Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Churchill Report: Interesting facts and figures

Now that I've actually read (some of, sort of) the committee's report, I can start criticizing it! This, from the Executive Summary, is funny:

With regard to corrective actions, the Standing Committee on Research Misconduct is recommending that publishers of the articles, chapters, and books in which falsification, fabrication, or plagiarism were found be informed of the Investigative committee report. Although there may be no opportunity to publish errata or corrections in most cases, the Standing Committtee hopes that the publishers takes [sic] appropriate steps to respond to the Investigative Committee’s findings.
Yeah, that'll happen.

From the section "The role of context and motivation," a bit of CYA (it's elaborated later in the report):
In the Churchill case, the SCRM shares the concerns expressed by the Investigative Committee regarding the timing and context in which the allegations against Professor Churchill were raised. However, at each step of the process, the SCRM was careful to restrict its review to the allegations of research misconduct, without consideration of issues that have received widespread attention by others interested in Professor Churchill’s work. In particular, the SCRM’s deliberations were devoid of any discussions of Professor Churchill’s “9/11 essay,” or of issues of academic freedom or free speech in general. Rather, our work was specifically and narrowly focused on the finding of the Investigative Committee with regard to research misconduct.
I just don't know if that'll work. Probably? (The Drunkablog is nothing if not decisive.) More:

The SCRM strongly disagrees with critics of the Investigative Committee report who have suggested that Professor Churchill’s violations were isolated, mundane, or trivial. To the contrary we conclude that the violations are extreme examples of research misconduct, particularly in this area of study. . . .
Ever'body say d'oh!

The SCRM also was persuaded that making unfounded accusations and fabricating support for them, as, for example, that the US Army intentionally collected smallpox-infected blankets from an Army infirmary to spread the disease to native populations, is serious by any standard. It not only distorts an already tragic history but creates a social harm by spreading misinformation under the guise of scholarly research, injures the very cause being promoted, and casts doubt on other scholarship in the area.

In a feeble vote of confidence, however, they add,

We firmly believe that the process should raise no concerns for faculty whose scholarly work complies with accepted standards of research integrity.

Goodbye, Ethnic Studies. (Yeah, sure.)

Update: The committee subscribes to the Lone Gunman theory:

Impact. We discussed under the heading of "Seriousness" the impact of research misconduct on scholarly research in general. It is obvious to even a casual observer that this investigation has attracted considerable national attention. Some members of the public seem to have concluded that Professor Churchill's behavior is symptomatic of the academy at large; indeed, Professor Churchill's own comments may have bolstered this belief. As the Investigating Committee noted, these doubts and accusations have particularly challenged other, legitimate scholars in the fields of ethnic and Indian studies. As a committee charged with encouraging the highest ethical standars of research, we regret--and condemn as inaccurate and misleading--this erosion of public trust. We wish to remind all parties that this investigation had to do with one individual, and that his conduct should not be generalized to others. We consider the harm that his behavior has done to his field and to the academy more generally to be an aggravating factor in our determination of an appropriate sanction.

Update II: A significant omission:

In accordance with our rules, we explicitly inquired into potential biases or conflicts of interest, a process that included Professor Churchill's input regarding potential members of the committee--
not to mention the highly unwelcome but much more effective input of a certain scurvy-livered dog who uncovered the "potential bias" of two committee members and forced their resignations. Whew. The outcome could have been completely different, y'all.

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