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The Martyrdom Of Peter Boghossian

Peter Boghossian is one of a trio of liberal college professors who pulled off an awesome hoax last year: they placed a number of fake research papers in peer-reviewed academic journals. The papers were designed to demonstrate that you could write any idiotic thing in so-called “grievance studies” fields, and get it published as long as you took the politically correct view, and used the correct jargon.

You didn’t think left-wing academia was going to let them get away with this, did you? Now Boghossian’s university in Oregon, Portland State, is preparing to punish him. [1] Jesse Singal at New York magazine writes about what’s going down. Excerpts:

Boghossian, in his university’s view, failed to get Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval for his research and fabricated data when he and his team claimed, for their dog park article — I’ll, erm, defer to the language from their Areo write-up — “to have tactfully inspected the genitals of slightly fewer than 10,000 dogs whilst interrogating owners as to their sexuality.” (Boghossian has publicly posted the documents he got from PSU, which lay out the charges in detail, here [2].)

The thing is, Singal demonstrates that Boghossian probably did violate standard IRB protocols to pull off his hoax. In other words, he almost certainly broke clearly established rules in academia, rules that were not put in place for political reasons.

On the other hand, given the political nature of his stunt, and given how left-wing his university is (Boghossian, I repeat, is a liberal), it’s impossible to separate this attempt to punish him from the political statement that his hoax made about the emptiness of Grievance Studies. Do you really think Portland State would be going after this guy if he had carried out a rule-breaking hoax that embarrassed some right-wing cause or field?

It is generally accepted that when journalistic organizations break standard rules for the sake of exposing something harmful to the public interest that could not have been exposed through normal channels — i.e., like going undercover to do an investigation — that the ends justify the means. Ethically, that’s pretty shaky, but I bring it up simply to show that we make exceptions to the rules all the time in daily life. After all, whistleblowers almost always publicize confidential information that they were forbidden by company rules to publicize. Boghossian and his two academic colleagues functioned as academic whistleblowers in this case. The people upon whom the whistle was blown aren’t happy, and they’re out to excise their pound of flesh.

If you think Boghossian deserves to be punished for breaking the rules, you need to ask yourself if you think all whistleblowers everywhere should be punished for breaking the rules — and if not, why single Boghossian out? Is it because of the kind of people, and the kinds of causes, that he humiliated?

Here’s a January 9 letter of protest on his behalf that Boghossian published on Twitter. It’s by a man named Cam Boden, who dropped out of Portland State after being alienated by its “cult-like” political correctness, which both he and his partner say infiltrated every class other than engineering and math courses:

change_me

Because of how it’s formatted, I can’t take the text out of the image and make it more readable. I hope you can discern it, though. Boden says that Prof. Boghossian is one of the best professors at the college, in part because he sees his task as teaching students how to think, instead of what to think.

Boden says that there is a growing sense of rebellion against these garbage courses and this “cult-like” institutional mindset at universities. I hope he’s right. Watch what happens to Boghossian.

 

 

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44 Comments To "The Martyrdom Of Peter Boghossian"

#1 Comment By redbrick On January 11, 2019 @ 10:30 am

They are gonna nail this poor SOB to the wall.

No one tells the Emperor he has no clothes and lives.

#2 Comment By Jeff R On January 11, 2019 @ 10:48 am

This is probably the most important contribution to an academic discipline that anyone at Portland State has made in the last decade. Naturally, he’s going to be fired for it.

#3 Comment By TA On January 11, 2019 @ 11:05 am

Should he be punished? Yes. The IRB exists for very good reasons.

Should it be much more than a slap on the wrist? No.

#4 Comment By Sawbuck On January 11, 2019 @ 11:05 am

I earned my Master’s at PSU – and felt the shift coming in the early 90’s when I graduated.

They went hard PC within a couple of years. I never would have been allowed to graduate. The best professors in my program were shuttled off campus in favor of the le petit Marxists.

Soon after I became a charter member of “N.O.P.E.” – Not One Penny Ever. You have to choke them out at the wallet, nothing else works.

