Yesterday I had the pleasure of hearing Gerald P. Koocher, PhD, deliver the Walter C. Randall Lecture in Biomedical Ethics at Experimental Biology 2011.
Don't fear if you were not among those in the room. Dr. Koocher has made his PowerPoint slides available. I will hit the highlights here.
The powers that be define bad science as fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism, although their survey also identified authorship issues, uncomfortable work environments, and "The Bozo Factor" as other issues. What is the latter? Incompetency and inadequate supervision of others, for the most part.
So why do people cheat? Most folks can come up with a rationale for cheating, and often a reward figures in the equation. If the likelihood of discovery seems low enough, people may cut corners or outright lie. So the same thought process that drive a 5-year-old to deny taking the forbidden cookies may also lead to data fabrication in the laboratory.
His research showed that intervening was scary, but in most cases the whistleblower did not suffer horrible consequences. Dr. Koocher suggests that we develop alternatives to whistle blowing with our colleague. Offering help and expressing concern about something irregular can be one way to intervene and allow someone to change course while saving face. He also recommends the Bullwinkle approach. This cartoon character often stated "I am so confused." A nonthreatening approach can work best.
I will let you explore the slides, including his Gallery of Ethical Rogues.
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