Tag Archives: scholarly journals

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/8/2019: A “Bias Makes You Stupid” Spectacular! [UPDATED!]

Good Morning!

The first appearance of Donald, Debbie and Gene in the New Year!

1. “A Nation of Assholes” update: Conservatives being ugly. The comments and even the posts around the conservative blogosphere regarding Ruth Bader Ginsberg are repulsive, and  reveal a deep mean streak, a lack of compassion and basic respect. Ginsberg, it was announced yesterday, will miss oral arguments–that means she won’t be able to vote on the cases she doesn’t hear—for the first time in her long career. It also may well mean that she isn’t long for this world, or the Court. The gleeful tone of the jokes, sarcasm and mockery being aimed her way by those salivating at the prospect that she will soon be replaced by a right-leaning justice is palpable. (Yes, some of the mean jokes are funny. The blog referring to her illness as a “belated Christmas present” isn’t.)

2. A classic bad argument for illegal immigration in response to an emotional one against it. The advocate? Geraldo Rivera. On a Hannity segment with conservative Dan Bongino [Correction notice: I mistakenly identified Bongino as African American in the original post. He is apparently Italian-American.]  Rivera tried to defend illegal immigration while condemning the use of individual episodes of violent crimes by illegals to justify stronger border enforcement. As Bongino and Hannity shouted around and over him, Rivera objected to Hannity’s featuring the grieving parents of 22-year-old Pierce Kennedy Corcoran who was killed in a head-on car crash with illegal immigrant Franco Cambrany Francisco-Eduardo. Francisco-Eduardo was charged with criminally negligent homicide and driving without a license or insurance,  was turned over to ICE. (Good!). Hannity lit the fuse when he began his panel by saying,

“Their son is dead. Or the people that also aid and abet these people with their sanctuary cities and sanctuary states, criminal aliens in our custody that are not handed over to ICE. You always say it’s about both parties, it’s not,” Hannity stated. “It’s about one party now that refuses to protect the American people…”

Said Geraldo at his most Geraldo-ish: Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quiz: The Good Hoax?” (1)

It’s 2:04 am…3:04, really but Daylight Savings Time has fallen…and I can’t sleep. I decided that it must be a guilty conscience for falling so far behind in posting Comments of the Day, so here is one of the more recent ones, Ryan Harkins on the question of whether deliberately fooling academic journals to show how vulnerable they are to  bogus research is ethically defensible. Another COTD will be along on the same post, but this one is by Ryan, on Ethics Quiz: The Good Hoax?:

Other professionals read the articles, and surveys of results are typical to show that there is a body of evidence supporting a particular conclusion. If a bunch of bunk is being passed off as good science, that feeds into further papers and can eventually influence public policy. This is especially true in softer sciences, where results are much murkier than than in the hard sciences, but even the hard sciences suffer from the problem.

The question is, how do you show that there is a problem in the peer review process, and that articles are being discarded because they don’t toe a party line, and articles are being accepted not on their merits but because they do toe the party line? You can’t write a good paper and show bias by having it rejected, because the rejection is supposed to be proof that the paper is bad. But you can deliberately write a bad paper, and if it is accepted, you can call foul because you can show you deliberately put together a bunch of garbage.

Is this ethical? I think it would certainly be ethical if the system were intentionally built so that some people were tasked with creating bogus papers to keep peer-reviewers on their toes. It is sort of like secret shoppers in the service industry. But we don’t currently have this built into the system. Is playing vigilante in this effort unethical, then? Continue reading

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Ethics Quiz: The Good Hoax?

A scholarly journal called “Sex Roles” published what t thought were the results of  a two-year study involving “thematic analysis of table dialogue” to uncover the mystery of why heterosexual men like to eat at Hooters. A journal of feminist geography, whatever that is, featured research om “human reactions to rape culture and queer performativity” at dog parks in Portland, Oregon. Another paper was deemed worthy of publication in a journal of feminist social work:  titled “Our Struggle Is My Struggle,” it merged current feminist cant into passages lifted from Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.”

