“Making It Up: Histories of Research Integrity and Fraud in Scientific Practice”

Office for the History of Science, Uppsala University, 12-14 April, 2018

Conference Announcement and Call for Papers

Deadline for submission: 15 May 2017

We announce a conference at the Office for the History of Science, Uppsala University to take place April 12-14, 2018 on the topic of “Making It Up: Histories of Research Integrity and Fraud in Scientific Practice.”  We call for papers that explore the history of research integrity and fraud, including the question of how the meaning and consequences of these terms have changed over time and the quotidian work involved in the construction of ‘clean’ experimental data and identifiable artifacts. One or more special issues are planned for publishable versions of accepted contributions.

Since at least the publication of works such as Leviathan and the Air Pump, historians have demonstrated their sensitivity to the fact that categories such as ‘integrity’, ‘fraud’ and ‘misconduct’ are not natural. Rather they reflect historically situated consensus regarding what constitutes – at least the appearance of – acceptable conduct in the pursuit of research and modes of reporting. Some of the most iconic controversies in the history of science have centered on the question of acceptable scientific conduct. An examination of research integrity and fraud opens up to nothing less than the history of science’s moral economy: How have its institutional landscape and constraints on individual practitioners changed over time? What sorts of concrete work has this led to in the daily pursuit of ‘clean’ experimental data, identifiable artifacts, etc.?

The 21st century has seen a rash of high-profile cases of scientists fabricating or misrepresenting results in fields from biotechnology to social psychology.  These incidents have spawned a cottage industry of metastudies claiming a “replication crisis.”  Politicians, government agencies, and national academies have invoked allegations of fraud in – sometimes disingenuously – questioning scientists’ expertise and calling for greater transparency in science.  Yet the same actors seem reluctant to address structural conditions that encourage fraud: competition for scarce research funding, more demanding criteria for tenure and promotion, corporate partners who demand results that can be monetized.

Historians of science and scholars in science and technology studies (STS) have a unique perspective on research integrity and fraud.  Constructivist studies show that scientific practice is more ambiguous and complex than today’s fraud hunters admit.  Yet the constructivist toolkit is ill-equipped to deal with outright fraud.  Hence, popular histories outnumber academic studies of science’s con artists.  Historians and STS scholars have also specialized so much in micro-studies that they have been slow to appreciate how systemic conditions can incentivize misconduct – leaving the issue instead to scholars employing quantitative approaches.  The present environment encourages historians and STS scholars to sharpen their concepts and show what qualitative studies can reveal about scientific fraud and misconduct, on one hand, and integrity on the other.

We invite papers that focus on any historical period between the second half of the seventeenth century and the present.  Geographical focus is also open; non-Western topics and transnational studies connecting the Global North and South are especially encouraged.

Topics include, but are not limited to:

Replication: how it has been constructed, theorized, contested, evaluated

Attribution: disputes over authorship, plagiarism, priority

Fraud: how it has been claimed, practiced, discovered, measured, dramatized

Social movements and scientific “integrity”: e.g., anti-vivisection and anti-nuclear movements

Tricksterism: enacting fraud to ostensibly expose fraud (e.g., N-rays or the Sokal hoax)

Fraud, integrity, and changes in the research system, e.g. in patenting, funding, tenure review

Thought experiments and discovery myths: historicizing experiments described but not done

Fraudulent institutions: fake conferences, universities, and journals

The ambiguous and evolving politics of transparency and “open data”

Abstracts of 250 words should be submitted by 15 May 2017.  Some funding is available to support participation. A selection of papers from the conference will be included in one or more special issues to be published in History of Science.

Send inquiries and submissions to:

Cyrus Mody – [email protected]

Otto Sibum – [email protected]

Willem Halffman- [email protected]

Lissa Roberts – [email protected]