January 11, 2019

"Is a Portland Professor Being Railroaded by His University for Criticizing Social-Justice Research?"

Asks Jesse Singal (at NY Magazine). Excerpt:
Last fall, it was revealed that a trio of researchers, the philosopher Peter Boghossian, the mathematician James Lindsay, and the medieval-studies independent scholar Helen Pluckrose, had perpetrated what they viewed as a spiritual successor to the infamous 1996 Sokal hoax: They’d sent out a bunch of ridiculous articles to a number of journals within “grievance studies” fields.... Of the 20 articles the trio submitted, seven were accepted....

The research-ethics experts I spoke with expressed a similar degree of agreement on the question of whether what the “grievance studies” hoaxsters did constituted data fabrication: yes, it did....

Letters of support for Boghossian have been rolling in in large numbers since this story broke.... “This strikes me (and every colleague I’ve spoken with) as an attempt to weaponize an important [principle] of academic ethics in order to punish a scholar for expressing an unpopular opinion,” wrote Steven Pinker....

It’s impossible to say that PSU would have imposed the exact same investigation on an equivalent study with a different political valence. But it also seems, with the benefit of a bit of investigation into and knowledge of how [Institutional Review Boards] work, pretty obvious that Boghossian was asking for trouble by going ahead and performing this research without at least seeking an exemption. 

55 comments:

Yancey Ward said...

"It’s impossible to say that PSU would have imposed the exact same investigation on an equivalent study with a different political valence."

Sure, impossible to say.

Yancey Ward said...

"Boghossian was asking for trouble by going ahead and performing this research without at least seeking an exemption."

He didn't seek the exemption because he already knew the answer would not only be "No", but that his planned research would be outed to the press immediately, thus preventing it from being done.

chuck said...

Guy published parody in as pretentious literary magazine. I don't see the problem.

Yancey Ward said...

For Howard

Lucid-Ideas said...

If you wanted proof academia has morphed into a religion, this is it.

They're outraged, yes outraged, at the completely scientific (they had a hypothesis, academia proved it) way their sacred cows have been gored. Of course they needed permission. One doesn't start their own order without asking the pope and college of cardinals first.

Federal education subsidies should be defunded. Across the board. Universities should no longer be tax exempt.

Owen said...

Hilarious. The idea here is that iRB approval is needed before one can "experiment" on journal editors by gulling these so-called professional experts with clever pseudo-research?

The confession of weakness and ineptitude is stunning. "Mommy, he tricked me!"

rhhardin said...

It's taking advantage of an implied affirmative action in the grievance studies field.

CJinPA said...

It’s impossible to say that PSU would have imposed the exact same investigation on an equivalent study with a different political valence.

The exact same investigation. That's a carefully worded defense of the university's action. Only by using this precise wording can the writer claim it is impossible to answer the question everyone is asking.

Lucid-Ideas said...

"If you wanted proof academia has morphed into a religion..."

I know churches are tax-exempt also. I amend my statement to "political entities masquerading as tax exempt organizations".

Roger Sweeny said...

Scott's Alexander's awful, funny tale of dealing with his counterproductive Institutional Review Board.

https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/08/29/my-irb-nightmare/

YoungHegelian said...

While we're out to punish academic miscreants, how about we haul before the review boards the imbeciles who reviewed the trios' parodies and let them pass as acceptable scholarship when they were clearly ludicrous fabrications. Some peer review!

This is the same problem I had with the Ward Churchill affair at U of Colorado. Churchill may have been an academic fraud, but it's clear that no one in that department performed even the barest of vetting on his CV. If there was any justice, everyone at UC involved with the hiring & promotion of Churchill should have been fired.

Rob said...

We've seen it so often it hardly bears repeating. The left does not abide apostasy. Politicians, academics, journalists, entertainers, pay attention. The bell tolls for thee.

Bay Area Guy said...

Pointy-headed academics are the worst. Humorless Leftist assholes with tenure and good salaries (present Professor excluded).

Fernandistein said...

Here's a dog being homosexually raped at a dog park, so they were right about that.

Fernandistein said...

https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/08/29/my-irb-nightmare/

I read that a few years ago, it's funny:

"Blindly trusting authority to make our ethical decisions for us is the best way to separate ourselves from the Nazis!"

Sebastian said...

It's stretch to treat journal editors and peer reviewers as "human subjects" in the sense of IRB review.

PSU policy also provides, "Minimal risk is defined as the probability that the magnitude of harm or discomfort anticipated in the proposed research is no greater in and of itself than those ordinarily encountered in everyday life, or during the performance of routine physical or psychological examinations or tests." Beyond embarrassment to the hoaxees, the hoax posed less than minimal risk, and would have been expedited on that basis--if it had had any chance of passing without being leaked or otherwise obstructed.

mezzrow said...

