One-Eyed Jacks in the Research Misconduct Universe

Below we reproduce a comment by Albert Donnay (University of Maryland, Baltimore) about the fraud facilitating influence of those in the academic world who have some ethical obligation, if not a duty, to respond to allegations of research misconduct, but for their own self-interests instead turn a blind eye.
Dr. Donnay’s comment is particularly interesting to me for using the term “one-eyed jacks” to describe such individuals. I do not know if it is an original use by Donnay, but I like it as a short-hand term, particularly for those who are derelict in their official responsibility to act against misconduct and fraud. Many whistle-blowers express concern that such one-eyed jacks actually do more than “merely” turn a blind eye, but instead avoid the truth with a reckless disregard, deliberate ignorance, or worse. (Professor Helene Z. Hill, for example, discusses such concerns in a case with which she was involved in a new book about to be published).
Donnay’s comment was published in response to a Brandeis Magazine (Winter 2014-2015) article by Laura Gardner titled, “An Epistemology of Scientific Crackpottery”:
“Excellent review but the list of characters is too short! A major contributing factor to the plague of scientific misconduct are the many “one eyed jacks” from students to deans to who only see what they want to see –the bits that benefit their interests–and turn a blind eye to any and all misconduct they come across in the work of friends colleagues staff students mentors etc. They know there is no reward to them for speaking up, only potential losses, like their job.
It is very dark on the dark side. Investigators who look around with flash lights draw heavy fire from the “kings” (male and female) who hide fraud by deliberating keeping the lights out and taking no prisoners among those who dare speak out. Those who try are quickly forced out and excommunicated from the team.
And then there are the “queens”, again male or female, who hide their frauds with lots of flash and fancy trappings, dazzling and distracting.
Last but not least are the jesters — the rare jokers in the deck willing to directly challenge the hypocrisy, nonsense, fraud, etc in their particular ” Court” of scientific opinion with wit, humor and sometimes even some artful deception of their own. (Like sending journals articles composed entirely of random gibberish to see which will publish them.).”
 One-eyed jacks reduced for frinblog 011116

Robert Bauchwitz

Robert Bauchwitz is a biomedical research scientist and certified fraud examiner. His research expertise is in behavioral neuroscience and molecular genetics. He was the relator (plaintiff acting on behalf of the government) in a U.S. federal False Claims Act qui tam case involving scientific research fraud. He has obtained additional fraud investigation training from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and operational audit training from the Institute of Internal Auditors. He also has certifications in litigation support from the Widener University Law School's Legal Education Institute and in network security from CompTIA.

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  1. You make a really good point. In a deck of cards, there are four jacks, one of every suit. The jacks of clubs and diamonds actually show both eyes. Sadly, however, in the experience of many whistleblowers I have come in contact with in a wide array of fields, there appears to be a deficiency of two-eyed jacks, especially among those responsible for handling allegations from whistleblowers. Many studies of whistleblower (WB) retaliation have been performed that demonstrate a widespread problem. We cite several of those studies in our recent manuscript published at PeerJ. The basis for the disparity is probably simple self-preservation instinct.

    It might be interesting to do a study, or as we have proposed, governmental audits, to determine what proportion of responsible individuals in academia and the corporate world actually take the risk of pursuing credible assessments of WB allegations. Well-trained auditors and fraud investigators probably do so, though there have been famous retaliations against them as well.. But I still would be surprised if at academic institutions in the U.S., not to mention oversight agencies like the ORI who are under significant political pressures, that the deck is quite stacked against whistleblowers drawing two-eyed jacks.

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