Saturday, September 8, 2012

Scientist Faked Data in Multiple Experiments

At least six instances of research misconduct were found in studies by a former Harvard psychology professor according to an internal university audit of his work and an investigation by the federal Office of Research Integrity (Boston Globe, September 5, 2012, "Former Harvard Professor Marc Hauser Fabricated, Manipulated Data, US Says"). Marc Hauser resigned his Harvard position last summer after a leave of absence and a faculty vote that would have prevented him from teaching. The main problems with his research stem from inaccurate data collection and reporting. He is now subject to greater limitations and scrutiny on any federal research he conducts for the next three years.

Discussion Questions:
  1. When a researcher's work is found to be faulty in a number of cases, is it fair to suspect that all the studies he/she conducted may not be valid? Why or why not?
  2. What happens to the reputation of all the students and researchers that worked with Hauser? Is their role in the problematic studies called into question as well? Or does Hauser's statement of responsibility for the errors absolve all the other researchers of suspected misconduct?

Friday, August 31, 2012

Take-Home Exam Cheating by 125 Harvard Students

Some 125 Harvard students face an investigation after their take-home exams from spring 2012 displayed striking similarities that suggest unauthorized collaboration (Bloomberg Businessweek, August 31, 2012, "Harvard Cheating Probe Under Way for About 125"). "Penalties may include a warning or probation, and some students may be exonerated," said Jay Harris, dean of undergraduate education.

Discussion Questions:
  1. Traditionally, take-home exams allow students to have freedom to use a variety of sources. How can a professor prevent students from discussing a take-home exam or using the same sources to answer the questions that may cause their answers to seem duplicated?
  2. Should academically advanced students at a prestigious university like Harvard know that cheating of any type of test is against the rules? Or do you think the professor's instructions to the class may have been unclear?
  3. Has their been further news on this story that sheds light on why this situation occurred? Check a library news database like ProQuest Newspapers to see if new information has surfaced about this topic.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Journalist Fabricated Bob Dylan Quotes in Book

Writer/author Jonah Lehrer's dramatic ethical fall (see the July 10, 2012 blog post) now includes creating false quotes from legendary singer, Bob Dylan that were included in Lehrer's latest book, Imagine: How Creativity Works ("Jonah Lehrer, Caught Making Up Bob Dylan Quotes, Resigns from The New Yorker," New York Magazine, July 30, 2012). Then Lehrer proceeded to lie about his dishonest act when journalist Michael C. Moynihan questioned him about the source material for the quotes. Lehrer explained away the lack of a trail for the quotes by telling Moynihan that the material could be found in "unreleased footage" of Martin Scorsese’s documentary No Direction Home and other sources that don't exist. Lehrer has resigned his staff writer job at New Yorker.

Discussion Questions: 

  1. Lehrer's credibility is seriously damaged due to his fabrication and lies. Are readers of his other books and articles going to suspect that his other writings may be totally or somewhat false? Why or why not?
  2. Can Lehrer regain his credibility so that he can secure another job as a journalist? Or should he become strictly a fiction writer? Why or why not?
  3. What should Lehrer do to atone for his deception, especially to the libraries, individuals, and groups that purchased some 200,000 copies of his latest book?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

European Leader Accused of Plagiarism

While two Romanian academic panels agree that Prime Minister Victor Porta clearly plagiarized parts of his doctoral paper, the government-appointed National Ethics Council (NEC) says he simply didn't include footnotes and relied solely on a bibliography to cite sources ("Conflicting Verdicts on Romanian Prime Minister's Plagiarism," Nature, July 20, 2012). Porta is charging that the investigation is politically motivated, while his critics note that the entire committee of the NEC was replaced with new members in June by a Porta cabinet official after another government leader was accused of plagiarism.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Should Prime Minister Porta resign if he is found to have plagiarized his doctoral paper by two of three investigative bodies? 
  2. If he was found to have inadvertently omitted footnotes, should he be allowed to correct the paper and resubmit it while being able to keep his job?
  3. Should a Prime Minister be held to a higher standard for academic integrity than any other doctoral candidate? Specially, if he was found to have been careless in citing sources, should he lose his PhD and his job?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Is Self-Plagiarism Ever Acceptable?

Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and journalist Jonah Lehrer received recent criticism for reusing old content that they wrote themselves without acknowledging the recycling ("The Self-Plagiarism Scandal," Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, July 4, 2012). The article and accompanying audio file goes on to state that journalists like Lehrer are held to a higher standard to develop original content on a regular basis than creative artists like Sorkin. While Sorkin is known for catchphrases that are employed in his different television shows, Lehrer reproduced paragraphs of his writing in different publications without crediting himself.

Discussion Questions:

  1. If you wrote the material, should you be able to reuse it? Or can you recycle it only if you cite yourself?
  2. If you are getting paid for your writing skills, what would your employer say if you turn in a column or script that has recycled content? Does it matter how much of the material is being reused?
  3. As a college student, should you be able to turn in one project to satisfy the requirements of two different classes? Why or why not?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Bachelor's Degree to Get Higher Pay Deemed Fraudulent

In hopes of getting a promotion and raise, a sheriff's officer in Volusia County, Florida directed other staff members to help him complete projects ("Volusia Sheriff's Lieutenant Demoted over College Course Cheating," The Daytona-Beach News-Journal, February 24, 2012). Brodie Hughes faced nine other work-related job-performance infractions in the past, but his most recent lapse in ethical judgment caused a demotion to deputy and a pay cut. Three sheriff's office employees submitted homework and papers in his name while on duty. Those staff members will avoid punishment since they were following orders of their supervisor.

Discussion Questions:
  1. The demoted employee is still on the job according to the news article. How do you think you might feel about him continuing to work for the sheriff's office if you were one of the staff members that did his work? What if you were a deputy working with him? Would you be able to trust him to do his job, given his most recent job-related infraction?
  2. This situation came to light when someone sent an anonymous letter to the sheriff's office outlining the unethical behavior of the former officer. Would you have the courage to speak up about this problem if you worked for the sheriff's office and knew what was happening? Would you worry that you might lose your job or face backlash from the officer if someone discovered you wrote the  anonymous note? Why or why not?
  3. Take a look at the Volusia County Sheriff's Office Mission Statement at There is a sentence that states, "The foundation of this organization is defined by its employee's honesty, moral standards, compassion, sincerity, and caring attitude." Is this organization going against it's stated mission by allowing this deputy to continue working for the office? Why or why not?