#5 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On January 11, 2019 @ 11:08 am

First, you should take a look at the history of Institutional Review Boards. They were originally instituted to make sure research adhered to ethical standards, to eliminate such well-known historical atrocities at the Tuskegee syphillis study, and the dermatologist who viewed prisoners in Pennsylvania as acres of skin available to experiment on. Like any authoritative body, its authority can be mis-used, manipulated, employed for petty retaliation, etc.

Quies custodiet ipsos custodes?

This persecution is analagous to the motorist who records an interaction with a police officer, then finds the officer is sueing them, or seeking criminal charges, for violation of a broad privacy law forbidding recording conversations without the knowledge and permission of the other party. (Most state legislatures have amended such laws to provide that public employees in the performance of their public duties may be recorded in transations with the general public.)

Its also a bit like someone deciding to do a little undercover work themselves, and then being charged as a co-conspirator of those they meant to expose. And, as Rod says, its a common pattern that whistleblowers are persecuted by the letter of the law because they blew the whistle.

#6 Comment By Some Wag On January 11, 2019 @ 11:17 am

“Do you really think Portland State would be going after this guy if he had carried out a rule-breaking hoax that embarrassed some right-wing cause or field?”
No, I think you (the right wing media echo chamber) would.

#7 Comment By Martin On January 11, 2019 @ 11:17 am

Sane professors should pull out of establishment universities, and start their own.

#8 Comment By Kent On January 11, 2019 @ 11:20 am

Well done tying this concept to whistle-blowing. I was trying to figure out the right analogy while reading it, and whistle-blowing is exactly how this should be viewed.

#9 Comment By Uncle Billy On January 11, 2019 @ 11:31 am

I am reminded of something Stalin said, which went to the effect that an idea was so stupid, that only intellectuals liked it.

#10 Comment By Luc On January 11, 2019 @ 11:50 am

Let’s all move to Japan 🙂

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#11 Comment By Cole On January 11, 2019 @ 11:51 am

[4]

Short version: IRBs, while well-intentioned, are frequently run by humorlessly myopic and pharisaical bureaucrats with no sense of proportion. This is not necessarily a case of deliberate targeting for political purposes; if an experiment involves handling thumbtacks, the IRB may express concern over whether patients were notified that thumbtacks could theoretically cause them to bleed to death if they were hemophiliac.

#12 Comment By Martin On January 11, 2019 @ 12:03 pm

@Some Wag

Assuming we don’t have the humility to criticize ourselves for such blatant evil as was exposed by Boghossian. Have you been following Rod’s coverage of the abuse scandals in the churches?

#13 Comment By Robert Hennessy On January 11, 2019 @ 12:18 pm

“Do you really think Portland State would be going after this guy if he had carried out a rule-breaking hoax that embarrassed some right-wing cause or field?”

I think this qualifies as being an example of “special pleading.” Singal is absolutely correct: Boghossian broke IRB rules. And given that academia is not journalism, linking Boghossian’s actions as whistleblowing is tenuous at best.

Should Boghossian be fired? No, his punishment should be a reprimand at worse.

But this is the best thing to have happened to him. Boghossian can continue his schtick as a “truth teller” and conservatives can continue fawning over him. He may even continue his speaking tours with other “brave” truth tellers like Haidt, Peterson, Harris, and Dave Rubin. Think of the money!

#14 Comment By charles cosimano On January 11, 2019 @ 12:19 pm

Ethics! Bah! Rules are made to be broken along with the heads of those who would enforce them.

This is one of those cases where it is necessary to say in a quiet voice, “Consequences bring retaliation,” and then give a few of the people screaming for punishment a copy of what you have on them and their families and say, “One more word out of you and this will be the next story.”

If you are going to play, play dirty.

One must always be pleasant, charming and utterly ruthless. It is the key to success in such environments.

#15 Comment By MC On January 11, 2019 @ 12:40 pm

This is a challenging case. On the one hand, what Boghossian and others were doing was more akin to investigatory journalism, which wouldn’t usually be subject to IRB protocols and institutional rules. We don’t usually punish journalists or whistleblowers when they use deceptive means or violate normal ethical or institutional rules to expose malfeasance, poor quality, or illegality; in fact, it’s often illegal to punish whistleblowers.

