On reviewing scientific work from known sexual harassers, retaliators, bigots and generalized jerks of science

On a recent post, DNAMan asks:

If you were reviewing an NIH proposal from a PI who was a known (or widely rumored) sexual harasser, would you take that into account? How?

My immediate answer was:

I don't know about "widely rumored". But if I was convinced someone was a sexual harasser this would render me unable to fairly judge the application. So I would recuse myself and tell the SRO why I was doing so. As one is expected to do for any conflicts that one recognizes about the proposal.

I'm promoting this to a new post because this also came up in the Twitter discussion of Lander's toast of Jim Watson. Apparently this is not obvious to everyone.

One is supposed to refuse to review grant proposals, and manuscripts submitted for publication, if one feels that one has a conflict of interest that renders the review biased. This is very clear. Formal guidelines tend to concentrate on personal financial benefits (i.e. standing to gain from a company in which one has ownership or other financial interest), institutional benefits (i.e., you cannot review NIH grants submitted from your University since the University is, after all, the applicant and you are an agent of that University) and mentoring / collaborating interests (typically expressed as co-publication or mentoring formally in past three years). Nevertheless there is a clear expectation, spelled out in some cases, that you should refuse to take a review assignment if you feel that you cannot be unbiased.

This is beyond any formal guidelines. A general ethical principle.

There is a LOT of grey area.

As I frequently relate, in my early years when a famous Editor asked me to review a manuscript from one of my tighter science homies and I pointed out this relationship I was told "If I had to use that standard as the Editor I would never get anything reviewed. Just do it. I know you are friends.".

I may also have mentioned that when first on study section I queried an SRO about doing reviews for PIs who were scientifically sort of close to my work. I was told a similar thing about how reviews would never get done if vaguely working in the same areas and maybe one day competing on some topic were the standard for COI recusal.

So we are, for the most part, left up to our own devices and ethics about when we identify a bias in ourselves and refuse to do peer review because of this conflict.

I have occasionally refused to review an NIH grant because the PI was simply too good of a friend. I can't recall being asked to review a grant proposal from anyone I dislike personally or professionally enough to trigger my personal threshold.

I am convinced, however, that I would recuse myself from the review of proposals or manuscripts from any person that I know to be a sexual harasser, a retaliator and/or a bigot against women, underrepresented groups generally, LGBTQ, and the like.

There is a flavor of apologist for Jim Watson (et rascalia) that wants to pursue a "slippery slope" argument. Just Asking the Questions. You know the type. One or two of these popped up on twitter over the weekend but I'm too lazy to go back and find the thread.

The JAQ-off response is along the lines of "What about people who have politics you don't like? Would you recuse yourself from a Trump voter?".

The answer is no.

Now sure, the topic of implicit or unconscious bias came up and it is problematic for sure. We cannot recuse ourselves when we do not recognize our bias. But I would argue that this does not in any way suggest that we shouldn't recuse ourselves when we DO recognize our biases. There is a severity factor here. I may have implicit bias against someone in my field that I know to be a Republican. Or I may not. And when there is a clear and explicit bias, we should recuse.

I do not believe that people who have proven themselves to be sexual harassers or bigots on the scale of Jim Watson deserve NIH grant funding. I do not believe their science is going to be so much superior to all of the other applicants that it needs to be funded. And so if the NIH disagrees with me, by letting them participate in peer review, clearly I cannot do an unbiased job of what NIH is asking me to do.

The manuscript review issue is a bit different. It is not zero-sum and I never review that way, even for the supposedly most-selective journals that ask me to review. There is no particular reason to spread scoring, so to speak, as it would be done for grant application review. But I think it boils down to essentially the same thing. The Editor has decided that the paper should go out for review and it is likely that I will be more critical than otherwise.

So....can anyone see any huge problems here? Peer review of grants and manuscripts is opt-in. Nobody is really obliged to participate at all. And we are expected to manage the most obvious of biases by recusal.

38 responses so far

  • Morgan Price says:

    I think it would be trouble if everyone followed your approach for manuscripts. For instance, if everyone knows that X is a harasser, should articles from X's lab not be published?

  • DNAman says:

    I have a very different view on this. I don't see it as a bias, but more as you would have a deeper understanding of the application than most. With your experience and knowledge, you can judge the investigator better, just as someone else might have a better understanding of the approach or environment.

    If the application is for the guy to lock himself in a room and write some big problem solving software that everyone could use, then I'd give a good score.

    If the application is for the guy to head up a training grant where he mentors women scientists, then I'd give a bad score.

    What if it was a guy you knew had a habit of faking data? Would you just recuse yourself then too? What if it was someone you'd met professionally who you thought was brilliant and way ahead of everyone in the field? Recuse because you are too biased in favor?

    I don't see how knowledge of the investigator counts as bias/conflict.

  • Neuro-conservative says:

    I do not believe that people who have proven themselves to be sexual harassers or bigots on the scale of Jim Watson deserve NIH grant funding. I do not believe their science is going to be so much superior to all of the other applicants that it needs to be funded.

    I'm guessing that Jim Watson held the same views in 1953. And yet, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say his science at that time was superior to pretty much all others. You need to base your conclusions on a more sound foundation.

  • El Picador says:

    It wasn’t superior. Everyone agrees that while Watson and Crick got there first, someone else would have made the same assertion within a short timeframe.

  • Emaderton3 says:

    What would be the threshold for misconduct that would cause one not to review a grant? How would you reconcile unsubstantiated claims or rumors? As with anything, it will just take one person whom is wrongly judged or later proven completely innocent to throw a monkey wrench in to the whole thing.

