Monday, 13 April 2015

Inaugural Issue of the Journal of the American Philosophical Association: 10 of 11 Authours Male, as Gender Imbalance Issues Are Shaking Up North American Philosophy Academia

Today, I received the announcement that the inaugural issue of the brand new Journal of the American Philosophical Association – JAPA as it will doubtlessly become known – is available. A nice touch of the editors and the publisher (Cambridge University Press) is that the issue will remain freely accessible the year out. Also, the issue features many a fine contemporary American philosopher, and displays a wide smorgasbord of tasty topics.

By ten (10) men and one (1) woman.

This in a time when North American academic philosophy is ridden by internal problems with regard to gender imbalance (also afflicting Europe, as well as Australia, Asia and Africa) and, allegedly (I say, as I watch these things from a distance), an academic social culture particularly hostile to women. For this reason, APA has instigated special codes, e.g. on sexual harrassment, and a task forces on inclusion and codes of conduct, and even a special committee on women in philosophy. Meanwhile, at blogs such as What Is It Like to Be A Woman In Philosophy and Feminist Philosophers, the documentation of the various aspect of this problem continues, as constructive actions, such as the Gendered Conference Campaign, attempt to push the situation ever so little forward.

This is when the JAPA editors decide that there is only one (1) female philosopher who may do for the eleven (11) authour line-up for its inaugural issue. And, to really ice the cake, in the editorial presenting the journal idea and the issue, editor in chief John Heil, does not touch on the subject with one word, albeit going through several other important value and ethics matters to secure a splendid journal and a splendid future for American philosophy. A powerful signal if there ever was one; if nothing else, of how strongly the JAPA editorial management simply doesn't care.

Now don't get me wrong – all of the contributors are certainly top of the line colleagues, no doubt about it, and their topics are relevant, engaging and, I'm sure, very well handled in their respective articles. But, of course, many other colleagues could very well have done as good a job (in their special areas) – and across North American philosophy academia, quite a few of those are women. Granting, to be sure, that not everyone is necessarily available, even for such a fine commission as inauguring the JAPA, I would still conjecture that a sizable portion would remain to take your pick from after such practical issues have been sorted.

But given the roaring silence on the topic from the JAPA editorial management, I suppose that they have simply not even reflected on this side of things. Thereby, they are actively promoting those very problems that the APA has been appearing to attempt to address the last decade or so, and which many academic philosophers witness about as increasingly serious. They are acting in support of perpetuating the image of the female philosopher as second rate and obscure; as perhaps capable, but not really that brilliant (*nudge, nudge, wink, wink*), at least not for this particularly splendid occasion.

Except for one (1).
Of eleven (11).

I do wonder why Martha Nussbaum has accepted this role, although I leave it to my US colleagues to sort that one out. Is it, as Mary Midgley dryly suggested recently, only when men go away to die in wars, that room can in practice made for the philosophy excellence of women? The inaugural issue of the JAPA certainly suggests as much.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Become my Colleague! Senior Lecturer Positions in Practical Philosophy Open at my Department

My department is currently announcing vacancies for at least one (tenured/permanent) fulltime senior lecturer in practical philosophy – including ethics and moral philosophy of all kinds (including applied), ditto political philosophy, philosophy of law, of religion and of the humanities and social sciences, and philosophical aesthetics; that is, all philosophy that deals somehow with values and human action and practices. At our department, applied normative ethics, metaethics and moral responsibility (in a broad sense) are currently dominant research areas, and we collaborate closely with a number of subjects across faculty borders. Teaching is expected to include primarily our basic level (1st cycle) practical philosophy programme, so therefore you're expected to learn Swedish well enough within 2 years (the university supplies a training programme). We also expect that the appointed person will work actively in existing and developing new collaborative courses and programs, e.g. with medicine, natural science, engineering and social sciences.

To be eligible, you need to hold a Ph.D. in the relevant area, preferably in philosophy, but depending on the topic of your thesis, sometimes law or politics degrees may pass as well. Eligibility, as well as degree of merit, will be decided by independent external reviewers according to a strict procedure.