Unfortunately for Boghossian and his cohorts, they decided to publish their work as “findings” for a “study”, basically advertising it as academic work. On top of that, they are professors at academic institutions, and as such are bound by IRB rules when they publish their “studies”. They would have been better off had they not presented what they were doing as “research”; a semantic difference, yes, but semantics matter much more than most people would admit.

Boghossian’s best defense here is to invoke whistleblower protections by arguing that what these journals were doing was tantamount to fraud, in that they presented themselves as scholarly when they are in fact not due to such a lax peer-review procedure; the Mein Kampf excerpt makes a compelling case that “peer review” for these journals is a sham. The only trouble is that Portland State is trying to punish him because he broke *their* rules: Boghossian did not “blow the whistle” on Portland State, because the journals have no official affiliation with the university.

#16 Comment By Tom On January 11, 2019 @ 12:53 pm

From what I understand, Boghossian is one of those so-called “New Atheists,” like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins. He also teaches philosophy. I would not be at all surprised to hear he uses his position as a professor to demonize religion/faith and indoctrinate his students into his godless way of thinking. If all of that is true, then I say he has no business being in a classroom.

[NFR: You “would not be at all surprised”? But you have absolutely no evidence of this. The man needs people like you to stand up for him, not assume that he’s a bad guy because he’s not a religious believer. He could well be an atheist, but also a man who believes in education and fair play. — RD]

#17 Comment By Xenie On January 11, 2019 @ 1:02 pm

PSU is a joke, intellectually, on top of being a SJW hell on earth. At least I can thank it for turning me into a conservative, though.

#18 Comment By mary On January 11, 2019 @ 1:38 pm

Some Wag

But he wouldn’t lose his job to critics on the right. That’s the difference. You can critique till you are blue in the face but these people ruin careers.

#19 Comment By Cole On January 11, 2019 @ 1:48 pm

As a follow-up to my earlier comment, I clicked through, and the article both notes Scott Alexander’s ridiculous ordeal and interviews four experts in IRB procedure, all of whom agreed that yeah, the IRB would totally view this “experiment” (pranking journals) as a study requiring full compliance with byzantine IRB regulations.

#20 Comment By John Spragge On January 11, 2019 @ 2:02 pm

The critical word here is “hoax”. The people who pulled off this so-called “investigation” lied. They made bad-faith submissions to journals about research they hadn’t done. They exploited, at least, the habit peer reviewers have of assuming good faith on the part of those who submit papers.

Any institution in the business of making decisions on the basis of evidence depends on honesty. It’s why we disbar lawyers for putting a witness on the stand whom they know will lie. Academics who lie undermine the case against other forms of dishonesty in academia. If a student caught submitting a paper bought from the internet claims they just wanted to see if teachers would notice, what can Dr. Boghossian and those who condone his actions say?

Nor does the whistle-blower or undercover excuse wash. An undercover or whistle blowing investigation exposes information deliberately kept from the public. The papers, the good faith papers, published in the journals to which Dr. Boghossian defrauded, were right out in public. He and his colleagues could have mounted a rigorous criticism of them. It would have been more difficult than defrauding the reviewers of these journals. But then almost all forms of dishonesty in academia stem from an effort by bypass hard work.

As for Rod’s question about whether the academy would have come down as hard on dishonesty by left wingers, first of all, it would help if you could cite a case of a fraudulent submissions by an individual identified with the “left” to a an academic journal associated with a “conservative” field. I know of no such case, so if you know of one, please cite it.

#21 Comment By Lesley On January 11, 2019 @ 2:46 pm

The thing that’s nice about Lysenkoism is that wheat doesn’t care about your ideology and is just going to keep doing what its biology dictates.

These people can try to browbeat reality all they want and castigate anybody who resists all they want. Eventually, reality will win out.

It does perhaps mean that such Martyrdom isn’t in vain forever, but I know that does this guy 0 good in the meantime.

#22 Comment By MM On January 11, 2019 @ 3:28 pm

I don’t see any substantive difference between Dr. Boghossian’s hoax and what Alan Sokal pulled off 20 years ago.

The only difference seems to be is in how the establishment has gone to war over the issue, and in doing so totally validated Boshossian’s whole premise.

