Exploring Scientific Misconduct: Isolated Individuals, Impure Institutions, or an Inevitable Idiom of Modern Science?

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Abstract

This paper identifies three distinct narratives concerning scientific misconduct: a narrative of “individual impurity” promoted by those wishing to see science self-regulated; a narrative of “institutional impropriety” promoted by those seeking greater external control of science; and a narrative of “structural crisis” among those critiquing the entire process of research itself. The paper begins by assessing contemporary definitions and estimates of scientific misconduct. It emphasizes disagreements over such definitions and estimates as a way to tease out tension and controversy over competing visions of scientific research. It concludes by noting that each narrative suggests a different approach for resolving misconduct, and that the difference inherent in these views may help explain much of the discord concerning unethical behavior in the scientific community.

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