  • drugmonkey says:

    What would be the threshold for misconduct that would cause one not to review a grant?
    A conviction from an official institutional process seems like one obvious threshold.

    How would you reconcile unsubstantiated claims or rumors?
    I would think that you would use your professional judgment, just as you do for the other types of conflicts.

    As with anything, it will just take one person whom is wrongly judged or later proven completely innocent to throw a monkey wrench in to the whole thing.

    And as is typical, this type of bullshit chaff of "what if the innocentz????" is an attempt to continue to derail any consequences for the guilty. It is obvious from the cases of sexual harassment that we know about that the people who are finally busted have a history of repeated bad behavior, a history of multiple complainants being ignored/shushed and a frequently a history of having skated off scott free in a pass-the-trash scenario. In contrast, the number of people who have been professionally pilloried in any serious way for "accidentally looking at one woman's breasts that one time" is.... um, zero.

    Look, of course there are scenarios when a false complaint is levied against a professor. And they are very uncomfortable and undeserved and terrible. My point is that they are not somehow leading to people being booted from the academy because the burden of proof is always on the complainant.

  • drugmonkey says:

    What if it was someone you'd met professionally who you thought was brilliant and way ahead of everyone in the field? Recuse because you are too biased in favor?
    Obviously not. A peer reviewer's opinion of the science and the talents of the investigator to pursue future science (in grant review) is explicitly the point of the exercise. Why do people raise ridiculous stuff like this?

    What if it was a guy you knew had a habit of faking data? Would you just recuse yourself then too?
    I'm not sure. One is supposed to raise suspicions of scientific fraud with the SRO outside of the written critique or discussion. I suppose I would do that if ever asked to review a proposal from a PI I knew "had a habit of faking data". (how I would "know" this, and the person still be permitted to submit applications, is a bit of a mystery to me)

    I don't see how knowledge of the investigator counts as bias/conflict.
    My point is that it can, not that it does.

  • drugmonkey says:

    It is sometimes really disturbing that everything has already been addressed on this blog before
    http://drugmonkey.scientopia.org/2016/07/07/repost-why-arent-they-citing-my-papers/#comment-214317

  • Jaws says:

    There's a corollary of this issue that deserves more attention (and I'm not pretending to have "the answer" to either the questions directly raised by the issue or the questions raised by the corollary — just, perhaps, more awareness that they exist):

    What consequences, if any, should flow from a FAILURE to acknowledge a conflict of interest or take appropriate action when demonstrated (under the appropriate level of confidence)?
    * Should there be a consequence to the beneficiary of the conflict, if someone benefitted from a "positive" conflict?
    * Should there be a benefit in favor of the victim of the conflict, if someone was harmed from a direct "negative" conflict?
    * Given that this is competitive, how much "rescoring" and restating of results is appropriate?
    * Finally, and most dangerously, should there be a consequence for the person who did not properly step away from that conflict... and how should it be enforced, and for how long, and what about everyone else in that person's lab?

  • drugmonkey says:

    What consequences, if any, should flow from a FAILURE to acknowledge a conflict of interest or take appropriate action when demonstrated (under the appropriate level of confidence)?
    The head of the CSR has been referring somewhat cryptically of late to one or more cases of shenanigans in NIH grant review. The implications seem to be that they are trying to discipline the perps. Stay tuned to the ORI findings....

    Should there be a consequence to the beneficiary of the conflict, if someone benefitted from a "positive" conflict?
    * Should there be a benefit in favor of the victim of the conflict, if someone was harmed from a direct "negative" conflict?

    I say yes and yes. However NIH seems to frequently continue grants under a new PI when there has been a fraud conviction or harassment finding. WRT the idea of going back to the original funding round and try to figure out who was next in line and therefore should get, e.g. a free grant? In my fondest dreams, sure, but this seems very difficult to do.

    ....not sure what your last two questions are addressing? what "rescoring"? and isn't the last just asking the first question again?

  • GM says:

    In contrast, the number of people who have been professionally pilloried in any serious way for "accidentally looking at one woman's breasts that one time" is.... um, zero.

    You are empirically seriously mistaken here. Unfortunately, I cannot prove it without listing names and cases (and I cannot do that), so you will have to take my word for it (we're talking about things I have witnessed myself directly and I can vouch for the innocence of the accused and the maliciousness of the accusations).

    A lot of completely innocent people have had their lives wrecked thanks to the feminist witch hunts of the last few years.

    Most of them have been grad students and postdocs though, which is maybe why you do not know that much about it. The big names do tend to only get ousted after repeated offenses, there we probably agree.

  • drugmonkey says:

    A lot of completely innocent people have had their lives wrecked thanks to the feminist witch hunts of the last few years.

    Describing this as "feminist witch hunts" seriously hurts the credibility of your assertions about these things you've allegedly "witnessed directly". So no, I'm not taking your word for it.

    The cases where there are repeated and consistent patterns of harassment are built on numerous events in which they and their defenders assert innocence. And decry "witch hunts". Accusations about the supposed feminist conspiracy agenda are also common. Accusers are claimed to be malicious fakers with mysterious hatreds against the supposedly innocent person. Who "did nothing". And yet, in the end, we are all pretty well convinced by the pattern that has emerged that the person was not innocent, they did do something, repeatedly and their accusers were not evil harridan feminists out to pursue an evil conspiratorial agenda against the innocent.

    I'm open to the notion that there are these huge numbers of poor victims of false accusation of harassment and retaliation out there. I just need a little more than the usual protestations from people who can't help but show their ass by using rwnj terminology like "feminist witch hunt".

    Maybe all these innocent victims need their "me too" moment?

  • GM says:

    Once again, I cannot talk with names of institutions, people and details of cases, for reasons I should not have to be explaining.

