For those who trust scientists, it may come as a shock that some bad apples are getting rehab.
Violations of scientific ethics have skyrocketed over the last decade. Plagiarism, falsifying data, outright fraud – these and other examples of ethical breaches have produced some notable scandals. What should be done? Nature on January 8 reported about a new program to rehabilitate the bad apples:
With the rapid growth of misconduct cases, some scientists are worried that preventative training in research ethics might not be enough. Nor will it be possible simply to dismiss all violators from science. Scientific rehabilitation, they say, will have to become a necessary tool for research-integrity offices.
This seems to be a new problem. The US Office of Research Integrity received double the complaints from 2011 last year. Why is that? It’s another question, not addressed in the article. The focus is on whether rehab works, and whether bad scientists deserve a second chance.
The hero of the article is James Dubois (Saint Louis University), who is trying to make saints out of sinners with his nifty RePAIR program (Restoring Professionalism and Integrity in Research). “We believe that if we can equip them with certain skills, they can return to the field as very productive individuals,” he said. Through information, informal discussions and management programs, he processes his students and funnels them back into the mainstream with a certificate of completion to potentially fool their managers.
No conflict of interest there. Dubois’ program has a $500,000 grant behind it from the National Institutes of Health, and Dubois charges $3,000 per penitent. Let’s hope when Dubois teaches about “self-serving biases” on day one, he does it righteously. A program like this might have more credibility if it were taught by a volunteer or a respected clergyman known for his integrity.
For more articles on scientific misconduct, search on “fraud” or peruse the category “Politics and Ethics”.
We hope rehab works with some, but isn’t it just like liberals to prefer rehab over punishment? Some of Dubois’ inmates may have misappropriated thousands of taxpayer dollars, ruined others’ reputations, or garnered fame from fraud. Dubois believes the really bad apples are only 10–15% of the ones caught. “There there, Dr. Liar, let’s just have a group chat session to see why you committed that crime. You couldn’t help it; it was your selfish genes. Darwin made you do it.”
What these scientists need is repentance and conversion. Give skills to a crook, and you make him a more skillful crook. Some of the graduates of RePAIR could easily fake penitence then take the information they gathered back to the lab, having learned how better to avoid getting caught. Without a genuine change of heart, why not? Dubois is not teaching repentance. He seems to be building self-esteem.
This story underscores the need for righteousness in science. As with any other field of human endeavor, science cannot work without honest practitioners. You cannot trust any conclusion from a scientific enterprise that condones (or doesn’t recognize) unethical behavior. Science requires honesty and integrity—eternal values that cannot evolve. There’s only one world view that can defend a foundation for true ethical behavior; the Judeo-Christian world view.