Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Misconduct roundup 12 May 09

I am going to try to make this a regular feature.

Here are a few items of note:

Professor Chris Gillberg, scientific misconduct and a problematical academic appointment

Professor Christopher Gillberg is now in possession of an honorary Professorship and joins the staff list at University College London (UCL) and at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children (see here). Gillberg, you will recall, is the scientist who headed the Swedish team that destroyed hundreds of thousands of pages of raw clinical research data after being asked to explain anomalies in their findings. The destruction took place in the face of a pending research misconduct examination. To make matters worse, Gillberg's supporters blamed scientologists for somehow causing the problem and supporters may have attempted to intimidate those who accused them. The journal involved refused to retract the publication. Quite how any scientology demons managed to induce such an act of data destruction was never explained.

This appointment does set an interesting precedent for trainees at UCL and for the plausibility of other misconduct investigations that might take place at that esteemed institution. Perhaps the next UCL student accused of research fraud should claim demonic possession by scientology.

The "demonic possession" defense could be employed for a whole range of deeds committed by other very important people. The Labour peer Lord Ahmed is another important man. Ahmed seems to be able to kill people and get away with it because of his "valuable community work".

One could imagine the scene:

Lord Ahmed: Yes officer, I did plough my motor vehicle over that man and I was texting on my mobile phone, but I was posessed by a scientology demon at the time.

Police Officer: That's OK then. Have a good evening. Move on.

Elsevier apologizes for promoting scientific fakery - but what about the scientists involved

This is a follow up on the story that Elsevier and Merck colluded with several prominent academics to create a fake scientific journal. Elsevier has now issued a press release about the matter, saying "This was an unacceptable practice, and we regret that it took place". However, it now turns out that Elsevier published a whole collection of fake journals for industry. Elsevier CEO Michael Hansen now admits that at least six fake journals "were published for pharmaceutical companies."

Is participation in this fakery scientific misconduct? What will happen to the perpetrators?

The academics who agreed to front this fakery have some answering to do. As one of the commenters on this blog pointed out, one of those on the editorial board of the fake bone journal is none other than Professor Richard Day, Chair of the Australian Government's Pharmaceutical Health and Rational Use of Medicines (PHARM) Committee from 1999 to 2008 – in other words, arguably the most influential pharmacologist in Australia.

Simon Singh sued for discussing science

This is an important story. Singh, a science reporter is being sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association after writing a column in The Guardian where he raised concerns about chiropractic medicine. Suing people who make scientific assertions is really a form of scientific fraud (attempting to drive scientific debate through bullying). It would be far better if the BCA were to discuss the actual scientific issues, discuss the nature of evidence, and promote some actual science. In this respect the British Chiropractic Association is no different from the worst parts of the pharmaceutical industry. The precedents set by this UK court are astonishing, bizarre and exceeding worrying. This is going to run and run. For a good introduction see Petra Boynton's blog, Bad Science, and this depressing legal summary.

This is the statement that got Simon Singh sued.
"This organization is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments".
The case (which Singh will lose) turns on a novel definition of the word "bogus" (see here) which is clearly different from the very similar English word "bogus".

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Radagast said...

"...Quite how the demons managed to induce such an act by this team remains a mystery..."

Yes, I've been accused of "making" people say things, myself (not that I'm a Scientologist, you understand - if they knew what they were doing, then they wouldn't do it).

It's relatively easy to take a person into an area of discussion where they feel uncomfortable, become fearful, and then do irrational things in order to try to protect themselves from what they imagine is going to happen. But a person who follows that pattern of behaviour deliberately, because they feel powerful watching somebody else in discomfort, is a psychopath, by my understanding of that word.

Hmmmm. Where was I going with this comment? Oh, yes! One is always in control of one's own actions - one chooses how one responds to certain stimuli (including what other people say and do to one). Blaming others (especially demons!), after the event because one made the wrong choice is, well, the sort of thing one might expect of a frightened child, anticipating punishment.


Anonymous said...

The Gillberg support group have put a great deal of effort into a completely misleading Wikipedia page (on Gillberg) where any attempt to discuss the actual problem is removed instantly.

Dan said...

Links worth reading:






Douglas J. Keenan said...

I once read a book that described reasoning very similar to that of the judge in the Singh case.

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."
Through the Looking-glass

Radagast said...

Douglas J Keenan wrote:
"I once read a book that described reasoning very similar to that of the judge in the Singh case..."

LOL. Humpty Dumpty is, without doubt, a very wise individual. As are we all. Although, I think, Humpty Dumpty might have added "and I reserve the right, without prejudice to anything I may have said, before, to change the definition of any given word, dependent upon the context"!