    But I shouldn't really have to do that anyway, because the details of sufficiently many cases have been made public, and they are no less outrageous than what I have observed personally.

    We're talking about an extremely toxic combination of females using accusation of sexual assault to extort institutions and colleagues, and crazy feminist administrators enabling and encouraging that sort of behavior. In the process the lives of males who did absolutely nothing wrong have been wrecked.

    And the ratio of innocent people having suffered that way to real harassers is a lot closer to 50/50 than to 0/100

    If you are not aware of these cases, you have zero right to comment on these topics, because you reveal yourself to be totally uninformed about the reality on the ground.

  • feminist says:

    How about you give an example of one of these public ones? You are just talking in vague generalities

  • drugmonkey says:

    And the ratio of innocent people having suffered that way to real harassers is a lot closer to 50/50 than to 0/100

    If you are not aware of these cases, you have zero right to comment on these topics, because you reveal yourself to be totally uninformed about the reality on the ground.

    I don't believe you. and no, I don't want you to name any names or talk about any situations that are not in the public domain on this blog.

    I just don't see how if this was such a problem that there isn't more evidence for it. There are no published surveys. There is no substantial body of public media news accounts that testify to an equal ratio. Personally, I've heard of exactly one such tale from within academia in the past 15 years or so that I am willing to chalk up to an innocent guy coming under false accusation. Of course it was all resolved in his favor, life was unwrecked.

    I have been around academics my entire life past the age of about 18 months and been employed as a professional academic for something over half of my life. I have a spouse in academics. I've run this blog for over 10 years which gives me a window onto some areas of academia that I would otherwise not brush up against. People have a tendency to relate things to me to both educate my ignorance on the blog (as they see it) and because it is an outlet that may not affect their IRL persons as directly.

    In short, I have every right to comment on these topics.

    As do you.

    We're talking about an extremely toxic combination of females using accusation of sexual assault to extort institutions and colleagues, and crazy feminist administrators enabling and encouraging that sort of behavior.

    The preferred term here is "women". When you use "females" you sound like a Ferengi. Also, "crazy feminist" hardly makes you sound like the sane one here.

  • GM says:

    Also, "crazy feminist" hardly makes you sound like the sane one here.

    OK,first, so let's get this out of the way.

    Nobody can be simultaneously a real scientist and a feminist.

    That is the exact equivalent of an atheist working as a Mormon preacher. No exaggeration. The exact same thing.

    And if you do not understand that, that speaks extremely extremely badly either of your worth as a scientist, your understanding of the nature of modern feminism, or both.

    You can be a very productive scientific worker and a feminist at the same time, but you cannot be a real scientist and be anything else but anti-feminist. Philosophically the two things are completely absolutely incompatible. If you are a feminist, you are adopting an epistemology that is the exact opposite of the one that science is founded on, which means that you are rejecting science as a valid approach towards understanding the world. Which makes you some combination of a mere technician and/or a partisan ideologically blind hack, not a real scientist.

    Sorry to be blunt but this is how it is.

    Second, why is it that "victims should be believed", but I should not be? Based on what criterion?

    Third, as I will have to repeat myself, the fact that you do not know of any public cases speaks volumes about how poorly educated you are about the situation in universities. The Campus Rape Frenzy by Johnson and Taylor is both a very good source of individual cases and a critical examination of general statistics regarding the situation. It focuses mostly on undergraduates (though there cases with PhD students too) because that's where things are at their worst right now, but what I have observed happen to multiple people around me at the graduate and post-graduate level reveals exactly the same picture.

    Why is it that you haven't noticed? Maybe it is a coincidence and it hasn't happened around you. Maybe you work at a research institute with no Title IX office to push for and conduct the witch hunts. Or maybe your are so ideologically blinkered that you do not count the 18 months someone has to spend fighting kangaroo courts as a waste of a significant chunk of one's life if that fight turns out to be successful, because that person is male, and hey, males cannot suffer, they're the oppressors, they can take it. Maybe it is some other reason. But that doesn't change what is happening out there on the ground every day.

  • Zuska says:

    GM, you are a hoot. Honestly, every time I read one of your comments here I feel like I've time-traveled to 1985 - you so remind me of the overwrought editorials penned by distraught male undergrads in the student paper at Duke, freaked out because their frat brother's girlfriend's roommate had taken a women's studies course. Feminism is, of course, famously completely impotent as a theory AND simultaneously an overwhelming threat to All We Hold Dear As Scientists. You cannot be a scientist and a feminist at the same time! And/or, feminists are invading science departments and destroying science! If you are a feminist, then you are a mere worker bee. And/or, feminists have taken over the universities and are calling all the ideological shots! (and destroying science!)
    Feminism: the all-powerful nothingburger bogeyman fantasy of scared boys everywhere.

  • A Salty Scientist says:

    For hoots GM, please define feminism for us.

    why is it that "victims should be believed", but I should not be?

    False reports for sexual assaults are estimated to be between 2-10%. Approximately 2/3 of sexual assaults are never reported. This is nowhere near 50:50. A Bayesian would err on the side of believing the victims.

  • GM says:

    False reports for sexual assaults are estimated to be between 2-10%.

    Thank you very much for providing immediate confirmation of how one cannot be a feminist and a good scientist. You know it is 2-10% how exactly (to your credit, at least you cited it as 2-10%, many people just say "less than 2%")? Ever bothered to examine the evidence? No, you have not, and I know you have not because the book I cited does exactly that and it turns out that that claim is fabricated out of thin air. But you would never question it because the low value usually thrown around conveniently fits your preconceived notions and ossified ideological commitments so you accept it. But that is not how a true scientist is supposed to approach the world around him.

