Monday, June 07, 2010

Is Academic Fraud a part of Academic Freedom? Are People in Academia or Universities Immune from the Laws when they are involved in Academic Work?

Dahlia Lithwick and Richard Schragger have an article at Slate which they title Jefferson v. Cuccinelli: Does the Constitution really protect a right to "academic freedom"?, a headline which severely begs the question to be answered (i.e. which assumes as true the very point at issue).

linked from the Daily Express

The question begged is: Who says that the alleged climate research fraud by academics in the instant case constitutes academic freedom? Since when is fraud at the university level immune from the ambit of the fraud laws? Even a staunch advocate of academic freedom must draw the line somewhere as to what is allowed and what is forbidden. Academia is not a law-free zone.

Does academic freedom protect outright academic fraud? Can one school of academic thought illegally quash opposing schools of thought and in the process cash in monopolistically on government monies -- laughing all the way to the bank under the guise of "academic freedom"?

What does any of that have to do with "free speech" or "Constitutional" protections?

Institutions of higher learning are not law-free zones nor are they bastions of unbiased research. Quite the contrary -- mainstream academia is all about money, power, position and success. It is a competitive, selfish environment just like any other.

We refer here particularly to the well-known theories of Imre Lakatos.

Lakatos is known particularly for his idea that the "basic unit" of science is not scientific theory but rather the research program, which propagates itself through increased funding over competition and through growing content, i.e. increased publication, which is a direct result of the CONTROLLED peer review publication process.

It is exactly these areas of academic "manipulation" that are involved in the legal proceeding described below, manifesting the same fundamental "units" of science defined by Lakatos.

At issue is "Climategate" and the specific case of Jefferson v. Cuccinelli, a petition filed by the University of Virginia to quash a subpoena by Virginia State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. The subpoena was issued under a state fraud statute and demands the release of UVA documents (e.g. thousands of emails) of former faculty member Michael Mann (now at Penn State). Mann is one of the academics rightly or wrongly implicated in the Climategate scandal.

As Rosalind S. Helderman writes at the Washington Post in U-Va. goes to court to fight Cuccinelli's subpoena of ex-professor's documents:
"Cuccinelli, a vocal skeptic of global warming who is suing the Environmental Protection Agency over the issue, has said he is investigating whether Mann committed fraud by knowingly skewing data as he sought publicly funded grants for his research."
This is no small matter. Climategate spans the globe. As written by James Delingpole at the Telegraph in the UK (December 2, 2009):
"5. Legal actions ahoy!

At Ian Plimer’s lunch talk yesterday, Viscount Monckton talked of at least two [law suits] in the offing – both by scientists, one British, one Canadian, who intend to pursue the CRU [Climatic Research Unit at University of East Anglia] for criminal fraud. Their case, quite simply, is that the scientists implicated in Climategate have gained funding and career advancement by twisting data, hiding evidence, and shutting out dissenters by corrupting the peer-review process."
Climategate -- in terms of the theories of Lakatos -- thus clearly involves a "power struggle" within academia for the spoils gained by researching the climate.

It is not at its root a struggle over the truth or falsity of scientific theories about climate, as academic freedom proponents want to claim.

The universities themselves of course do not want the "State" to meddle in their business and of course never see any wrongdoing by their own members, much in the same manner as the Roman Catholic Church protects child-abusing criminals in the ranks of its own ecclesiastical servants.

We have previously written at length on this topic -- see the following examples of many:

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