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Scientific Misconduct: Part 4 - The Costs of Hubris (cont'd)

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Recognizing Misconduct When You See it

The Newsletter is silent about solutions at the institutions referred to by Professor Schachman. Instead, the Newsletter reports,

"Schachman also cited OSI cases that recommended remedial action for incidents of sloppiness, incompetence, lab mismanagement, and 'other practices that may not meet the formal definition of scientific misconduct but which, nevertheless, constitutes irresponsible scientific behavior.'"

"OSI" is the United States Public Health Service ("PHS") Office of Scientific Integrity.

This distinction between misconduct and irresponsible behavior is quaint to say the least. Any disapproval by the scientific community of OSI action to improve the public's return on research dollars is totally unacceptable and bound to backfire on scientists. It is in both the public interest and the interest of the scientific community to stretch the limited funding science receives as far as possible, not to squander it on sloppiness, incompetence, mismanagement or other irresponsible behavior.

The Newsletter also reports,

"Schachman and other panel members said that there is a danger of the federal government getting in the business of setting ethical standards...."

Apparently, someone must begin setting these standards. According to the Newsletter, Professor Schachman admits,

"'There are substantial numbers of scientists who are aggressive, arrogant, selfish, ambitious, self-serving and opportunistic,' he said, 'But that does not make them crooks, and we don't want their behavior patterns to be the subject of federal investigations.'"

Why not? The "danger" of placing federal funds in the hands of substantial numbers of ambitious, self-serving opportunistic scientists without misconduct controls in place is obvious. Why then does the panel want the behavior of such scientists using federal grant funds immunized from federal investigations for misconduct? Is there a distinction between scientists who conduct themselves generally as self-serving opportunists while using federal dollars, and those who misuse federal grants by specific self-serving acts such as falsifying data and plagiarism?

Next -- Should Scientists Get Special Treatment?
Previous -- The FASEB View

 


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