multiplied expolentially. And the attraction of riches is not something modern scientists are immune to.

So sure, I'll give you a couple of percentage points in favor of scientists, there are a few credulous nerds out there doing honest science with aboslutely no intent of their acheivements ever falling into the wrong hands. But I'll only give scientists 10-20% leeway on that, no more. Most of my younger graduate labmates had profits on their mind and ethics were a far cry from their priorities.

>I'll only give scientists 10-20% leeway on that, no more. Most of my younger >graduate labmates had profits on their mind and ethics were a far cry from their >priorities.

Part of the issue is one of transparency into the work and also in motivations.

Codes of ethics serve proactively and reactively is the lifecycle of professional ethics. Professions that can do great good or harm have high levels of them, but I didn't cite them to mean that a high number of them means high ethical behavior. Medicine has a high degree of them. Government agencies, including the NSF and Public Health Service, enforce laws and regulations that deal with misconduct in science. At the Public Health Service complaints can be referred to the appropriate office through the Office of Research Integrity. Within universities, research grant officials can provide guidance on whether federal rules may be involved in filing a complaint. I think that less of this is transparently exercised at Pharmaceutical companies and this compounds the preselection of people who are likely to bend the rules. We all have weaknesses, but we all don't sign up to be in environments where the financial tempatations and downside risks are substantial. Nanotechnology R&D, for example, has potentialy enormous financial upsides, but also require s some mix of wisdom, perspective and perhaps leaps of faith regarding its possible positive vs. negative outcomes.

I worry more about workers in such fields there than geneal NSF researchers (or General Practice Physicians).

I'd guess that scientists at NIH rate higher and that is a basic point to be made - to distinguish, as a group, such research scientists from those employed by pharmaceuticals, biotech companies, nano engineering groups etc.

Both may be aware of "On Being a Scientist: Responsible Conduct in Research, Second Edition (1995) by the Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy (COSEPUP), but in one community there is more transparency and open reporting & checking about the conduct than in the other.


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