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Doing Good Science


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    Janet D. Stemwedel Janet D. Stemwedel is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at San José State University. Her explorations of ethics, scientific knowledge-building, and how they are intertwined are informed by her misspent scientific youth as a physical chemist. Follow on Twitter @docfreeride.
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  • Some thoughts about the suicide of Yoshiki Sasai.

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    In the previous post I suggested that it’s a mistake to try to understand scientific activity (including misconduct and culpable mistakes) by focusing on individual scientists, individual choices, and individual responsibility without also considering the larger community of scientists and the social structures it creates and maintains. That post was where I landed after thinking [...]

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    When focusing on individual responsibility obscures shared responsibility.

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    Over many years of writing about ethics in the conduct of science, I’ve had occasion to consider many cases of scientific misconduct and misbehavior, instances of honest mistakes and culpable mistakes. Discussions of these cases in the media and among scientists often make them look aberrant, singular, unconnected — the Schön case, the Hauser case, [...]

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    When your cover photo says less about the story and more about who you imagine you’re talking to.

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    The choice of cover of the most recent issue of Science was not good. This provoked strong reactions and, eventually, an apology from Science‘s editor-in-chief. It’s not the worst apology I’ve seen in recent days, but my reading of it suggests that there’s still a gap between the reactions to the cover and the editorial [...]

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    Successful science outreach means connecting with the people you’re trying to reach.

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    Let’s say you think science is cool, or fun, or important to understand (or to do) in our modern world. Let’s say you want to get others who don’t (yet) see science as cool, or fun, or important, to appreciate how cool, how fun, how important it is. Doing that, even on a small scale, [...]

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    Heroes, human “foibles”, and science outreach.

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    “Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself. The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” – Richard Feynman There is a tendency sometimes to treat human beings as if they were resultant vectors arrived at by adding lots and lots of particular [...]

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    On the value of empathy, not othering.

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    Could seeing the world through the eyes of the scientist who behaves unethically be a valuable tool for those trying to behave ethically? Last semester, I asked my “Ethics in Science” students to review an online ethics training module of the sort that many institutions use to address responsible conduct of research with their students [...]

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    Conduct of scientists (and science writers) can shape the public’s view of science.

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    Scientists undertake a peculiar kind of project. In striving to build objective knowledge about the world, they are tacitly recognizing that our unreflective picture of the world is likely to be riddled with mistakes and distortions. On the other hand, they frequently come to regard themselves as better thinkers — as more reliably objective — [...]

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    Some thoughts about human subjects research in the wake of Facebook’s massive experiment.

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    You can read the study itself here, plus a very comprehensive discussion of reactions to the study here. 1. If you intend to publish your research in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, you are expected to have conducted that research with the appropriate ethical oversight. Indeed, the submission process usually involves explicitly affirming that you have [...]

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    In the wake of the Harran plea deal, are universities embracing lab safety?

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    Earlier this month, prosecutors in Los Angeles reached a plea agreement with UCLA chemistry professor Patrick Harran in the criminal case against him in connection with the 2008 lab accident that resulted in the death of 23-year-old staff research assistant Sheharbano “Sheri” Sangji. Harran, who was facing more than 4 years of jail time if [...]

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    Do permanent records of scientific misconduct findings interfere with rehabilitation?

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    We’ve been discussing how the scientific community deals with cheaters in its midst and the question of whether scientists view rehabilitation as a live option. Connected to the question of rehabilitation is the question of whether an official finding of scientific misconduct leaves a permanent mark that makes it practically impossible for someone to function [...]

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