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Conflict of Interest and Misconduct Are Not Laughing Matters...

But they’ve reached the level of satire. A little levity about serious subjects.

January 28, 2013

A topic's importance may be easily discounted if it remains on the fringe. But sociologists know that, once it becomes the topic of mainstream discussion -- frequently in the news, a subject of study, a source of government attention -- it’s no longer possible to pooh-pooh them as the concerns of hysterics or crazies -- or to hide one’s head in the sand and hope it goes away. And when things reach the level of satire -- well, Mark Twain was not exactly talking about a few isolated incidents or individuals in Huckleberry Finn. Satire is the vehicle for things that have become institutionalized.

So enjoy the two funny but sobering commentaries, here and here, on the increasingly sorry moral state of our research enterprise. And consider the context in which both were written: that the majority of retractions in research are due to misconduct, not error; and that replication, science’s gold standard, is increasingly elusive in psychiatry, psychology, cancer and many other fields.  I received a little pushback on my recent post about conflict of interest as an addiction, so now feel gentle in comparison, and somewhat vindicated. It is becoming difficult to know what else to call it. Oh yes; as one of the satirists—and I in my first post—say:  a choice.


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