Boghossian and Lindsay on Rogan. Informative and entertaining. You will laugh until it all sinks in. Then you will worry. The response from PSU is entirely predictable, and will be doubled down.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZZNvT1vaJg

Yancey Ward said...

I had only read Ms. Althouse's excerpt, but I was wondering whether or not these were the same people who published the humping dog paper.

Achilles said...

Higher education is a scam perpetrated by the baby boomer generation on younger generations.

There is no more tenure track opportunity for new professors. They pulled the ladder up behind them.

Tina Trent said...

Many if not most academic psychology studies involve lying to or withholding information from the participants.

These acafemicians committed the sin of deigning to treat academia the way academia treats the little people.

Destroy them.

robother said...

I'm sure asking for an exemption would've had no adverse effect on the integrity of the experiment. No, none at all.

CJinPA said...

I would not say there are NO potential ethical problems with submitting papers with phony data. Just like hidden camera exposes have issues. But the treatment of these folks, and James O'Keefe of Project Veritas, are clear departures from how thought-provoking challenges to conventional wisdom were traditionally handled.

Having conventional wisdom challenged is pain for those whose livelihood is churning out such wisdom.

Wilbur said...

You just know the hoaxees have leaned VERY hard on PSU to eviscerate these gusanos who dared to make fools of them.

EDH said...

The academy is filled with some of the most selfish, vicious and dishonest people on earth, in sharp contrast to how they view themselves.

deepelemblues said...

You must get permission to transgress.

Static Ping said...

Yes, he is being railroaded.

One of the amusing things is one of the reasons this is going on is the claim that his work has degraded the value of a PSU degree. The things is what is going on right now is causing irreparable harm to a PSU degree. No one wants graduates from a school run by these sort of people.

rehajm said...

I'm sure asking for an exemption would've had no adverse effect on the integrity of the experiment.

They should go meta and report the findings: A Case Study: Research and Observations of the Reactions of IRBs and other Academia When Exposed as Academic and Political Hacks

Michael McNeil said...

“Social Justice” invades physics and astronomy education.

Howard said...

Yancey, thanks. I saw that. It looks like keeping Trump Towers in Turkey overcome Bibi's Isaeral lobbying.

Howard said...

Rogan #1191 for the horses mouth

Two-eyed Jack said...

In the earlier "up tick" posting we had Michelle Goldberg's characterization

"Cornell and Huang’s peer-reviewed paper, “School Teasing and Bullying After the Presidential Election,”. . ."

This hangs a great deal of authority on the idea that "peer-reviewed" means "reliable."
What this PSU study did was show that "peer-reviewed" can mean "didn't bother to comprehend, waved through for exogenous reasons." The authority of the social sciences sits on sand.

robother said...

rehajm: "go meta and report the findings"

I like this. Use the countless examples of non-replicable sociology/psychology experiments and the consequences for academics who authored them for comparison.

Char Char Binks said...

If your name is Helen Pluckrose, you were pretty much destined to be a medieval scholar, or a lutenist.

Actually, scratch that, make it "mediaeval" scholar.

mandrewa said...

Yes, of course. The left would love to make it a crime to make fun of the left. Heck, the left would love to make it a crime to think critically.

Francisco D said...

I admire the few men and women in academia who are willing to stand up to the howling social justice mob.

Today they are despised and oppressed. Tomorrow they may be honored as heroes.

Maybe not. Universities are starting to use "diversity and inclusion" criteria in their tenure evaluations.

Marxism marches on.

buwaya said...

Its common to think these people, the academic Pharisees, are jokes, but they aren't.

All your leadership has to pass their filters, and that of the entire academic culture.

It is a bit of romantically-tinged cynicism to declare that their charges will see through their foolishness and react in an opposite, rebellious way. But other than in rare cases this is not so. Brainwashing works. Rebellion is fantasy. The concept remains only where it is tolerated, as in the version of the US that existed decades ago.

The result is two generations of the brainwashed. You see the effect now in corporate leadership, and even down to technical personnel. However silly the academic gatekeepers can seem to us, they are extremely powerful culturally.

This is the main reason I despair of the United States. You are very far down the road to complete mental death. The kids are not all right, for the most part. And those kids that are all right are in danger. They are no longer living in a free society.

There is no longer an option to keep a free mind and prosper. The current state of the US is turning into Vaclav Havel's vision of communist Czechoslovakia, where you can have a career if you are content to shut up and recite the ideological platitudes, or remain content to be a powerless worker - as when Havel was a janitor at a brewery.

mandrewa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mandrewa said...

Jordan Peterson interviews them

n.n said...

Probably. We've seen how zealously and with cruel ambition the Church controls its domain.

Qwinn said...