    @ Zuska. If you have something of substance to say, please do. For example, if you can explain to us how things like standpoint epistemology are compatible with the scientific method, that would be great. If you cannot do that, you are a troll plain and simple.

  • feminist says:

    Can you be a Christian and a scientist? How about a Hindu and a scientist? Or a soccer fanatic and a scientist? What is the "epistemology that ... science is founded on"? How does that differ from that of "feminism"? For that matter, what is your understanding of what feminism is?

  • GM says:

    Can you be a Christian and a scientist?

    No. You can be a Christian and work in science, but working in science is not equivalent to being a scientist.

    How about a Hindu and a scientist?

    See above.

    Or a soccer fanatic and a scientist?

    Yes, because being a soccer fanatic is not tied to any foundational philosophical commitments,

    What is the "epistemology that ... science is founded on"?

    If you do not now that, whoever trained/is training you did a very poor job.

    How does that differ from that of "feminism"? For that matter, what is your understanding of what feminism is?

    Much better than your apparently.

  • A Salty Scientist says:

    @GM, you still have refused to define feminism and explain why it is incompatible with science. You also have cited a book to refute estimates of false allegations, instead of stating why the numbers from these studies are wrong (and if they are wrong, why sexual assault would have more false allegations than other serious crimes). While I doubt you will be able to convince anyone, actually arguing for your position would be more effective than insulting people.

  • DNAman says:

    I'm going to defend GM here a bit because I read that book, "Campus Rape Frenzy".

    The percentage of false accusations is hard to put a solid number on because it really depends on the definition. That book is highly critical of this author, but I think this paper is a good read if you want to understand the problem
    https://atixa.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Lisak-False-Allegations-16-VAW-1318-2010.pdf

    The short story is that to define the percentage of false allegations you need two numbers: the number proven false and the total number of allegations. What you really have is the number proven guilty and the total number of allegations.

    There's a huge gap between number proven true, guilty,and number proven false. Many cases are dropped because the witness doesn't want to proceed or the defendant is in jail on other charges, etc. These are never proven true or false. The way you divide that middle ground can change your false allegation percentage from small to large.

    The other part of the book that makes good sense is that universities should really get out of the business of adjudicating criminal behavior. If one student alleges another student raped her, that's a police issue that should be decided by the courts. It's not an issue for the vice dean of student life to "investigate" and render a decision on.

    I don't know what GM's talking about with regards to feminism/science. So I've got no defense there. I know plenty of feminists who are very good scientists.

  • GM says:

    I don't know what GM's talking about with regards to feminism/science. So I've got no defense there. I know plenty of feminists who are very good scientists.

    I think you are falling for the usual linguistic trick applied.

    There is:

    1) "feminism" as "women should have equal rights".

    2) Then there is "feminism" as a philosophy with all its postmodernist foundations.

    3) There is also "feminism" as a supremacy movement.

    What happens is that the first form of feminism is used as a weapon to also force 2) and even 3) on everyone else for how can anyone be against equal rights.

    So if you say that you are anti-feminist, you are immediately accused of thinking that women are subhuman and being a bigot, sexist, etc. Even though that is not at all what you mean, you are against feminism as a supremacy movement (and really, do we have to argue whether supremacy movements of any kind are bad? Also, radical feminists have on many occasions advocated for the complete extermination of the male sex; have male chauvinist pigs on the other side ever done so? which is worse? questions...) and feminism as a postmodernist philosophy.

    Now regarding the postmodernist nature of philosophy, this is where we really enter the territory of poor training on the part of people not understanding that, because I cannot reasonably be expected to provide all that background in the comments section of a blog.

    If you want to be a good scientist (rather than someone who merely works in science), you absolutely need to at the very least adhere to the set of proper epistemological practices that defines science, ideally you would also have spent some time studying the relevant philosophical topics.

    As a scientist, things like standpoint epistemology, arguments from "lived experience", etc. should be as abhorrent to you as a plate of deep fried pork intestines would be in the middle of the Great Mosque of Mecca.

    Thus the only possible position for you is militant anti-feminism under the recognition that feminism in the 21st century has a lot more baggage to it than simply the fight for equal rights (which have been achieved a very long time ago anyway).

    For there will not be any science if this is allowed to continue unopposed.

    Feminists have been launching frontal assaults against science for decades. People like Sandra Harding made careers out of writing about how science is a tool of masculine oppression, promoting standpoint epistemology, denying the existence of objective truth, etc. And it's not even as if that stuff is hard to find, it is being taught in Gender Studies classes all around the country.

    And then you see some very concrete manifestations of the problem today. The debate about race/sex and IQ (or insert your favorite characteristic here) is a classic example. The evidence does not matter. It so happens that the evidence does not support the view that there are major innate differences between groups (on average at least), but what if it had come out the other way? You are basically not allowed to discuss these topics.

    But then there are also issues where views that are in total denial of objective reality and completely against the scientific truth are becoming the norm. The transgender situation is the prime example here.

    So it is not merely an abstract theoretical debate of no immediate relevance.

    How long before they come after evolutionary theory for being transphobic, for example? The only reasons they haven't done so are that, first, they do not understand how transphobic evolutionary theory is because they do not know anything about evolutionary theory to begin with, and second, evolutionary theory is hated by the "right" on religious grounds, so, them being on the "left", they feel that the enemies of their enemies should be their friends. But how long will that state of affairs last?

    Etc.

    If you do not see what all this could potentially lead to, you are not paying attention. And, again, you do not understand what exactly is happening at the fundamental philosophical, worldview level.

