Academic Black Death

In relation to the Retraction Watch website, to which both Neil Remington Abramson and I subscribe, Neil commented as follows:

It’s depressing to see so much cheating. Academic research has always assumed honesty on the part of the researchers reporting their findings. Referees have no ability or time to patrol the data sets looking for invalid data or crooked analysis. You get the correlation table and the statistical technique print-off. If the correlation table is faked, you need the data to run it again yourself. If the stats are finagled, same.

It’s never occurred to me to do this, or rather, if it did occasionally float into my mind during a particularly frustrating analysis, I didn’t because it was unethical and I assumed we were all working from the same rule book. It’s Kant stuff; categorical imperative. Don’t do anything that, if everyone did it, would cause a lot of harm, or irreparable harm. If everyone cheated in reporting their analysis, then no scientific publications could be trusted. And we have come to the place where there is doubt, very wide and even in relation to “top” journals.

In the past, we assumed that quantitative statistical analyses had the greatest reliability and validity; least open to researcher bias. Now it seems hermeneutic analysis would be better, simply because it’s not based on quantitative methods that can so easily be corrupted if the researchers are dishonest. And it’s so hard to detect dishonesty that way. Academic referees operate on an assumption of honesty in relation to the data.

Its pure “categorical imperative” stuff. Once a few are proven cheaters in top journals then it affects my level of trust for all the others.

I read an article last year about a research team that did replication studies on a hundred psych articles from top journals. The majority couldn’t be replicated especially at anywhere near the levels of significant originally reported, if at all.

I mentioned that Kant said you shouldn’t do anything that, if everyone did it, it would cause irreparable harm. I guess my point is that everyone doesn’t have to do it to cause that irreparable harm. One person gets caught and you say, “oh, it’s one bad apple.” When 2/3 of 100 get caught, that’s different. Who can you trust? Well, you don’t know. We understood the most reliable were top journals but these 2/3 were in top journals, with more every day being reported on this retraction blog.

It’s s bit like the Black Death. People are dying – at least in relation to their papers and their reputations – but you don’t know the cause. So you burn the infected bodies (the retracted papers), and maybe the ones you suspect of being carriers, and pray to God the plague will go away.

Kant said that the guy who lies and cheats to take advantage of the rest of us who are trying to be honest and do no harm, is EVIL. That’s the word he uses. I agree. These cheaters are evil. They should be fired and marked with the sign of Cain so they never work in a university or research lab again, or ever be allowed to publish anything except eventually their obituary. If people see there are real and long term consequences, maybe it’ll incentivize.

Posted in Academic Dishonesty, Community of Scholars | Leave a comment

Frustration, Intention

Skateboard image

So it is found near the sidewalk. Thought it was some skateboarder trying some flip and the board shattering on a curb. Wondering why not taken away to recycle the wheels, at least. Then seeing the symmetry. Not just thrown there randomly.

Somebody giving up the sport? Somebody taking away the sport from another?

Or some message that it may be trash, but it is neat trash…

Mongoose to nongoose

Posted in Ottawa Reflections | Leave a comment

Freighted Craft

From The Debt to Pleasure, by John Lanchester (1996):

There are certain types of conversation, certain varieties of self-awareness, which only take place in restaurants, particularly those bearing on the psychodynamics of relationships between couples, who (frequent solitary diner-out that I am) I notice often eat out apparently with the specific purpose of monitoring the condition of their affair, as if breaking up were something that, by fixed anthropological principle, can only be done by installments and in public; as if it were reassuring to witness how many others were also precariously aboard the freighted craft of couplehood; as if all couples were by law compelled to take their place in a tableau of relationship conditions, with every state on display from the initial flirtatious overextension of eye contact to one of those silences which can only be incubated by at least two decades of attritional intimacy.

Posted in Literature, Relationships | Leave a comment



Maryann Ahmed, 1998
Photo by Tony Caldwell

Came across 1998 article by Jacki Leroux, with photos by Tony Caldwell. Part two of a five-part series on “The Great Divide“. This one called “The Gaza Strip: Mortal Enemies”, as published in the Ottawa Sun, November 5, 1998, pp. 23-34. In the days when newspapers dedicated significant resources to international investigative journalism.

Story of the Jabalia refugee camp and the nearby settlement of Nezarim.

Struck by the image.

Then struck by the text:

“We hate the Jews very, very, very much because they take the land,” says Maryann Ahmed, 19, speaking in a matter of fact tone, her dark eyes bright with innocence.

“Now they want to take Jerusalem. It’s our city.”

Maryann is just 15 days from giving birth…

Maryann, a recent high-school graduate, insists the non-Arabic-speaking stranger sit next to her since she is the only one in the room who speaks English.

With the face of an angel, her smile warm and inviting, her touch gentle as she leads her new friend in dance, Maryann reveals how she does, in fact, hold out much hope for the future.

“My baby will be a soldier in the future and I will learn him to be against Jews,” she says. “He will fight to bring our rights. …we want life and a place. They want wars and problems.”

Eighteen years later, doesn’t look like much has changed.

Though the residents of Nezarim were evicted in 2005.

Maybe she was always Maryam:

Ahmed, Maryann 2

Posted in Palestine, Refugees | Leave a comment

Life Out


Honoré Jaxon
Secretary to Louis Riel
Evicted to the street
New York City, 1951

It was all out on the street, up the street. Not quite like the above. No person sitting, in shock.

They had already been moved away. Knew them, for decades.

This was the rest of the family, throwing out whatever was of no value to them. Piles and piles and piles.

No thought of taking the time to call a charitable organization who might take it away, to give away to those in need, or to resell to finance further social good. No thought of actually taking anything to any charitable organization. Too much time, too much effort.

And then they went away, leaving the piles on the lawn.

And so people started to drive by and stop to pick, like flies of sorts.

Some of the upscale looking around, with some sense of…maybe this is not quite…

Couldn’t watch any more of it. Couldn’t take a picture of it.

Driving back, after 11 p.m. In the darkness, somebody was still picking, flashlight shining.

Today, all that remained compacted in trash trucks, and gone.

More than things, some sense of a life, of lives.

And more than

Posted in Family, Ottawa Reflections | Leave a comment

Northwest Radio

Was at Lakehead University during the fall of 1994, trying to focus on teaching and research at the Faculty of Business Administration. The hobble north, following the crash and burn, following the walk away, and don’t look/come back.

So many different aspects to northwestern Ontario. One being the importance of CBC Radio. It seemed that every informed person started his or her day with CBC Radio news, where international, national and local coverage was extensive. Before CBC Radio 1 and Radio 2 and all the music focus, the music programming also very different on CBC Thunder Bay. Later Allman Brothers suddenly being played.

Ended up being interviewed on Northwest Noon, in relation to financial institution regulation and credit union failures. When CBC Thunder Bay had a lot of independently and locally-produced news coverage. Major. And major interest.

CBC Radio so very important then. If now severely cut back, wondering if it can be replicated elsewhere within the community. Use university and community college radio as basis for something much larger?

Or just

Or much more 40 to

Posted in Radio, Thunder Bay Reflections | Leave a comment

From the alehouse to the jailhouse

In complimenting a legal colleague on a client acquittal:

When I am going from the alehouse to the jailhouse, you will certainly be on my mind.

Wondered where that phrase came from. Did search and realized it was impressed in memory, courtesy of Julie Driscoll’s arrangement of a traditional song, “When I Was A Young Girl”, from the Streetnoise album.

Also by Nina Simone and Odetta.

Nina Simone:

Odetta, with more folk:

Know where you’re going; know where you’ve been.

Posted in Law Practice, Music | Leave a comment