In my personal opinion, the prison sentence for Dong-Pyou Han accurately punishes his blatant faking of data and disregard for science as a whole.
A former Iowa State University scientist was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison for altering blood samples to make it seem like he’d achieved a breakthrough in creating an HIV vaccine.
Dong-Pyou Han will receive prison time for making false statements in research reports and will have to pay back $7.2 million to the government agency that funded his research. He entered a plea agreement in February admitting guilt in two counts of making false statements.
Han’s made up data wasted A LOT of tax-payer funding, and took money and time away from other REAL HIV vaccine research. Thus holding up a much needed vaccine for his personal ‘gain.’ Let this serve as a lesson to researchers that misconduct and fraud will be punished accordingly. There is no place for this type of fraud in science (especially when there are anti-science groups waiting for any type of ammunition against science and vaccines).
Inoculating against science denial
Science denial has real, societal consequences. Denial of the link between HIV and AIDS led to more than 330,000 premature deaths in South Africa. Denial of the link between smoking and cancer has caused millions of premature deaths. Thanks to vaccination denial, preventable diseases are making a comeback.
Denial is not something we can ignore or, well, deny. So what does scientific research say is the most effective response? Common wisdom says that communicating more science should be the solution. But a growing body of evidence indicates that this approach can actually backfire, reinforcing people’s prior beliefs.
When you present evidence that threatens a person’s worldview, it can actually strengthen their beliefs. This is called the “worldview backfire effect”. One of the first scientific experiments that observed this effect dates back to 1975.
A psychologist from the University of Kansas presented evidence to teenage Christians that Jesus Christ did not come back from the dead. Now, the evidence wasn’t genuine; it was created for the experiment to see how the participants would react.
What happened was their faith actually strengthened in response to evidence challenging their faith. This type of reaction happens across a range of issues. When US Republicans are given evidence of no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, they believe more strongly that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. When you debunk the myth linking vaccination to autism, anti-vaxxers respond by opposing vaccination more strongly.
In my own research, when I’ve informed strong political conservatives that there’s a scientific consensus that humans are causing global warming, they become less accepting that humans are causing climate change.
Brute force meets resistance
Ironically, the practice of throwing more science at science denial ignores the social science research into denial. You can’t adequately address this issue without considering the root cause: personal beliefs and ideology driving the rejection of scientific evidence. Attempts at science communication that ignore the potent influence effect of worldview can be futile or even counterproductive.
How then should scientists respond to science denial? The answer lies in a branch of psychology dating back to the 1960s known as “inoculation theory”. Inoculation is an idea that changed history: stop a virus from spreading by exposing people to a weak form of the virus. This simple concept has saved millions of lives.
In the psychological domain, inoculation theory applies the concept of inoculation to knowledge. When we teach science, we typically restrict ourselves to just explaining the science. This is like giving people vitamins. We’re providing the information required for a healthier understanding. But vitamins don’t necessarily grant immunity against a virus.
There is a similar dynamic with misinformation. You might have a healthy understanding of the science. But if you encounter a myth that distorts the science, you’re confronted with a conflict between the science and the myth. If you don’t understand the technique used to distort the science, you have no way to resolve that conflict.
Half a century of research into inoculation theory has found that the way to neutralise misinformation is to expose people to a weak form of the misinformation. The way to achieve this is to explain the fallacy employed by the myth. Once people understand the techniques used to distort the science, they can reconcile the myth with the fact.
There is perhaps no more apt way to demonstrate inoculation theory than to address a myth about vaccination. A persistent myth about vaccination is that it causes autism.
This myth originated from a Lancet study which was subsequently shown to be fraudulent and was retracted by the journal. Nevertheless, the myth persists simply due to the persuasive fact that some children have developed autism around the same time they were vaccinated.
This myth uses the logical fallacy of post hoc, ergo propter hoc, Latin for “after this, therefore because of this”. This is a fallacy because correlation does not imply causation. Just because one event happens around the same time as another event doesn’t imply that one causes the other.
The only way to demonstrate causation is through statistically rigorous scientific research. Many studies have investigated this issue and shown conclusively that there is no link between vaccination and autism.
The response to science denial is not just more science. We stop science denial by exposing people to a weak form of science denial. We need to inoculate minds against misinformation.
The practical application of inoculation theory is already happening in classrooms, with educators adopting the teaching approach of misconception-based learning (also known as agnotology-based learning or refutational teaching).
This involves teaching science by debunking misconceptions about the science. This approach results in significantly higher learning gains than customary lectures that simply teach the science.
While this is currently happening in a few classrooms, Massive Open Online Courses (or MOOCs) offer the opportunity to scale up this teaching approach to reach potentially hundreds of thousands of students. At the University of Queensland, we’re launching a MOOC that makes sense of climate science denial.
Our approach draws upon inoculation theory, educational research into misconception-based learning and the cognitive psychology of debunking. We explain the psychological research into why and how people deny climate science.
Having laid the framework, we examine the fallacies behind the most common climate myths. Our goal is for students to learn how to identify the techniques used to distort climate science and feel confident responding to misinformation.
A typical response of scientists to science denial is to teach more science. But that only provides half of what’s needed. Scientific research has offered us a solution: build resistance to science denial by exposing people to a weak form of science denial.
A new press release from CDC shows that 9 out of 10 new U.S. HIV infections come from people not receiving HIV care. The release is based on a new CDC analysis and reinforces the importance of HIV testing and treatment for health and prevention.
The analysis showed that 30 percent of new HIV infections were transmitted from people who did not know that they were infected with the virus, highlighting the importance of getting tested. People who had been diagnosed were less likely to transmit their infection, in part because people who know they have HIV are more likely to take steps to protect their partners from infection.
World AIDS Day is held on 1 December each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died. World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day and the first one was held in 1988.
I can’t even with these tweets. A most basic understanding of virology completely accounts for why these different viruses cause distinct diseases, and have different incubation times and disease progression. UGH![tweet https://twitter.com/BryanJFischer/status/518064674584395777] [tweet https://twitter.com/BryanJFischer/status/517862958018621440] [tweet https://twitter.com/BryanJFischer/status/518053518377111552]
This saturday is National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day! Yesterday CauseScience posted the CDC report finding that half of HIV positive gay men are not receiving adequate treatment. The CDC has recently launched an awareness campaign for all people living with HIV, HIV Treatment Works.
The HIV Treatment Works campaign encourages people living with HIV to Get in Care, Stay in Care and Live Well. Today, you can live a longer, healthier life by being in medical care and on HIV treatment. People featured in these videos share how they live well with HIV and how you can, too.
The treatments we have for HIV are extremely effective, and are one of the biggest biomedical research success stories in the last few decades. However, these breakthrough treatments are only effective if they are taken. While there are barriers to access treatment, this CDC campaign shows people how to get and maintain care and treatment.
More than 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV. This campaign features people from across the United States who are living with HIV talking about how sticking with care and treatment helps them stay healthy, protect others, and live longer, healthier lives.
This campaign shows how people living with HIV have overcome barriers to get in care and stay on treatment.
Check out the HIV Treatment Works website for informative videos, info graphics, and posters and banners to get the word out about this campaign!