Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

The Baltimore Case Misrepresents a Major Piece of Evidence

Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

The Baltimore Case Misrepresents a Major Piece of Evidence

Article excerpt

The Baltimore Case (Kevles, i998) describes a long train of events that started with the accusation by scientist Margot O'Toole that a paper on immunology co-authored by David Baltimore was in part not supported by its experimental data, and ended with the exoneration of Thereza ImanishiKari, a co-author of the disputed paper, by the appeals board of the Department of Health and Human Services (D.H.H.S.). Consequences include the discrediting of the O[double dagger]ce of Research Integrity (O.R.I.) of D.H.H.S., which had prosecuted Imanishi-Kari, and placing higher obstacles in the path of whistleblowers.

Widely praised, the book is strongly biased in favor of Imanishi-Kari. For example, when Walter Stewart, a supporter of O'Toole, is described as being "...mistaken, of course," about something (Kevles, p. i75), the "of course" leaves no doubt of Kevles's sympathies. Obvious bias is its own warning label. "Author is a salesman," it says. There is no such label on false facts. One in Kevles's book conceals important information from the reader. The evidence against Imanishi-Kari easiest to understand lies in some additional data sets she used in defending the paper. The data were numbers, and in these numbers integers in non-significant digits were remarkably far from evenly distributed. People who try to make up random numbers over-use some integers and under-use others.

At the appeal hearing Imanishi-Kari's own expert Terence Speed said that the integer preferences "...are clearly the result of some sort of human intervention" (Kevles, p. 346). Imanishi-Kari's explanation was that the numbers were "casually rounded" (O.R.I., i994). Kevles wrote that "The question was whether the intervention involved the fabrication of phony numbers or the oddball recording of real ones. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.