Last week, the three authors of these and many other hoax papers  revealed in an article for the online journal Areo explaining that their fakery was part of a project to expose the lack of integrity in academia. “Scholarship based less upon finding truth and more upon attending to social grievances has become firmly established, if not fully dominant, within these fields,” they wrote. James A. Lindsay, Helen Pluckrose and Peter Boghossian  (above) said that they wrote 20 fake scholarly papers and had several accepted and published in journals. The embarrassed publications rushed to retract the fake scholarship…

…while many scholars praised the hoaxers. for casting a harsh and revealing light on the “peer-reviewed research” scam.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz Of The Day:

Was the hoax project ethical?

Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “The Good Hoax”

Becoming the first Ethics Alarms comment to achieve a Comment Of The Day on consecutive days is Ryan Harkins. Ethics Alarms has a fair number of lawyers contributing regularly, as well as teachers, doctors, a theologian, business owners, managers, ex-military, scholars, and other professionals, plus practitioners of various trades and the arts. I have been hoping for more engineers to join the discussion, and Ryan brings that perspective along with his communications skills.

Here is Ryan Harkins’ Comment of the Day on the post, The Good Hoax:

While I was a graduate student at the University of Wyoming, one of my office mates was approached by a group who offered, for a couple of thousand dollars, to do all the research for his Master’s Degree and write up the results in a guaranteed-to-pass thesis. Supposedly my office mate tracked down some of the reviews of this group and found that some had indeed managed to attain a Master’s using services like this. As a disclaimer, I didn’t personally follow up on it, or investigate to see if people were later identified for their fraudulent activity.

A year or two later, my advisor was showing me a website that generated very scientific-sounding, but utterly meaningless journals, complete with references. The abstracts this random generator produced weren’t too far off from some of the jargon-laden examples quoted above. One of the claims to fame of this website was that it had actually managed to get a couple of these randomly-generated papers approved at conferences. I think this link to SciGen will take you to the site my advisor found.

My time in academia impressed on me that journal papers are far from the infallible entity we would like them to be. There were people in my field (theoretical computer science) that had a reputation of getting three papers out of each finding they’d made: the initial paper, the correction of the initial paper, and the correction of the correction. I was always worried that, if I ever actually made any findings worth publication, I would have missed some error in my logic that would render my results invalid, and yet people for decades hence would utilize my results in their research, leading to error cascading down for generations. Continue reading

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The Ethical Hoax

An unlikely research team produces remarkable results!

An unlikely research team produces remarkable results!

As anyone who reads Ethics Alarms with any regularity knows, I detest hoaxes large and small, from the Piltdown man to the Hitler diaries to the offal thrown into the information stream by websites like The News Nerd.(Let’s see: what “satirical, humorous, obviously fake” story does the site that calls itself “America’s premium news site” offer as fact today? This: “As Deflategate looms over the heads of the New England Patriots, a source with the NFL has revealed that the league is considering permanently barring Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick from ever working in the National Football League in any capacity. That drastic action would only be taken if it is discovered that Belichick was directly responsible for the deflated footballs…” I guess that’s obviously satire because the NFL would never have the integrity to take such action, right? The story isn’t there to fool gullible blogs and sportswriters working on a deadline into republishing it…) Hoaxes are lies intended to deceive in order to humiliate whoever believes them, and often to enrich the hoaxer.

Occasionally, however, a hoax becomes an ethically justifiable tool. Such is the case with the bogus scholarly medical research article created by Dr. Mark Shrime titled “Cuckoo For Cocoa Puffs?”

Shrime was disturbed at the number of apparently legitimate medical journals with impressive names like the International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology that offer to publish papers for a $500 fee. Shrime calls them predatory journals, in part because they prey on trusting third world researchers and scientists for who $500 is a fortune. The other reason they are predatory is that they exploit the confusing—to laymen, which is to say, journalists– welter of legitimate scholarly journals in order to dangle intriguing junk science in front of the eyes of reporters who barely comprehend what they are reading. As Elizabeth Segren writes at Fast Company: Continue reading

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