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What a tangled web we weave

Understanding unethical behavior through genetics, biology and evolution

Barbara Oakley
Recent months have seen a spate of disturbing science stories; spoofed studies from an NIH post doc, fraudulent use of public funds, faked pain research that involved wholesale confabulation of studies, hundreds of thousands of dollars of unreported pharmaceutical company payola to a major psychiatrist, and on a lighter note, a __mea culpa__ from the perpetrators of a purported medical condition--cello scrotum.
But all of this deception begs a deeper question. Why does such fraud occur? This can be something of a touchy topic, with plenty of motives suggested. Some indicate that stress is a primary culprit behind unethical research behavior. But this does not account for the fact that most researchers--even those under severe stress--are not unethical. Lax supervision has also been suggested, but plenty of researchers are highly ethical whether the supervision is tight or lax. To better understand the phenomenon of profoundly unethical behavior, I spent six...




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