    P.S. Going back to the "equal rights" question. If it ever came down to having to choose between:

    A) science continues to exist, but women do not have equal rights and are relegated to being second-class citizens as they used to be back in the days

    and

    B) women have equal rights (or achieve supremacy), but science is destroyed in the process, objective truth is abandoned as a foundantional premise and as a goal, etc.

    Which one would you chose?

    I know we are not having to make that choice right now, and we really should not be having to make that choice as there are other, much better, options, but imagine you have to make it, for the sake of the argument. What you answer will reveal a lot about what is truly important to you and whether you can call yourself a real scientist.

  • drugmonkey says:

    DNAMan-
    So what you are saying is that there is in fact no body of evidence for the supposed large number of proven false allegations that dimwittio here is asserting without evidence. Got it.

  • GM says:

    On the rape epidemic:

    “An estimated one in five women has been sexually assaulted during her college years—one in five,” President Obama asserted in September 2014 at a White House event announcing a campaign against sexual violence on college campuses.2 In September 2015, his would-be successor, Hillary Clinton, echoed the sentiment, claiming there was an “epidemic” of sexual assault on college campuses.

    [....]

    The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), conducted every six months by the U.S. Census Bureau for the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), has long been regarded as the gold standard of crime surveys. In 2014, BJS estimated that 0.61 percent of female college (and trade school) students, of whom 0.2 percent are raped, are sexually assaulted per year. Nonrape sexual assaults include unwanted sexual touching, attempted rape, and threats.5

    [....]

    The BJS methodology compares favorably with those used in each of the many surveys that purport to find much higher rates of sexual assault. The BJS survey interviews very large population samples twice a year—90,630 households and 160,040 persons 12 years or older in 2013. The response rate is very high—88 percent for eligible persons in 2013, for example.11

    A second reality check: The most recent data from the Department of Education indicate that approximately 10 million women are enrolled (full- or part-time) as undergraduates. The one-in-five figure would indicate that 2 million of them will be sexually assaulted at college. That’s 400,000 to 500,000 sexual assaults per year, depending on how many schools are classified as four-year and how many are classified as five-year. For comparison’s sake, under the expanded definition of rape used in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, in 2014 there were 116,645 rapes in the entire United States, a nation of 160 million females, one-sixteenth of whom are in college.12

    The 1990 Clery Act requires all colleges to report the total number of student sexual assaults. According to the most recent aggregate reports, universities reported an annual average of between 4,558 and 5,335 sexual assaults for the period 2012 through 2014.13

    How to explain the ratio of almost 100 to one between the White House’s claims (400,000 to 500,000 incidents of sexual assault annually) and the recent Clery Act reports (4,558 to 5,335 incidents of sexual assault annually)?

    [....]

    Though only a handful of schools have a reporting rate that comes close to the one-in-five claim, recent Clery Act reports suggest that by far the highest sexual assault rates are at elite institutions. This dramatic reporting increase comes at a time when national violent crime and sexual assault rates have plunged, with sexual assaults dropping by more than 60 percent from 1995 to 2010.18

    For instance, in 2014, one in every 181 female Ivy League undergraduates reported to their university that they had been raped, according to the Clery Act database. That’s well over three times the rate—one in 665—at nearby non-elite institutions. Dartmouth College, in Hanover, New Hampshire, had the highest percentage among the Ivy League schools, with 1.41 percent of female undergraduates reporting they had been raped. According to that figure, a female undergraduate at Dartmouth is more likely than a resident of Memphis, Tennessee—which (according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports) is the nation’s second most dangerous city—to be a victim of violent crime. Dartmouth’s president has responded to this alleged crime epidemic not by urging more police on campus but by suggesting that students shun hard liquor

    [...]

    Wesleyan College, in Middletown, Connecticut, had the highest percentage, 2.41 percent. That means a female undergraduate at Wesleyan is substantially more at risk of being a victim of violent crime than is a resident of Detroit, which (FBI reports indicate) is the nation’s most dangerous city. Yet Wesleyan’s president has not urged any increase, at all, in the presence of law enforcement on campu

    If American college campuses really were facing a sexual assault epidemic, why would there be far fewer reported sexual assaults at the University of Northern Iowa or the University of Northern Colorado than at Wesleyan or Dartmouth? The answer is that there wouldn’t. The difference in reporting rates is due to the fact that moral panic about sexual assault is most feverish at institutions where identity-politics activism is most prevalent.

    Occidental College in Los Angeles, for instance, reported 10 “sex offenses” in 2012. The next year, after a handful of faculty members and student activists portrayed the elite liberal arts college as dominated by a “rape culture,” the number of reports of sex offenses skyrocketed, to 60.

    This figure suggested that as many as 5.1 percent of Occidental’s around 1,200 female undergraduates were victims of violent crime, making the upscale campus one of the most dangerous places in the country. Yet none of these claims appears to have resulted in a criminal charge, much less conviction. In 2014, the Occidental activist coalition fell apart due to ideological infighting. With the witch hunt over, the number of rape reports plummeted to eight.21 The apparent surge in violent crime had been ephemeral.

    The currently prevalent claim that one in five female college students will be sexually assaulted dates to the 2007 “Campus Sexual Assault Study,” or CSA, funded (but not conducted) by the National Institute of Justice.22 The random, anonymous, self-reported, online sample of 5,446 women found that 19 percent of respondents at two large, unnamed universities, one in the Midwest and one in the South, had been sexually assaulted.

