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Stories by Janet D. Stemwedel

The Sciences

Shame versus guilt in community responses to wrongdoing.

Yesterday, on the Hastings Center Bioethics Forum, Carl Elliott pondered the question of why a petition asking the governor of Minnesota to investigate ethically problematic research at the University of Minnesota has gathered hundreds of signatures from scholars in bioethics, clinical research, medical humanities, and related disciplines -- but only a handful of signatures from scholars and researchers at the University of Minnesota.At the center of the research scandal is the death of Dan Markingson, who was a human subject in a clinical trial of psychiatric drugs...

April 25, 2013 — Janet D. Stemwedel
The Sciences

The ethics of naming and shaming.

Lately I've been pondering the practice of responding to bad behavior by calling public attention to it.The most recent impetus for my thinking about it was this tech blogger's response to behavior that felt unwelcoming at a conference (behavior that seems, in fact, to have run afoul of that conference's official written policies)*, but there are plenty of other examples one might find of "naming and shaming": the discussion (on blogs and in other media outlets) of University of Chicago neuroscientist Dario Maestripieri's comments about female attendees of the Society for Neuroscience meeting, the Office of Research Integrity's posting of findings of scientific misconduct investigations, the occasional instructor who promises to publicly shame students who cheat in his class, and actually follows through on the promise...

March 22, 2013 — Janet D. Stemwedel
The Sciences

Some musings on Jonah Lehrer's $20,000 "meh culpa".

Remember some months ago when we were talking about how Jonah Lehrer was making stuff up in his "non-fiction" pop science books? This was as big enough deal that his publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, recalled print copies of Lehrer's book Imagine , and that the media outlets for which Lehrer wrote went back through his writing for them looking for "irregularities" (like plagiarism -- which one hopes is not regular, but once your trust has been abused, hopes are no longer all that durable).Lehrer's behavior was clearly out of bounds for anyone hoping for a shred of credibility as a journalist or non-fiction author...

February 13, 2013 — Janet D. Stemwedel
The Sciences

Fear of scientific knowledge about firearm-related injuries.

In the United States, a significant amount of scientific research is funded through governmental agencies, using public money. Presumably, this is not primarily aimed at keeping scientists employed and off the streets*, but rather is driven by a recognition that reliable knowledge about how various bits of our world work can be helpful to us (individually and collectively) in achieving particular goals and solving particular problems.Among other things, this suggests a willingness to put the scientific knowledge to use once it's built.** If we learn some relevant details about the workings of the world, taking those into account as we figure out how best to achieve our goals or solve our problems seems like a reasonable thing to do -- especially if we've made a financial investment in discovering those relevant details.And yet, some of the "strings" attached to federally funded research suggest that the legislators involved in approving funding for research are less than enthusiastic to see our best scientific knowledge put to use in crafting policy -- or, that they would prefer that the relevant scientific knowledge not be built or communicated at all...

January 17, 2013 — Janet D. Stemwedel
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