Scholarly Integrity (Required Post #3)

Case: Hao Wang

This case describes the ORI’s action against a Hao Wang, the former Associate Professor of Surgery and Pathology, Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, Western University, Canada.  Dr. Wang has engaged in research misconduct by falsifying data in an abstract and poster presentation for the “2011 American Transplant Congress”.

The ORI found that Dr. Wang falsely claimed that two monkeys successfully received kidney transplants.  He went on say that they animals went on to live long lives and experienced no adverse effects from the transplants.  In actuality, the transplant was a total failure and each monkey survived only because their kidney’s were left intact. These falsifications went so far as to be included in Dr. Wang’s lab notes, progress reports and data analyses.  He lied to his principle investigators, as well as his colleagues before presenting this false data publicly. To me, this proves further offense, since he compromised the names of his co-authors as well.

Dr. Wang’s punishment involved a Voluntary Settlement Agreement for a three year probation period.  The stipulations of the agreement include the supervision of all Dr. Wang’s research, removing himself from any advisory position and submitting documentation for ORI certification through any work related publications.

Honestly, I’m surprised at the degree of leniency the ORI shows in this case. Three years seems negligible, and hardly enough time to make a lasting impression on the questionable character of the offender.  To me, permitting an individual to publish without some sort of mark on their reputation or record is a dangerous allowance. Dr. Wang’s falsifications occurred on a large scale, across many platforms, and demonstrates his unwavering commitment to his lies. Is this someone we should trust to conduct sound, potentially medical-related research in the near future?

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Cultivating Curiosity

The author W. Gardner Campbell seems to be critiquing the arcane strategies our education uses to “cut costs and increase access”.  He disparages “click-counts” and login tracking for being impersonal means for measuring student involvement and comprehension.  In a larger classroom environment, these can be efficient tools for preventing students from slipping under the radar.  In a 400 person class, sites like Scholar can be a great way to require interaction from students when it is impossible for teacher and student to meet individually on a routine basis.

This author seems to ironically take a close-minded approach when unpacking the traditional assessment of learning outcomes. It is easy to say that standardized testing leads to uncreative, robotic students. However, I would argue that the ‘depth and vision’ a particular student develops during their education largely depends on the character of the individual. It seems to me that education (especially higher education) should still be viewed as a privilege. It is therefor the student’s responsibility to provide quality input for a satisfactory educational outcome. Of course, we all have different learning styles. Of course, some students excel in humanities while others are better at math and science. We should acknowledge the agency of students who have made it to higher education, and understand that an engaged student has learned strategies to manage his/her academic shortcomings.

Furthermore, shouldn’t we be concerned with increasing access as educators? The socio-economic rift that is propagated by that cost of higher education is already criminal, and an issue many developed countries have long addressed. Too much of the population hasn’t had adequate preliminary education, or are too poor to even consider applying to college. Higher enrollment numbers should be celebrated, we should be focusing on how to best teach large classrooms of students for the intelligent, invested individuals as they are.  W. Gardner Campbell’s attitude seems too coddling, and doesn’t recognize today’s students as already curious and capable adults.

The trouble with autopilot: The separation between conscious and subconscious

In this segment, Shankar Vendantam, author of “The Hidden Brain” discusses the role the human subconscious plays in cultural stereotypes. Vendantam suggests that negative associations with certain races, genders and sexual preferences begin when we are very young.  Not surprisingly, this is thought to be a result of parenting or upbringing, not genetic predisposition.

Our subconscious makes snap judgements about our surroundings constantly. These decisions are based upon repetition, at our most basal learning level.  Because the subconscious is our “dumb” brain, repetition is associated with normativity, without the use of logic, empathy or reason. These instincts or reflexes are what keep us alive, but are also the root of cultural categorization.

The author acknowledges that it is human nature to make judgements about other people with different backgrounds, especially under high pressure. Because these judgements are often made subconsciously, people form unfair or uninformed biases without even knowing they’re doing so.

So how can we correct a behavior we aren’t even aware of?  Shankar Vendantam suggests speaking to children directly, while they are still early in their development. If we unpack common associations children have in relation to race, gender and sexual preference, we can understand why stereotypical categorizations are formed. If we better understand the associations of children’s learning, we can better shape these unconscious associations to mitigate prejudice in their lives.

We rely on our subconscious, we need it to stay alive.  We must still be mindful of giving it too much power. The author states the propagation of prejudice is like the autopilot function flying the plane without the pilot being aware of it.  I have great hope for this and future generations. In a decade, we have made greater strides towards universal equality than our predecessors made in the last century.  Therefor, it is our responsibility as conscious, deliberate, logical creatures to “take back the controls” from our hidden brain, and tackle damaging prejudices through direct conversation.