    There are several problems with this survey. First, the respondents did not say (because they were not asked) whether they ad been sexually assaulted. Second, the low response rate—fewer than half of the 14,000 women invited to participate—probably inflated the percentage found to have been assaulted. Women who think of themselves or their friends as victims of sexual assault are possibly more motivated than others to respond to such surveys. The lower the response rate, the more this bias skews the result.23 Third, the survey included incidents that had not occurred on campus and had not involved other students, rendering them irrelevant to the debate over college adjudication processes.24 Fourth, and perhaps most important, CSA used an overbroad definition of sexual assault: respondents were counted as sexual assault victims if, for example, they had experienced “rubbing up against you in a sexual way” or had intimate encounters while even a little bit intoxicated. As defense lawyer and civil libertarian blogger Scott Greenfield has observed, “[t]erms like ‘unwanted’ focused the respondents on how they felt about the conduct rather than whether they communicated to the other party involved that it was unwanted

    Even the CSA study’s authors have criticized attempts to apply its findings about two schools to all college students nationwide. “We don’t think that 1-in-5 is a nationally representative statistic,” Christopher Krebs, the lead author, told journalist Emily Yoffe

    One false accusations:

    The last of the five myths identified at the start of this chapter was highlighted by a 2014 White House Task Force document asserting that “in reality, only 2-10 percent of reported rapes are false.” The task force cited a 2010 study, “False Allegations of Sexual Assault,” principally authored by none other than David Lisak.66 The resulting insinuation that there are few innocents among the accused allowed the Obama administration and its allies to rationalize the unfair college disciplinary systems they had endorsed

    Ironically, in a paper published in 2009, Lisak had claimed that “estimates for the percentage of false reports begin to converge around 2-8 percent.”67 Later, in the 2015 documentary film The Hunting Ground, his estimate jumped to “more likely 95 to 98 percent of [campus] rape reports are not false.” So, over a six-year period and based on the same data, Lisak cited an upper range of false rape claims as 5 percent (2015), 8 percent (2009), and 10 percent (2010). These discrepancies came without explanation from someone purporting to be a careful scholar.

    The best-known source of the claim that only 2 percent of rape accusations are false is Susan Brownmiller’s 1975 book Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape. For this fact, Brownmiller cited not a study but rather a speech, by a New York judge, who mentioned unpublished alleged findings by the “NYC Rape Analysis Squad.”

    Lisak, for his part, counted as false only those claims that had been both thoroughly investigated and proven false under restrictive definitions of that word. His 2010 study of a unnamed “major Northeastern university” came up with a false-accusation rate of only 5.9 percent by counting accusations as “false” only if a “thorough investigation” had determined that “key elements of a victim’s [sic] account of an assault were internally inconsistent and directly contradicted by multiple witnesses and if the victim [sic] then altered those key elements of his or her account” (emphasis added).

    Quite beyond the very tight description of falsity, Lisak’s finding did not mean that 94 percent of reports were true. In fact, the study indicated that only 35.3 percent of the 136 allegations were credible enough to be adjudicated. Those that fell in between—the majority of those analyzed by Lisak and his team—had either no evidence or conflicting evidence or there was insufficient information even to classify them. For instance, Lisak classified as not false accusations in which “the victim [sic] mislabeled the incident (e.g., gave a truthful account of the incident, but the incident did not meet the legal elements of the crime of sexual assault)”—which law enforcement would treat as unfounded.

    [....]

    A 2007 study authored by Kimberly Lonsway and Joanne Archambault, published by a victims’ activist group, used methodology similar to Lisak’s to produce a false-accusation rate of 7 percent.71 This study counted a rape accusation as false only if it was proven false after a “thorough” police investigation. At the same time, the authors indicated that it was “probably not the best use of limited resources” for police departments to thoroughly investigate rape claims for falsity.72 If police detectives follow the authors’ recommendation to not spend time investigating rape claims for falsity, and the only way to prove a claim false is by thorough investigation, this leads to a situation in which no rape accusation can ever be classified as false

    [....]

    Only 20 percent of the accusations in Lonsway and Archambault’s study proceeded to any kind of adjudication, and the study did not disclose how many of the accused were found guilty.

    [....]

    In contrast to the spectrum offered by Lisak, a 2016 dissertation by Benjamin Baughman, examining 351 confidential investigative files from a police department in the southeastern United States, concluded that 17 percent of the allegations were “fabricated,” with another 66 percent uncertain.75 A 2014 report by the Defense Department’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) analyzing the disposition of the previous year’s sexual assault allegations in the military found that 19.1 percent of the 2,586 cases were classified as “unfounded.”76 A 2012 Urban Institute study estimated that of 227 men convicted of rape for whom DNA evidence was available and usable, 15 percent were eliminated as the source of the evidence, which “was supportive of exoneration.”77 A 1994 study by Purdue professor Eugene Kanin, using data from an unidentified Midwestern city, found that between 1978 and 1987 the police department concluded that 41 percent of rape allegations were false

  • drugmonkey says:

    So the more rigorous proof runs under 10%, a few with less rigor fall in the teeens and your high water mark is 40% from a very old survey of police basically dismissing with predjudice on the basis of Lord knows what. Given what we know about how the cops treated rape cases back then, well this isn’t that trustworthy. And we’re mostly looking at rape accusations, not harassment which is an interesting move of the goalposts.

    I can understand all of your rage over your 18 month date rape case or whatever, but I’m not seeing your 50/50 evidence. And for all of your railing about the feminist agenda you put up evidence from the cops and the military, institutions which have repeatedly shown themselves to cover up rape and sexual assault. So if we’re casting aspersions, glass houses my friend.

  • GM says:

    Not a word about how the other side fabricated its numbers...

    What a way to address the arguments...