So what’s changed?

#23 Comment By craig On January 11, 2019 @ 3:43 pm

A more readable version of the Cam Boden letter is posted on Prof. Boghossian’s Google Drive here:

[5]

#24 Comment By Fran Macadam On January 11, 2019 @ 3:54 pm

Our country’s elites have gone so far down the rabbit hole, that there’s no pill they could take to return them to normal. At some point, when all this fully invades economics, health care and the military, disasters on all fronts will ensue.

Dysfunctional people with poor judgement can make an initial seeming success, just from the shock and force of their vehement efforts, but long term they are swept out of the way once the consequences become realized.

#25 Comment By S.C. On January 11, 2019 @ 4:19 pm

Yes, he should be punished and it should be a similar punishment to what others in a similar situation receive.

It’s a stretch to call this “whistleblowing.” As I recall, his team published several faux papers so he didn’t *need* the dog one or he could have followed the formal rules on it.

They first got him for not taking field notes. He should have known the attention this would draw and have crossed every “t” and dotted each “i.” To not have field notes is sloppy (or, at least, *try* to forge them) because there is no way to prove you did any research at all.

Next was human subjects. He needed to get permission to interact with people and he didn’t get it. The rules are there for good reason and he broke them. You do the crime, you do the time, unless you’re making liberals look bad?

I say this a lot these days to my friends on the left and right: “you don’t have to defend everyone on your team all the time.” If they did wrong, they did wrong.

#26 Comment By DRK On January 11, 2019 @ 6:23 pm

He should be reprimanded.

Jesse Singal at New York Magazine has a good rundown of why Boghossian should have, at the very least, sought an IRB waiver for this. Boghossian, Pluckrose, and Lindsay did an experiment on human subjects — the magazine editors — without their permission.

There is precedent for this, and even for submitting falsified data, such as the study that sent out fake resumes to employers, some with “white” names, some with “black” names, to see if the responses to them varied. (Spoiler: the responses did). This kind of study is called an audit study, and there are protocols in place for doing these, but you still have to run it by the IRB. Institutional Review Boards exist at every research institution, because in order to receive federal research funds, the institutions must agree to follow certain ethics procedures, especially in regards to research involving human subjects.

In addition, Boghossian and the rest of his team not only submitted these fake papers to magazines, they then permitted them to be published, even after the trio had acceptance letters in hand. For the purposes of their study, the acceptance letters would have been proof of their theory. By letting papers with falsified data actually be published, they put false data out in the public sphere, which is a no-no, and which would not have flown with the IRB.

They very possibly could have gotten around this problem if they hadn’t persisted in referring to this hoax as a “study”. Well, so be it. You want the gravitas that word conveys, you have to do it right. There are rules in academia for how studies are conducted.

[1]

My prediction? Boghossian will be investigated and reprimanded. His punishment will be to have to actually learn about IRB procedures. Kerfuffle over.

#27 Comment By Dale McNamee On January 11, 2019 @ 7:54 pm

@Martin,
I agree with your suggestion that these persecuted/martyred professors starting their own colleges… Perhaps The Benedict Option has room for such colleges…

#28 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On January 11, 2019 @ 8:06 pm

The critical word here is “hoax”.

Indeed it is. And that’s why everything else John Spragge says is utterly wrong.

The whole point of the hoax was to test the system. The perpetrators did not use the hoax to gain promotion, or stature, or paid honorariums. They blew the whistle on their own hoax, because that is the purpose for which they committed the hoax in the first place. They follow in the honorable tradition of not only Sokol, but also the successful published author who, some years back, submitted some of her own work under a false name to demonstrate that perfectly good work, equal to any of famous, well-connected, published authors, would be overlooked due to the author’s apparent lack of fame and connections.

Its always good to speak truth to power, and this is one way of doing so. Those whose incompetence and infatuations have been exposed have egg on their face, and are naturally seeking revenge. But their revenge should be denied.

Next was human subjects. He needed to get permission to interact with people and he didn’t get it.

What human subjects? The whole point is that these research papers were entirely fictional. I’ve never read any indication that any of the experiments described were ever done with live human subjects.

