A fascinating account of how UC Berkeley grad student David Broockman exposed the scientific fraud of UCLA grad student Michael LaCour, whose paper on the influence of canvassing on people's opinions on same-sex marriage was retracted last week by Science at the request of its co-author, Columbia professor Donald Green.
Among the appalling details: LaCour said his survey involved 10,000 people being paid $100 each, which comes to a million dollars--far more than a non-wealthy grad student could afford. And not only did the polling firm LaCour cited say it had not worked with him--the employee he cited at the firm did not even exist.
Of course the scandal is troubling, and raises concerns about the lack of resources given by universities for peer review. But this story is also encouraging because the fraud came to light thanks to the industriousness and persistence of Broockman, who became suspicious while trying to replicate LaCour's results. Those on the right inclined to crow over this scandal should pause first to consider their own sourcing. Much of the alleged dated cited by the anti-gay right can be traced to notorious junk scientist Paul Cameron's Family Research Institute. The far right's contempt for peer-reviewed science is in stark contrast with the integrity of Broockman and the quick mea culpa and retraction by Green once the evidence for the fraud was brought to his attention.
Time and again, anti-gay bigots treat science as weaker and less reliable than their religious dogma because scientific findings are subject to correction and refutation, in contrast to the dogmatists' certainty. I have never understood how this is persuasive to anyone. Perfect knowledge is not something that humans can possess. We are always questioning and pressing forward and jostling one another and testing our hypotheses. The human struggle of science is responsible for the modern world. If you'd prefer the Dark Ages, don't expect the rest of us to follow you there.
Broockman has been flooded with praise from his colleagues, and deservedly so. Data and research are valuable, but they must be honest and solid. He does his profession proud.