Deadline for application is May 11, 2015.

For more details about the call and how to apply, go here!

Friday, 10 April 2015

This is Huge: Serious Research Misconduct in Almost 3/4 of FDA Inspected Clinical Trials – Hidden by Both Inspecting Agency and Researchers

First I had problems taking it in: Almost 75% of US clinical trials inspected over a period of 15 years by the Food and Drug Agency, responsible for upholding regulation in this area, display serious misconduct of various kinds. It can't be that bad, I asked myself; if it was, I would have heard something about it before – research ethics in medicine being one of my areas of expertise! Except that I wouldn't, since neither the FDA nor the researchers in question have reported these stunning findings to the outside world. That is, until Charles Seife, an MD but also a journalist, decided to have a look at FDA documents of some of the made inspections between 1998 and 2013. What he found is reported in a recent article in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, where out of originally 600 trials, 101 where identified where the FDA had found strong reason of issuing complaint, and among these:

Fifty-seven published clinical trials were identified for which an FDA inspection of a trial site had found significant evidence of 1 or more of the following problems: falsification or submission of false information, 22 trials (39%); problems with adverse events reporting, 14 trials (25%); protocol violations, 42 trials (74%); inadequate or inaccurate recordkeeping, 35 trials (61%); failure to protect the safety of patients and/or issues with oversight or informed consent, 30 trials (53%); and violations not otherwise categorized, 20 trials (35%). Only 3 of the 78 publications (4%) that resulted from trials in which the FDA found significant violations mentioned the objectionable conditions or practices found during the inspection. No corrections, retractions, expressions of concern, or other comments acknowledging the key issues identified by the inspection were subsequently published.
 Seife concludes:

The FDA has legal as well as ethical responsibilities regarding the scientific misconduct it finds during its inspections. When the agency withholds the identity of a clinical trial affected by scientific misconduct, it does so because it considers the identity to be confidential commercial information, which it feels bound to protect. However, failing to notify the medical or scientific communities about allegations of serious research misconduct in clinical trials is incompatible with the FDA’s mission to protect the public health /... /
To better serve the public health, the FDA should make unredacted information about its findings of research misconduct more readily available. The agency should make sure that any substantial evidence of misconduct is available to editors and readers of the scientific literature /.../
... most of the burden for ensuring the integrity of the research in the peer-reviewed literature falls to the authors of the articles submitted to peer-reviewed journals. Currently, there is no formal requirement for authors seeking to publish clinical trial data to disclose any adverse findings noted during FDA inspections. Journals should require that any such findings be disclosed.
The nail on the head if there ever was one, and Seife is backed by an editorial, signed by three strong voices from the Yale and UCSF medical schools. FDA is liable to serious criticism for not proactively informing the scientific and medical communities, as well as the general public, of these matters. Journals which not immediately effect the standard indicated by Seife would deserve equally serious criticism. But the worst of all is the fact that such journal policies would be needed in the first place. 

The by far heaviest burden of criticism befalls those researchers, many of which have not only committed scientific fraud and serious ethical breaches, but have all in addition consciously choosen to actively surpress highly relevant information about the quality of the studies they have conducted. Not only is this relevant for the publication screening at journals to safeguard the quality of scientific publications. It is even more relevant for the assessment of the results reported in publications for the purpose of, e.g., licencing or decisions on clinical use, or public funding. These researchers have sold their scientific credibility and honour to whatever bidder (in the vast majority of cases, one suspects the pharmaceutical company funding the study) have incited them to keep mum. People doing such things have no place in either the academic or the medical community.

Seife has a popular report of the significance of his study in Slate, here.

This is, as far as I can see, a major research ethics and regulatory scandal, and it might just be hiding an even larger one. For, given the frequency of serious misconduct now revealed, one may very well ask what would be found if FDA was to cast its inspection net wider and inspect even more trials. And what would be the outcome of similar procedures in, e.g., Europe or Asia?