Buying VotesYoung people got a lesson in how our democracy...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

December 20, 1993

Buying Votes

Young people got a lesson in how our democracy works recently: "Come into my parlor; I massage your back, then you massage my back. And use plenty of lotion; it's all paid for by the taxpayers."

Look, if Bill Clinton can buy votes, why can't that lady governor in New Jersey do the same?

Ben Sauter

Baltimore

Outpatient Center

Richard O'Mara's piece about Johns Hopkins' Outpatient Center was disappointing.

The building is not a white elephant, nor is it ''lavish.'' Patients and staff are uniformly delighted with it. It is accessible, safe, comfortable and efficient. We who work there receive compliments on our clinic every day.

Far from its being a white elephant, our current concern is that it may not have been big enough. Building Design and Construction call it ''all clean lines, simple geometries and no-frills finishes . . . institutional in nature, uncluttered by ornament or ostentation.'' Hardly lavish.

Your correspondent paints a picture of an institution for which patient care is a new and unwelcome activity. Not so. Hopkins doctors are committed to clinical care. We enjoy it and we're delighted to have a building where we can do it well.

Thomas Traill, M.D.

Baltimore

The writer is associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Science Fraud

The scientific community takes dishonesty very seriously. Research universities carefully investigate charges of suspected fraud and punish guilty faculty and students. Guilty students have been expelled and guilty scientists have been barred from research and teaching.

Although these deplorable incidents of fraud are rare and generally not publicized, the cases are known among faculty and students because of the severe sanctions levied against guilty individuals.

Thus it is not surprising that a survey of science faculty and students by Judith Swazey et al. (American Scientist Vol. 81) found that 6 to 9 percent of respondents had some personal knowledge of fraud by faculty members (defined by the National Academy of Science as '' fabrication, falsification or plagiarism in proposing or reporting research.'')

In spite of occasional cases of fraud, the vast bulk of the scientific literature is accurate. After rigorous per review and revision, the papers published in leading scientific journals are among the most reliable sources of information in our society.

Daniel Greenberg used the Swazey report to take the scientific community to task for failing to ''demonstrate a deep distaste for misconduct and a willingness to crack down on it'' (Opinion * Commentary Nov. 30).

Greenberg states falsely that the Swazey article found that ''faculty reported a high incidence of plagiarism among the graduate students and a lesser, though not insignificant, amount among faculty colleagues.''

Quite to the contrary, Swazey et al. state clearly, ''Our results do not measure the actual frequency of misconduct -- instead, our questionnaires sought rates of exposure to perceived misconduct. One cannot estimate from our data what percentage of faculty or graduate students in a given department or in the four disciplines may be engaging in a particular type of misconduct or questionable research practice.''

Given these caveats by the authors themselves, it is unfair of Greenberg to cite the Swazey study as evidence for a high incidence of fraud in science.

Greenberg misleads readers by selectively omitting essential details about the Swazey study. For example, he writes ''about 20 percent of the faculty claimed personal knowledge of colleagues ignoring regulations governing research on humans and animals.'' Swazey actually asked if the respondent ''observed or had other direct evidence of others' ignoring research policies (animal care, human subjects, biosafety, etc).'' Greenberg omits ''biosafety, etc'', the categories where violations are most likely.

For example, disposing of broken glass in a laboratory trash can is a biosafety violation vastly more prevalent than cases of ignoring human research protocols.

Selectively presenting data and misquoting published work are forms of misconduct in science. The same standards should apply on The Sun's pages, particularly when the article concerns alleged misconduct in science.

Thomas D. Pollard

Baltimore

The writer is professor of cell biology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and a past president of the Biophysicial Society.

Out of Business

The article ''For one day, Baltimoreans make a street corner stand'' (Nov. 27) gave a more compelling message in the title than in the content of the article.

For one day, the street corners of Baltimore were ours again when community residents, church groups, city officials and police officers participated in the ''Going Out of Business Day'' event to keep drug dealers from selling drugs on city streets.

Participants stood in large groups on various Baltimore city street corners known for drug sales holding anti-drug signs.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.