Deficient epistemic virtues and prevalence of epistemic vices as precursors to transgressions in research misconduct

Research Ethics 20 (2):272-287 (2024)
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Abstract

Scientific research is supposed to acquire or generate knowledge, but such a purpose would be severely undermined by instances of research misconduct (RM) and questionable research practices (QRP). RM and QRP are often framed in terms of moral transgressions by individuals (bad apples) whose aberrant acts could be made conducive by shortcomings in regulatory measures of organizations or institutions (bad barrels). This notion presupposes, to an extent, that the erring parties know exactly what they are doing is wrong and morally culpable, but had nonetheless proceeded to commit wrongful acts. However, a confession of intent to deceived is often not readily admitted by perpetrators of RM. I posit that beyond the simplistic notion of conscious moral transgression, deficits in epistemic virtues and/or the prevalence of epistemic vices have important roles to play in initiating and driving RM/QRP. For the individual perpetrator, deficits in epistemic virtues could lead to or amplify errors in one’s desperate attempt to be accomplished or to excel, and pushes one across the ethical line or down the slippery slope of misconduct. Likewise, a lack of epistemic virtue within perpetrators’ institution or organization could make it conducive for deceitful acts and suppress indications and warning signs for the former. Furthermore, epistemic vices exhibited by reviewers, editors and journals could also promote RM/QRP. In this view, epistemic failings, rather than widespread moral deficiencies of individuals within the research ecosystem, may underlie the prevalence of RM/QRP.

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References found in this work

The Logic of Scientific Discovery.Karl Popper - 1959 - Studia Logica 9:262-265.
Vice Epistemology.Quassim Cassam - 2016 - The Monist 99 (2):159-180.
Virtue Epistemology.John Turri, Mark Alfano & John Greco - 1999 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:1-51.

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