    Also, let's take a look at this:

    but I’m not seeing your 50/50 evidence

    Did I actually say that? Here is what I said:

    The ratio of innocent people having suffered that way to real harassers is a lot closer to 50/50 than to 0/100

    Notice the difference?

    Also, do you notice how you are confirming my thesis that you cannot be a good scientist and a feminist at every step of the way? By behaving like a poor scientist because your ideological commitments and tribal allegiances are stronger than you commitment to the scientific method.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Someone sure has an “ideological commitment”.

    Your consensus mid-teens argument is in fact closer to 0 than it is to 50. To get “closer to 50” you have to take your wild outlier as the only valid number. Those of us who do science would call that cherry picking the data to fit your theory.

  • GM says:

    Those numbers in the teens are of cases conclusively shown to be fabricated accusations. Then there is the number of cases that resulted in convictions, which are presumably cases conclusively shown to be true accusations. Then there are the cases where the evidence wasn't conclusive either way. Of course, you are ready to count those as 100% true accusations. Because why exactly?

    My anecdotal personal experience has an n=4 and a false sexual harassment accusation rate of 100%. Small numbers and everything, can be dismissed. But it sure is enough to reject the hypothesis that women never lie. And I happen to know with very high certainty what the motivations for lying were in some of those cases, they were completely self-serving and malicious.

    And then I am still waiting for you to comment on the CSA "study" and the "1-in-5" number, or on how Occidental College's rape "statistics" suddenly jumped to levels approaching those in Eastern Congo once the SJW hysteria truly descended on campus a few years ago.

  • Zuska says:

    Oh, you have personal anecdotal evidence? Well then.
    You must be a Real Scientist!

  • Jaws says:

    (1) DrugMonkey, in my questions the first two regard those persons/institutions being scored; the last one, that sounds like it's the same, regards the person/institution doing the scoring. That is, this isn't a simple inquiry regarding those who were scored with a conflict of interest; it's also asking what should happen to those who HAVE the conflict of interest and fail to recuse.

    (2) Regarding GM's nonsense: The following is out of date. It does not describe the scientific community. I think it nonetheless puts a heavy thumb on the scale regarding "false reports."

    In my first profession, I spent the better part of a decade as a commanding officer, including two units with substantial officer (that is, college graduate) populations (N>100 in each). I also had (and kept!) full access to both base-wide and command-wide reports and statistics regarding sex-based offenses, both annual and historical. In that ADMITTEDLY NOT CONTEMPORANEOUS NOR COMPARABLE TO GRAD SCHOOL/LAB POPULATION (total population N>50,000, total incidents of complaints actually made N>250), the best estimate that was available is that provably false (under the standards of military law) accusations that had some subjective basis were somewhere in the 2-5% range... and that intentionally false accusations (that is, not even a subjective basis — the semimythical "made the accusation to punish the accused for some reason" claim) were well under 0.5% (that is, .005, in case coding comes through funkily). And this mattered to those of us who gave a damn about "good order and discipline" in our units... even if the general responses/resources available for supporting ("alleged") victims were, umm, lacking. We had both men and women under our respective commands.*

    None of the above qualifies as rigorous or reproducible. It does, however, provide a realistic check on the magnitude of the purported problem. Until "GM" has been in the position of being a decisionmaker on whether to bring charges in the first place — or sat on a jury/court martial panel — I think his (and his "supporting studies"') uniformly glib dismissal of the concepts of "incomplete evidence" and "contested evidence" should be consigned to a discussion nowhere near a lab, because failing to acknowledge uncertainty is JUST A LITTLE BIT inconsistent with any conception of good science.

    * N.B. I was a warrior for social justice, "GM." That's sort of the definition of protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic — the core of my oath of commissioning. Anybody who says otherwise is an ignorant git.

  • GM says:

    I hope you realize that in the military you do not have gender studies departments and Title IX administrators having graduated from those to stoke the rape frenzy and to conduct kangaroo court trials?

    Which might be why your false accusation rate is so low -- in the absence of strong incentives to lie, people do not lie. Which is the very point.

    I am reposting this quote in case you have not seen it:

    Occidental College in Los Angeles, for instance, reported 10 “sex offenses” in 2012. The next year, after a handful of faculty members and student activists portrayed the elite liberal arts college as dominated by a “rape culture,” the number of reports of sex offenses skyrocketed, to 60.

    This figure suggested that as many as 5.1 percent of Occidental’s around 1,200 female undergraduates were victims of violent crime, making the upscale campus one of the most dangerous places in the country. Yet none of these claims appears to have resulted in a criminal charge, much less conviction. In 2014, the Occidental activist coalition fell apart due to ideological infighting. With the witch hunt over, the number of rape reports plummeted to eight.21 The apparent surge in violent crime had been ephemeral.

  • Jaws says:

    GM, you've clearly never served in the military (not even in 1985; I did). There are indeed the equivalent of "gender studies departments" and "Title IX administrators having graduated from those." There are also trained investigators and officers and commanders doing their damndest to maintain good order and discipline... which, despite occasional lapses, requires being confident that one's conclusions are as close to "the truth" as possible.

    The false accusation rate is so low because those statistics are the result of people experienced at resolving competing "stories" evaluating the competing narratives and incomplete facts... and in only one instance (out of over 250) being confident under the rules of evidence and the standards of military law that the complainant had made the whole thing up for an improper purpose. (Side note: That particular instance entered the record in 1990, but appears to have arisen from a 1986 or 1987 incident.) That's not to say that every other instance necessarily went the opposite way, either, and that exposes the other fundamental error in your reasoning (leaving aside all of the errors in your factual understanding):

    Determining truth from contested and/or incomplete evidence is almost never an Aristotelian/binary-logic game. It's not in science; it sure as hell isn't for anything involving human behavior. There are ALWAYS GREY AREAS. Absent an actual confession from a miscreant, there are always multiple narratives, and some people will be predisposed to believe those that make them comfortable (akin to, but broader than, "confirmation bias"). Which is the entire bloody point of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, and why I _revel_ in being called a "social justice warrior": I had my behind shot at defending them against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Much closer to the mark, it's also the point Kurosawa made in RASHOMON, but that's not a manly enough movie, I suppose. And it's unAmerican.

