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Demarcating misconduct from misinterpretations and mistakes

Andersen, Hanne (2007) Demarcating misconduct from misinterpretations and mistakes. UNSPECIFIED.


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Within recent years, scientific misconduct has become an increasingly important topic, not only in the scientific community, but in the general public as well. Spectacular cases have been extensively covered in the news media, such as the cases of the Korean stem cell researcher Hwang, the German nanoscientist Schön, or the Norwegian cancer researcher Sudbø. In Science's latest annual "breakthrough of the year" report from December 2006, the descriptions of the year's hottest breakthroughs were accompanied by a similar description of "the breakdown of the year: scientific fraud". Official guidelines for dealing with scientific misconduct were introduced in the 1990s. At this time, research agencies, universities and other research institutions around the world developed guidelines for good scientific practice and formed committees to handle cases of scientific misconduct. In this process it was widely debated how to define scientific misconduct. Most definitions centered on falsification, fabrication, and plagiarism (the so-called FFP definition), but suggestions were also made for definitions that were broader and more open-ended, such as the 1995 suggestion from the US Commission of Research Integrity to replace FFP with misappropriation, interference and misrepresentation (the so-called MIM definition). The MIM definition was not adopted in the US, but MIM-like definitions have been adopted in several other countries. In this paper, I shall describe these MIM-related definitions of scientific misconduct and analyze the arguments that have been advanced in their favor. I shall discuss some of the difficulties inherent in the MIM-related definitions, such as the distinction between misrepresentation and mistake, and the demarcation of misrepresentation in areas characterized by uncertainty or by diverging research paradigms. I shall illustrate the problems inherent in the MIM-definition through a particular case: the ruling of the Danish Committee on Scientific Dishonesty (DCSD) about Bjørn Lomborg's best-selling book The Skeptical Environmentalist in which he argued that contrary to what was claimed in the “litany” of the environmentalists, the state of the environment is getting better rather than worse. Lomborg was reported to the DCSD by several environmental scientists, and this controversial case from 2003 ended with a verdict that characterized Lomborg’s conclusions as misrepresentations, but acquitted Lomborg of misconduct due to his ignorance. I shall analyze this verdict and the problems it reveals with respect to the MIM-related definitions of misconduct.

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Item Type: Other
Andersen, Hanne
Additional Information: Talk delivered at the First Biannual SPSP Conference, Twente, 2007
Keywords: scientific misconduct
Subjects: General Issues > Science and Society
General Issues > Ethical Issues
General Issues > Values In Science
General Issues > Science and Policy
Depositing User: Hanne Andersen
Date Deposited: 08 Aug 2008
Last Modified: 07 Oct 2010 15:16
Item ID: 4153
Subjects: General Issues > Science and Society
General Issues > Ethical Issues
General Issues > Values In Science
General Issues > Science and Policy
Date: August 2007

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