No IRB rules were broken, because no research was done. This was a hoax, remember? The point was that the clueless idiots who run the targeted academic publications will run anything with the right buzz words to massage their unqueasy paunches.

PSU is a joke, intellectually, on top of being a SJW hell on earth. At least I can thank it for turning me into a conservative, though.

Poor thing. You’ve been miseducated. You should have tried Bolshevism. Believe me, I learned to have 360 degrees of contempt for these sandboxes of the revolution.

The best professors in my program were shuttled off campus in favor of the le petit Marxists.

Good name for them. Just try getting any of these petit Marxists to knock on doors in an impoverished community. They’re too scared, and have too many parties to attend.

#29 Comment By John Spragge On January 11, 2019 @ 8:18 pm

Rod, about thirty seconds of googling led me to articles and an Amazon preview of one of Dr. Boghossian’s books, namely “A Manual for Creating Atheists”, that makes it quite clear Dr. Boghossian is indeed a “new atheist”, is strongly opposed to faith, and indeed writes with a very specific goal of undermining it. That doesn’t change my view of his actions; if anything, it makes me want to argue for greater care in evaluating his case, because I always want people I strongly disagree with dealt with fairly. But I see no value in avoiding the question of Dr. Boghossian’s stated beliefs and their relation to his agenda.

Nor do I see any devotion to “fair play” in telling people untruths and then attacking them for their credulity. The whole defence of Dr. Boghassian’s position seems to rest on three completely unproven and highly dubious premises: that deceiving the reviewers for journals in so-called “grievance studies” somehow discredits the journals, and thus somehow the fields of study; that criticism of these ares of study required this deception, and that the end obtained justified flouting the normal requirement for integrity in academic conduct.

#30 Comment By Jonah R. On January 11, 2019 @ 9:54 pm

It’s fascinating and instructive to read the actual documents Boghossian has posted to his Google Drive.

First, the “PSU Pro-Educational Editorial Collective” (no names, just job titles) published a response in a campus publication that reads like it was written by a stick-up-his-butt tweed-wearing college dean from a 1980s teen movie. Collegiality! Self-aggrandizement! Utterly inappropriate! Rules of scholarly conduct! Violation of norms! Disrespectful! Negative publicity jeopardizes students’ reputations! Devaluation of degrees! Anti-intellectual! Unscholarly!

I just made my wife laugh by reading the letter to her in a faux Margaret Dumont voice.

If Boghossian technically violated IRB rules, then okay, he should get a token punishment, which only legitimizes his claim to civil disobedience. It appears from his correspondence that his punishment is pretty basic: PSU won’t support any of his research activities until he gets IRB human subjects training.

But wow, if you want to see stuck-up blowhard tyrants in action, people just crying out to be satirized and mocked, melodramatic progressive professors and university administrators have got to be at the top of the list.

#31 Comment By MM On January 11, 2019 @ 10:10 pm

SC: “If they did wrong, they did wrong.”

If Boghossian’s stated goal was to demonstrate ideoglogical incompetence in the publishing process, like Sokal did 20 years ago and was never disciplined for his methods, what did he do wrong?

#32 Comment By Shannon On January 11, 2019 @ 10:22 pm

My understanding is that the three hoaxers (Boghossian is the only one who is a working academic, Dr. Lindsey left the Academy in 2010, IIRC) made up institutions under which they submitted their papers, and used fake names for themselves as authors.

So Peter Boghossian was not doing any of this as a faculty member of Portland State University. If that’s correct, I don’t grok how PSU’s research review process applies at all.

And, yes… based on the details of his employment contract, (to which I am not privy,) they could very well censure or even terminate him for doing this, without recourse to PSU’s review structures. But that’s not what they’re doing. They’re using an internal process to investigate external behavior… which suggests very strongly that his contract / tenure agreement doesn’t cover this case, and they’re grasping for whatever straw they can find.

Gratuitous predictions, based on nothing much: A) Dr. Boghossian will be censured by the IRB, by way of the immortal “Strongly Worded Letter” ™.
B) Dr. Boghossian will seek, and will find, higher-profile, and likely better-compensated, work at another, and higher-profile, institution.

He’ll be fine.