    I'm not going to dignify your unidentified source's misstatements of what happened at Occi with detailed comment, particularly since you've not provided a citation or complete context (and I know one of the outside consultants who reviewed the matter, and one of the prosecutors who would have been involved in any criminal matter; suffice it to say that the source appears to have the facts egregiously wrong). As a litigator, I find the particular ellipses in the longer "extract" quite disturbing and somewhat revealing... especially since no part of the extract actually verifies a false accusation, only a greater willingness to make accusations. Occam's Razor cuts the other way here: It is far more likely that more subjectively-justified accusations (even if, on balance, there wouldn't be enough objective evidence to convict beyond a reasonable doubt) were made because a psychological barrier to communicating those accusations had been removed than that accusers would go to the effort of making up knowingly false stories. And a failure to have "any criminal charge, much less conviction" is about the rules of evidence and standards of proof far more than it is about truth. Under that reasoning, since there were no criminal charges filed or convictions in most lynchings in 1950s and 1960s Mississippi and Alabama, those must have been false reports, right? Despite the strange fruit on the trees...

    In summary, GM, your response is intellectually dishonest and fails on multiple levels. Please don't insult my intelligence by repeating louder what you've already mistakenly said as "refutation."

  • I can say for sure that when I was an undergrad in the 90's, WAY more than 1 in 5 of my friends had been assaulted already (ranging from unwanted touching to forcible rape). I'd guess something approaching 2/3rds, but my memory might not be correct there. Certainly more than half. And this was just from the people I knew well enough to discuss these things with. Not a single one was reported (including the forcible rapes). No one wanted to deal with the shitstorm that comes when you are the accuser. As horrible as defending against false accusations for 18 months is, I imagine it is a lot worse to have your life revolve around a traumatic event you just want to get over for 18 months. I completely understand why people don't report. And I agree 100% that crimes should be investigated by the police, not by the university.

    Now, some of the unwanted touching definitely would fall into the "I don't know how to say no, so I'll just grin and bear it" variety where the assaulter may not even have been aware how undesired his actions were. Which is why education about proper communication is so important for everyone. But forcible rape is forcible rape (if you have to hold someone down or drug them, you know there is no consent). Every woman in science I knew as an undergrad had been verbally harassed to varying degrees (some enough to change departments to get away from it). When I visited grad schools, I was pulled aside at every one and told who not to be alone in a room with. Some professors had nicknames widely known among the students like "the lecher" and "party in the sack" which makes me extremely dubious that no one at all who was not a student knew about this.

    I am cautiously optimistic that things are better now, but I may have risen above the level that whisper networks can reach. That said, given the lack of non-gray area public cases of false accusation (he said/she said is just one kind of gray area--I really think that people worried about false accusations would get behind teaching people how to say no/how to ask for permission, which might help reduce some of those gray areas), I sincerely doubt that there is a plague of false harassment charges. Lack of witnesses it just to be expected--every time I was harassed, I was alone with my harasser. Its not like harassers don't know this is unacceptable behavior.

  • GM says:

    So US universities are more dangerous places not only than the worst ghettos of America but also legendary for their very much real and not imagined rape epidemic places like the Eastern Congo (you know, where a gang of a dozen or so rebel soldiers will shove a broken bottle up your private parts once they're done having their way with you, and where a few weeks later the government soldiers will repeat the exercise)?

    Yeah, sure.

    What you are describing sounds exactly like the combination of imagined sexual assault due to the sexual hysteria that has engulfed campuses plus postcoital regrets, "withdrawn consent", etc. plus a very small percentage of actual rapes, that I am refering to.

    And malicious false accusations happen. How is it that I have seen them in real life on multiple occasions and it is not as if I work as an administrator or anything, I am just a regular academic. Plus there are many dozens of cases out there in public of exactly that same nature. People have been kicked out their PhD programs on imaginary or malicious charges. It happens all the time. As a revenge after dating for a long time, then breaking up. Subpar female students who would be kicked out of the program for poor academic performance using sexual assault charges as a tool to blackmail departments to give them their PhDs. People getting prosecuted by overzealous brainwashed Title IX administrators who think that men are the scum of the earth and have to punished at all opportunities for telling a joke. People getting prosecuted by crazy feminist Title IX administrators even though even the female in the case does not think what happened was sexual assault (the Title IX administrator basically coerces them into filing charges). Etc. etc. etc.

  • GM says:

    P.S. I also wrote a rather lengthy post on the basic philosophical reasons why the only possible position for a scientist to adopt is anti-feminism. Should I take the lack of response to it as an implicit agreement with its arguments?

  • Jaws says:

    Perhaps, GM, you should take the lack of response as "This isn't our forum, and that's so far off topic that common courtesy requires DrugMonkey's response and not ours... and DrugMonkey is a working scientist with better things to do than respond to a rant with more unacknowledged shifting definitions than a typical creationist rant, let alone the actual logic problems." I'm just being civil in saying that. More likely the lack of response is because the rant is so looney that it's not worthy of a response, not even when you try the creationist "But you didn't refute THIS argument so you're conceding it" bit after making no prior attempt to refer to it when others responded to other bits of unsupported bloviation.

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