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Misconduct in Physics: Further reading May 12, 2009

Posted by Sarah in politics, science.
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physicsworld

I found the May copy of Physics World in my inbox today, featuring a long cover story on Jan Hendrik Schön, the perpetrator of one of the biggest physics fraud scandals of the last decades. For years, Schön was considered to be one of the brightest minds of his time and something of a publishing monster. In 2002 his fame came tumbling down when much of his breakthrough work was found to be, well, fake. Read the full story here.

How nice of Physics World to publish this story to accompany my recent posts!

(I kid, I kid)

Misconduct in astronomy: What you said May 10, 2009

Posted by Sarah in politics, science.
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ethicspollbars_0705

Check out the original poll here. But your votes won't be counted anymore. The numbers are percentages.

A couple of weeks ago I posted a poll asking readers “Which of the following constitutes “misconduct” in science?”, followed by a number of scenarios. I finally got round to putting the results into a pretty little graph to show the distribution of your picks. For the statistics aficionados, the numbers reflect the percentage of total votes that was given to that particular option; it isn’t possible to see who-clicked-what with the WordPress-offered polls. (more…)

The Real World: Astronomers’ Edition April 30, 2009

Posted by Sarah in politics, science.
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Compared with other branches of science, you could think there’s not much at stake in real world terms in astronomy research. The amounts of money involved are relatively small**, both in terms of investment and potential gain. Also, galaxies (fortunately!) don’t take us to court if we get their redshifts wrong, and young stars don’t die horrible deaths if they don’t get their shots. Both the community itself and the public see astronomers as this beautiful global brotherhood (a few sisters even these days) working together to unlock the secrets of the Universe. Unfortunately the days where our competition is purely intellectual are long gone, and the modern way of astronomy, as with most fields in science, is a bloody fight for resources, regconition and cash. And the battle grounds are the journals that publish our work. (more…)

Ethics in Research: Share your views April 15, 2009

Posted by Sarah in politics, science.
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In the last few days I’ve been thinking a lot about ethics in physics and astronomy. While in astronomy we don’t have to navigate the perilous minefield of research on people or animals, proper scientific conduct is still considered to be an essential requirement for a career in astronomy. But what defines “proper scientific conduct”, or its counterpart, the dreaded “misconduct”, and who writes those definitions? Plagiarism is the one form of misconduct students are taught from undergraduate level to avoid at all cost. How far does the definition of plagiarism actually stretch, and why? And does that make sense? Moreover, what is the punishment, and who should it be administered by?While these issues are often presented in very black and white terms, once you dig below the surface they are really pretty murky. (more…)