PSU, on the other hand, has taken very careful aim at their foot, gently squeezed the trigger… and succeeded in blowing off their whole leg.

–Shannon

#33 Comment By William Manning On January 12, 2019 @ 10:21 am

Hear these vile trouble makers in their own words.

[6]

The hilarity begins about 35 mins in.

#34 Comment By Egypt Steve On January 12, 2019 @ 5:09 pm

Multiple choice: will this “martyrdom” will consist of:

(A) Being thrown to the lions
(B) Being burned at the stake
(c) Being pressed between stones
(D) Being flayed alive
(E) Receiving a sharply worded letter from an associate dean

#35 Comment By Clyde Schechter On January 12, 2019 @ 5:35 pm

With the caveat that I know nothing about this particular institution, but having served a total of 21 years on IRB’s at two institutions where I have worked, I will give my opinion.

If you go back a few decades, IRB’s did not pay any attention to the kind of research in question here. Nobody submitted applications for approval for a study that involved talking to people about non-threatening topics in public places and observing the appearance of things. The Federal laws mandating IRBs actually distinguished this kind of research, allowing it to be exempt from review. Over time, however, the boundaries of exempt research got pushed. During the same era, the government became aware of other areas in which IRB’s were lax about enforcing the rules. The result of these trends was a new policy that, yes, this kind of research would be exempt, but you could not decide on your own that your research qualifies for exemption: you have to have the IRB approve the exemption. I did not read the articles in question, so I know about this research only what I have seen here and elsewhere online. But I have little doubt that any IRB would have approved this research as exempt, and Boghossian would have had no trouble had he applied for the exemption. He ought to have done that. Other investigators, nowadays, who plunge ahead with unapproved research projects that would have qualified for exemption are subject to disciplinary actions for doing so. The sanctions are typically quite mild: a reprimand or a warning is usually all. I suppose a serial offender might find him/herself barred from doing research, or even lose a job–but I think it would take many such violations to provoke really serious punishments. So we’ll see what PSU does and then we can judge if he is treated like other violators of this rule.

In my experience, these rules are typically enforced fairly–the only people who escape the process are the ones who don’t get caught. To that extent, had there not been political implications to Boghossian’s work that led to its attracting notoriety, it might never have come to the IRB’s attention. But certainly the IRB’s I have worked on (or submitted applications to) would sanction anyone who violated the rule without regard to political content of the work.

By the way, Scott Alexander’s experience with an IRB is mostly typical of the difficulties encountered by inexperienced researchers the first few times they go through the process. There are plenty of pitfalls, and they seem onerous in the context of research that is plainly innocuous. His situation may have been exacerbated by the fact that his study dealt with mentally ill patients, and by statute, those are a special group (“vulnerable population”) to whom IRBs pay extra attention because they are so easily abused. (For what it’s worth, fetuses, children, and pregnant women are also classified as vulnerable populations and research involving them is subject to tighter standards.) The rules regarding research on the mentally ill are stricter, and are generally interpreted less generously towards the researcher–for good reason, in my view.

#36 Comment By Anonymous On January 12, 2019 @ 8:06 pm

Boghossian did not violate any IRB rules because he did not do any research. Nor did he even purport to do any research. Arguments to the contrary are literally frivolous. They are on a par with people who chastise others for “using” the word n***** (I would write it out but who knows if there is filtering software somewhere) in the course of saying something like “Calling a black person a n***** is usually considered highly offensive.” Anyone who says such a thing about the word n***** is either frivolous, deeply stupid, or an overt totalitarian (and our society is filled with all sorts), and the same applies to anyone who says Boghossian deserves even a pro forma punishment. That Boghossian represented his writings as “research” in the course of the journal submission process is irrelevant. Humans who know how to think understand that the meaning of speech must be understand in its context, and in the context of this overall action there was NO PRETENSE that research had occurred. Understanding that there was never any research is ESSENTIAL to the very point that Boghossian was seeking to make, and he made it. He did not publish “fake research”, he published jargon-laden politically-charged b***s***. And his point is not that other “researchers” are sometimes failing to adhere to academic standards, it is that they have literally no comprehension of or concern for objective standards at all, and see their task as producing jargon-laden, politically-charged b***s***.

