P.Mean: Arguing with the material in an ethics training program (created 2012-01-12).

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I'm taking one those web based ethics training programs that is required by the UMKC IRB. It's not a punishment for something bad I did. The IRB requires this from all researchers. I'm probably one of the worst people to take these programs because I disect every assertion and look for the data behind every claim. It takes me forever to finish these things. Anyway, here's an example of the type of thing that drives me crazy.

In the quiz section at the end of the module on peer review was this question:

(TRUE/FALSE) A good alternative to the current peer review process would be web logs (BLOGS) where papers would be posted and reviewed by those who have an interest in the work.

I knew what they were looking for, so I held my nose and checked the FALSE box. Here's the feedback I got.

Your answer: False
Correct Answer: False
Comment: Although the peer review process is evolving, the described system would probably not work very well. It is likely that the peer review process will evolve to minimize bias and conflicts of interest. It is, in the best interest of everyone involved in the research enterprise that the scientific review process be fair and rigorous.

They are nice enough to ask for feedback at the end of each module, so I took advantage of the opportunity to vent. Here's what I wrote:

I just wanted to note, for the record, that several very intelligent people are proposing the dismantling of peer review, and I agree with their general perspective. So when you say "Although the peer review process is evolving, the described system [weblogs with open commentary] would probably not work very well" and "It is likely that the peer review process will evolve to minimize bias and conflicts of interest" you are stating two opinions that are not backed up by any data. And for the record, it is an opinion that I disagree with. I have no problem with you holding a different opinion or stating it in the training materials, but it may not be wise to include this in the quiz section when the issue is still under active debate.

I'll probably get kicked out of the system, and if I don't it won't matter because all my arguments with them will keep me from finishing this training before I retire.

Creative Commons License This page was written by Steve Simon and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License. Need more information? I have a page with general help resources. You can also browse for pages similar to this one at Ethics In Research.