The academy must be purged. No form of attrition is possible, not after a century of one sided "McCarthyism" where all hiring and firing has been based on political allegiance to the Left. The only way to fix it will be to fire them en masse, and rehire with the exact same restrictions imposed against the Left that they have employed against everyone else for a century.

William Chadwick said...

"Pluckrose" sounds like some obsolete, Shakespearean-era insult.

buwaya said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
buwaya said...

"The academy must be purged."

Will not happen without overwhelming political power, which is very unlikely as your leadership caste is nearly fully captured beyond the reach of democratic politics, or in a state of complete social breakdown - Somalia or Mad Max, or a revolutionary state, with the "world turned upside down".

Michael McNeil said...

Thank you, mandrewa, for posting that Jordon Peterson interview with the hoaxers.

mandrewa said...

So I've been listening to the Joe Rogan interview of Boghossian and Lindsay and it's very funny. But I'm at about 18 minutes in and I'm amazed.

I've been saying in so many words for years that the far left are Nazis. And what I mean by that, if I'm totally honest, is that I think they are identically the same. That is if you were to take the far-left back in time, and remove their memory of history and their cultural differences, and put them in pre-Nazi Germany, they would mix in with the Nazis and find themselves at home.

And likewise if you were to take Nazis from the past and keep their essential spirit and remove the cultural identifiers, they would find their home in the far left.

But when I think these thoughts, or say them, I worry that I'm being hyperbolic and unfair.

But then these jokers submitted two papers (out of twenty totally) that are literally text taken from "Mein Kampf" with slight alterations.

In one paper every reference to 'Jews' is replaced with 'white men.' (For instance: "If we don't combat whiteness that will be the funeral wreath for mankind.")

And in the other paper, basically Chapter 12 of "Mein Kampf," Hitler's phrase "our movement" is replaced with "intersectional feminism."

Jack Wayne said...

Bywaya, Welcome Back! You are one of the few that I really respect.

Owen said...

rehajm at 1:06: "They should go meta and report the findings: A Case Study: Research and Observations of the Reactions of IRBs and other Academia When Exposed as Academic and Political Hacks."

THIS.

Unknown said...

I agree with Sebastian: it is a real stretch to call the reviewers and editors "human subjects". Plus, this has been done before multiple times (See Alan Sokal hoax for one) and no one got fired for it.
If universities aren't going to fire profs for writing papers and books in Studies depts that are gibberish and worse, don't mind if psych papers can't be replicated, and don't object when profs promise stuff in grant proposals and then don't do it, I fail to see where they get to be so "moral" all of a sudden.

hombre said...

Shame on Boghossian. He caused a glitch in the Matrix. Big mistake! Big!

Martin said...

As Mr. Bumble said, "If the law supposes that, the law is a ass."

Leave it to Singal and the NYT to defend the powerful and attack the truth-tellers.

Owen said...

Thanks for the link to the Jordan Peterson interview of these intrepid (and funny) authors. Well worth the time, and I very much like the characterization by them of their work --to create a probe to measure the performance of the bullshit detectors that should operate in the editors and reviewers of these ever so distinguished publications. The probe has established that the detectors fail to do their job. We can speculate on why, but IMHO an obvious and important reason is because these people have lost touch with reality and will buy narratives that are "too good to check."

Quaestor said...

"Boghossian was asking for trouble by going ahead and performing this research without at least seeking an exemption."

Hold it right there, Althouse...

If Boghossian's ethics were questionable, would this not make most pharmacological research unethical?

(Boghossian reminds me of that absurd TV show about two country boys and their muscle-car... Boghossian/Boshoggian)

Char Char Binks said...

All whistleblowers should first get the OK from their superiors before reporting them.

PackerBronco said...

If Boghossian's ethics were questionable, would this not make most pharmacological research unethical?

Pharmocological research with human subjects requires informed consent. For example, if I'm testing the efficacy of a drug, I have to inform the patient that he or she will receive either the drug or a placebo but won't know which one - and in a double-blind experiment I won't know which one either. The patient can then offer to give consent or not in full understanding of the facts.

Of course, there would be no way of giving informed consent in this case since that would alter the basic parameters of the study.

However, this stuff can be very tricky and you have to be careful about the ethical implications. For example, let's say I wanted to do a study about discrimination in hiring practices and submitted several applications to a job opening which we're essentially identical except for the race of the applicant and then I tally up the percentage of callbacks by race to see if certain races are called back at a significantly reduced rate.

Okay, now imagine you're an HR person who is the unwitting subject in that experiment; How do you feel being part of research whose goal is to discover whether or not you're a racist? Speaking for myself, I would be damn upset at being used that way. And I think in general, research that is constructed in that way should be condemned.

With that in mind, I'm having a hard time finding a difference between that example and what the professors did with their bogus research papers - though I have to confess a great of deal enjoyment in reading what they did and what they showed.

DavidD said...

It is the era of “That’s not funny!”, after all.