#37 Comment By TOS On January 13, 2019 @ 12:30 am

Meh. If the study had any merit, I’d shed a tear over his being punished for breaking rules that, yes, apply to everyone.

But as it is? A shoddy attempt at “gotcha” journalism, presented as social science. They got 3 “articles” in tiny on-line journals, after a year of learning how to write believable interpretive essays in the style of their targets.

Though the authors repeatedly refer to the duped journals as “respectable,” they admit that:

It only took us a few months and a few papers to learn that while it is possible that some journals in these fields may fall prey to an outright hoax so long as it plays upon their moral biases and preferred academic jargon, nothing like “The Conceptual Penis” would have been published in a highly regarded gender-studies journal. In believing that some might, and on having said so in the wake of that attempt, we were wrong.

That’s pretty damning to their study. Though kudos to them for admitting it.

So after a year of learning how to write in a specialized language for tiny journals that largely publish interpretative essays, they had 4 “articles” published — online. One of the journals then started the process of recinding the article. So 3 out of 20. (Plus one failure in their pilot study).

That’s the big take-away.

They then publish their own socio-political rant, under the guise of “interpreting” their “data.”

So I guess the irony is that these authors have proved their point. They were able to get shoddy research—theirs—published in “respectable” places. Too bad they could t even do that the right way.

#38 Comment By Clyde Schechter On January 13, 2019 @ 3:43 pm

There seems to be disagreement here as to whether any human subjects research was actually done.

I do not have access to the journals in which the papers in question was published, hence I didn’t read them. From the various on-line sources that are writing about these events, I have gleaned the impression that the study regarding gender and dogs was actually carried out and the people walking their dogs were actually approached and asked questions. If that is so, then it is, under the law, human subjects research and is subject to the IRB process. If that did not, in fact happen, and the article simply represents a fabrication, then there was no human subjects research–and that fact would be a complete defense to the accusations Boghossian faces. (Whether it raises other research integrity issues is another question.)

#39 Comment By JohnInCA On January 14, 2019 @ 1:04 pm

The problem is, he wasn’t a whistle-blower. He didn’t come out with a tell-all article saying what he had done and why, he was discovered by someone else saying “this doesn’t look right” who investigated. Only after being exposed did he come out with his “well, sure, I lied. A lot. Like, a lot a lot. But it’s because I wanted to expose these guys! I would have gotten around to it eventually…”

So no. He’s not a whistle-blower. He’s just an academic who submitted falsified data.

#40 Comment By John Spragge On January 14, 2019 @ 1:07 pm

Quoting Siarlys Jenkins:

The whole point of the hoax was to test the system.

Sorry, a “system” that relies on good faith will frequently fail when confronted by deception. There is nothing unexpected or particularly honourable, in proving that. And again, I see no excuse for this deception. Papers, submitted in good faith to the journals, were right there for anyone to read. Indeed, that is the purpose of scholarly journals and scholarly publication generally: to expose ideas for criticism. The papers were right out in the open for Dr. Boghossian to criticize; he didn’t need to submit deliberately bad papers.

The perpetrators did not use the hoax to gain promotion, or stature, or paid honorariums. They blew the whistle on their own hoax, because that is the purpose for which they committed the hoax in the first place.

Your assessment of their motives assumes facts not in evidence. None of us knows the exact motive for this fraudulent behaviour.

They follow in the honorable tradition of not only Sokol,

I don’t consider Sokol’s behaviour particularly honourable. Our culture already tolerates lying to a highly destructive extent. It costs us an enormous amount in various safeguards. It leads us into destructive relationship with cultures where lying is considered unacceptable (which used, at one time, to include Christian culture). Lying may be acceptable in order to serve a greater good that can be served no other way, for example in the studies of employment discrimination. But I refuse to accept its use simply to avoid the hard work of analyzing the actual output of a journal.

And just to add, again, where exactly do you draw the line? When a student submits a book chapter for their honours essay and claims it as an “experiment”, what then?

