In the wake of this post that touched on recently released documents detailing investigations into Bengü Sezen's scientific misconduct, and that noted that a C & E News article described Sezen as a "master of deception", I had an interesting chat on the Twitters:
@geernst @docfreeride I scoff at the idea that Sezen was a master at deception. She lied a lot but plenty of opportunities to get caught.
@UnstableIsotope Maybe evasion is a more accurate word.
@geernst I'd agree she was a master of evasion. But she was caught be other group members but sounds like advisor didn't want to believe it.
@docfreeride (that's me!):
@UnstableIsotope @geernst Possible that she was master of deception only in environment where people didn't guard against being deceived?
@docfreeride @geernst I agree ppl didn't expect deception, my read suggests she was caught by group members but protected by advisor.
@docfreeride @geernst The advisor certainly didn't expect deception and didn't encourage but didn't want to believe evidence
@UnstableIsotope @geernst Not wanting to believe the evidence strikes me as a bad fit with "being a scientist".
@docfreeride @geernst Yes, but it is human. Not wanting to believe your amazing results are not amazing seems like a normal response to me.
@docfreeride @UnstableIsotope I agree. Difficult to separate scientific objectivity from personal feelings in those circumstances.
@geernst @UnstableIsotope But isn't this exactly the argument for not taking scrutiny of your results, data, methods personally?
@docfreeride @geernst Definitely YES. I look forward to people repeating my experiments. I'm nervous if I have the only result.
@docfreeride @UnstableIsotope Couldn't agree more.
This conversation prompted a question I'd like to ask the PIs. (Trainees: I'm going to pose the complementary question to you in the very next post!)
In your capacity as PI, your scientific credibility (and likely your name) is tied to all the results that come out of your research group -- whether they are experimental measurements, analyses of measurements, modeling results, or whatever else it is that scientists of your stripe regard as results. What do you do to ensure that the results generated by your trainees are reliable?
Now, it may be the case that what you see as the appropriate level of involvement/quality control/"let me get up in your grill while you repeat that measurement for me" would still not have been enough to deter -- or to detect -- a brazen liar. If you want to talk about that in the comments, feel free.
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