The Chronicle of Higher Education
June 16th, 2015
In June I was at a small conference of social scientists, meeting in
the Utah mountains. The setting was beautiful, the meals memorable. But
all we talked about was l’affaire LaCour.
The actual events have been described elsewhere, including here in The Chronicle. In short: An influential article published in Science
by Michael J. LaCour, an up-and-coming young scholar, and his
co-author, Donald P. Green, a senior scholar at Columbia University, was
revealed to have been based on fabricated data.
Political scientists are already defensive about our status as a
"science," of course. National Science Foundation funding has several
times been held up for questioning (at least) by Congress, and our
technique and the status of our data are often debated in departments
and graduate courses. What does this recent controversy mean for my
discipline? I want to offer a two-part answer, personal pessimism and