Suppose Dr. Boghossian and his team had done something slightly different. Suppose they had made the same outrageous submission, but attached the name of a colleague whose ideas they really disliked, in order to embarrass not just the journals and their publishers, but also their colleague. Exactly what fundamental difference do you see between these forms of deception? On what grounds, if any, would you punish one form of dishonesty and not the other? And, most importantly, even if you see a difference between these two actions, how sure are you everyone else will?

but also the successful published author who, some years back, submitted some of her own work under a false name to demonstrate that perfectly good work, equal to any of famous, well-connected, published authors, would be overlooked due to the author’s apparent lack of fame and connections.

Excuse me, but submitting your own work, work you legitimately did, under a pseudonym does have an honourable history. It is not deception, merely withholding information, which by long tradition an author has a right to do. Also, it satisfies my other criterion: it served to expose otherwise hidden information. Just as companies do not issue press releases saying they call George but not Jamal for interviews, so publishers do not generally disclose their willingness to publish Stephen King but not Joe Blow.

#41 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On January 14, 2019 @ 8:48 pm

Sorry, a “system” that relies on good faith will frequently fail when confronted by deception. There is nothing unexpected or particularly honourable, in proving that. And again, I see no excuse for this deception.

That is a really obtuse statement. A “system” that purports to discern quality work from garbage should not fall for a “deception” submitting deliberately crafted garbage. If the system has any integrity, it will recognize the garbage as garbage. The fact that the system ACCEPTED garbage as long as it had certain buzzwords in it is useful data. That the system relies on “good faith” is no excuse for such a failure.

None of us knows the exact motive for this fraudulent behaviour.

No, we only know their actions, and from this we can evaluate the merit of their experiment.

And just to add, again, where exactly do you draw the line? When a student submits a book chapter for their honours essay and claims it as an “experiment”, what then?

Its called plagiary. Boghossian, as far as has been publicized, did not plagiarize anything. He did original writing. Apples and oranges.

Suppose they had made the same outrageous submission, but attached the name of a colleague whose ideas they really disliked, in order to embarrass not just the journals and their publishers, but also their colleague.

The word “suppose” is doing a lot of heavy lifting. ‘If only I could come up with a hypothetical situation that would be truly despicable, and attribute it to Boghossian, et al., then everyone would think less of them.’ They didn’t. IF they had attached the name of a colleague to bogus material to discredit that colleague, it WOULD be despicable. But they didn’t. They claimed authorship themselves, as they should.

Excuse me, but submitting your own work, work you legitimately did, under a pseudonym does have an honourable history.

Uh-huh. And Boghossian submitted his own work, work he legtimately did, under his own name, which ALSO has an honorable history!

publishers do not generally disclose their willingness to publish Stephen King but not Joe Blow.

Indeed. And academic journals do not generally disclose their willingness to publish poorly vetted garbage as long as it has the right buzz words that are deemed politically correct this year.

#42 Comment By MM On January 14, 2019 @ 9:29 pm

Spragge: “Sorry, a ‘system’ that relies on good faith will frequently fail when confronted by deception.”

And yet the press continues to accept and encourage anonymous, unverified sources of information on a regular basis.

And Michael Moore continues to make films, albeit less successful than 15+ years ago.

#43 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On January 15, 2019 @ 10:48 am

MM and I are on the same side of this argument, but I have one caveat about Michael Moore. I admired, and still love, his work on “Roger and Me,” and the sequel, “Pets or Meat?” Excellent investigative and documentary work. I also enjoyed the way he skewered “Mother Jones” magazine (a clear case of cultural appropriation by the liberal bourgeoisie of a working class icon), and his advocacy of “The Riveter,” although the riveter was not qualified to, e.g., run for president. I still quote Michael Moore’s statement, quoted in print, “I hate liberals.”

But, after that, his film-making went downhill. Like many successful authors and producers, he simply carried a good thing too far, trying to repeat an early success without recognizing that he was moving into different fields that had to be handled differently, and “Let’s twist again, like we did last summer” doesn’t cut it.

#44 Comment By Elijah On January 15, 2019 @ 11:27 am

“A “system” that purports to discern quality work from garbage should not fall for a “deception” submitting deliberately crafted garbage. If the system has any integrity, it will recognize the garbage as garbage.”

That just about says it all. The Academy does not like to be embarrassed, after all.