Valid logical inferences, scientific integrity, ethics, and authenticity in the neoliberal academic climate

This is an excerpt form my PhD dissertation which can be accessed under the following URL: http://phd-thesis.ga

The correct adjustment of α-levels is a logical prerequisite for valid inferences and conclusions (that is, in the NHST framework). However, if stringent (appropriate) α-control techniques would be applied, many experiments would not reach statistical significance at the conventional α level (and hence would not get published). This also applies to the “institution-wide error rate”, that is the total number of hypotheses which are tested within a given institution over a given period of time. In other words, if researchers within a given institution would apply more conservative criteria, the ranking of the institution would suffer (the ranking is based on research metrics like the total number of publications). It can be seen, that many extraneous illogical factors prevent research from applying proper statistical error correction methods, independent of their logical validity. We term these factors “extralogical factors” in order to emphasise their independence from purely rational scientific considerations. We argue that extralogical factor seriously impede scientific progress and that they compromise scientific integrity. Furthermore, we argue that interpersonal personality predispositions play an important role in this scenario. Intrinsically motivated researchers focus less on external reinforcement and are more focused on knowledge and accuracy as an inherent intrinsic reward (Sorrentino, Yamaguchi, Kuhl, & Keller, 2008). By contrast, extrinsically motivated researchers are primarily motivated by external rewards. It follows, that under the prevailing reinforcement schedule, intrinsically motivated researchers are in a disadvantaged position, even though their virtuous attitudes are most conducive to scientific progress (Kanfer, 2009; Maslow, 1970). Unfortunately, economic interests dominate academia, a phenomenon Noam Chomsky termed “the corporatization of the university” (Chomsky, 2011) and the ideals of Humboldtian science and education (Hanns Reill, 1994) (e.g., corporate autonomy of universities, holistic academic education) are currently largely supplanted by the military-industrial-entertainment complex (see Chomsky, 2011) and the associated Taylorism (Littler, 1978).
In his analysis “how America’s great university system is being destroyed”, Chomsky points out that faculty are increasingly hired on the Walmart model” (Punch & Chomsky, 2014). This has obviously implications for the conduct of researchers. If publication metrics are a crucial factor which determines job-security and promotion, then the prevailing incentive contingencies reinforce a focus on self-serving motives which might be incompatible with scientific virtuous which require an altruistic orientation (Edwards & Roy, 2017). The behavioural effects of the prevailing reinforcement contingencies can be largely accounted for in a simple behaviouristic S-R model.
For an extended discussion of this extremely important problem see the article by Henry Steck (2003) entitled “Corporatization of the University: Seeking Conceptual Clarity” published in “The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science”. The article concludes: “To the extent that a corporatized university is no university or corporate values are not academic values … it is the burden for faculty to address the issue of protecting traditional academic values” (p.66). Several insightful books have been published on this topic by Oxford (Ginsberg, 2011) and Harvard (Newfield, 2008) University Press, inter alia. The following books provide an in-depth analysis of the situation:
• “Neoliberalism and the global restructuring of knowledge and education” (S. C. Ward, 2012),
• “Global neoliberalism and education and its consequences” (Hill & Kumar, 2009),
• “On Miseducation” (Chomsky & Macedo, 2000)
• “Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media” (Chomsky, 1992)
Relevant articles include:
• “Educating consent? A conversation with Noam Chomsky on the university and business school education” (P. Fleming & Oswick, 2014)
• “Neoliberalism, higher education and the knowledge economy: From the free market to knowledge capitalism” (Olssen & Peters, 2005)
In this context, we also recommend a review of Edward Bernays’ classical work which is important for a basic understanding of mass-psychology (E. L. Bernays, 1928, 1936). This “neo-liberal” shift in academic values and priorities has ramifications for the foundations of science which cannot be underestimated. When universities compete on a “free market” for funding (based on ranking positions) on the basis of the number of publications, α-error control techniques which would limit the output of publications are a topic which is unconsciously or consciously avoided for obvious reasons. For instance “universities have attempted to game the system by redistributing resources or investing in areas that the ranking metrics emphasize” (Edwards & Roy, 2017, p. 54). Related sociological research examined “how and why the practice of ranking universities has become widely defined by national and international organisations as an important instrument of political and economic policy” (Amsler & Bolsmann, 2012). The reader might question the relevance of this discussion for the research at hand. In anticipation of such an objection we would like to accentuate that these considerations are of practical importance for the calculations of significance levels in the current experiments. Besides, they have real-world implication for the way in which null results are reported (or ignored). Recall the so called “file-drawer effect” (a.k.a. “publication bias”) which systematically distorts the validity and reliability of scientific inferences because negative results are not reported in the literature (Asendorpf & Conner, 2012; Borenstein et al., 2009; Kepes, Banks, McDaniel, & Whetzel, 2012; Mathew & Charney, 2009; Møllerand & Jennions, 2001; Jeffrey D. Scargle, 1999; Thornton & Lee, 2000).

Edwards, M. A., & Roy, S.. (2017). Academic Research in the 21st Century: Maintaining Scientific Integrity in a Climate of Perverse Incentives and Hypercompetition. Environmental Engineering Science

, 34(1), 51–61.
Plain numerical DOI: 10.1089/ees.2016.0223
DOI URL
directSciHub download

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *