Monday, September 3

Solo blogger charges academic misconduct; U-T leaps to investigate

A professor at UT-Austin published the results of a study in which "thousands" of adult children of straight, lesbian and homosexual parents were asked dozens of questions related to their lives.

While many of the answers did not show statistically-significant differences between the various parenting groups, the study found that children of gay couples were two to four times as likely to be on public assistance, more than twice as likely to be unemployed and more than twice as likely to have contemplated suicide.

That's not what caught my eye about this story. It's this: a single gay blogger who learned about the study wrote two letters to UT-A accusing its author of academic misconduct--specifically, of deviating from ethical standards for research and of “possible falsification” of research. The accuser also claimed the study was flawed because it was funded by a conservative institute, and that the professor was unable to be impartial because he is Catholic.

In the academic world these are all potentially career-ending charges, and the university immediately sprang into action, confiscating the professor's computers and 42,000 emails. (Yes, 42,000.)

And after a thorough investigation they found no evidence of misconduct.

While one could argue that the university's prompt investigation could have been motivated by a desire to quickly clear the professor, one can also make the opposite case. I wonder if the university would have taken the same aggressive action if a single conservative blogger were to charge a liberal professor with the same misconduct.

I've never heard of that happening and I'll bet you haven't either. Universities normally take no notice whatsoever when a single critic--let alone one with no credentials in the field of the research--criticizes one of their faculty members. If universities reacted this way even half the time to a single charge by a layman, academic researchers would be paralyzed.

This strikes me as yet another example of a double-standard among PC institutions. It also seems to be yet another example of what might be termed "suppressive fire" by special-interest groups who don't want research to be published that would cut against their goals. The extreme reaction by UT-A (unless one believes it was motivated by a desire to clear the guy) is likely to deter other researchers from undertaking studies that could produce results that would put them in the gunsight.

Which, I suspect, is the whole point.

Kinda like the "global warming" crowd strong-arming journals into not publishing studies that cut against the AGW position.

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