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On incentives to cure or not to cure diseases or disabilities


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When the embryonic stem cell research debate was mainstream back in the 00s, I remember the talking point that adult/cord blood/etc... stem cells have shown better results so far, and therefore should get all of the funding, with none of it going to embryonic. (Mostly seen on webforums, but some of it still available on religious zealot websites.)

 

Of course, I suspect that many of the people who said that were already biased against it on religious grounds and/or "life begins at conception" grounds. But obviously this isn't the only issue, or they would've been content to say so outright. Obviously to either them or, in their eyes, everybody else, future potential can be judged only on past results, and not on what scientists say their future potential is.

 

At the time I found such notions almost shocking. But I've since come to hold similar opinions on "scientific" polling, (to make a long story short, I think they're more afraid of losing funding by pissing people off with mentions of respondent dishonesty than of getting the next election wrong) so I guess my own worldview is not as different from it as I thought.

 

And of course, their proposed middle-ground alternative; let embryonic stem cell research continue, but with private money; would have meant that any company that profits from treatments for a given disease has more incentive to pretend they're trying to cure it than to actually cure it.

 

It all seems so long ago, now... Obama resumed public funding for embryonic stem cell research. Curiously, two Presidents later, the media never did much follow up on whether the scientists or their critics were the ones vindicated by history. You'd think this would be of interest if only for reflecting people's comparative credibility on other things.

 

Which leaves behind a question; what's stopping public-sector researchers from also pretending they're trying to cure it instead of actually curing it, to keep the funding coming in? What incentive structure would be the most effective at deterring such a conflict of interest? And what metric, if not, "scientists say this has potential," is there for gauging the potential of a given scientific endeavour?

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2 hours ago, ScienceNostalgia101 said:

Which leaves behind a question; what's stopping public-sector researchers from also pretending they're trying to cure it instead of actually curing it, to keep the funding coming in?

I can rather easily address that. Funding is highly competitive. If you propose to develop a treatment and do cannot provide evidence that it works as such, your funding will stop. I do not really get the rest of you argument, though.

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Mind if I ask where in the post I lost you, then?

 

 

EDIT: And as a follow up question to the reply, how much time are they given to develop this treatment? Just because one hasn't gotten where one's going, doesn't mean one will never get there. What criteria do they use to gauge who's on the right track, let alone whether they are making an honest attempt to be on the right track?  

Edited by ScienceNostalgia101
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The metric of success depends on the nature of the study being done. 

They don’t look at the reflectivity of light when measuring the fuel economy of automobiles, or internet bandwidth when studying the effectiveness of insulin in diabetes treatment, for example. 

The metric of success depends on the nature of the study being done.

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4 hours ago, ScienceNostalgia101 said:

Mind if I ask where in the post I lost you, then?

 

 

EDIT: And as a follow up question to the reply, how much time are they given to develop this treatment? Just because one hasn't gotten where one's going, doesn't mean one will never get there. What criteria do they use to gauge who's on the right track, let alone whether they are making an honest attempt to be on the right track?  

The metric is largely given in the proposal that you submit. I.e. you tell the reviewers exactly what you measure and within which timeline. If you don't, it is easy to spot. If your result fails metrics (e.g. no difference between case and control) then funding won't continue). 

Typically, funding specifically for treatments are only provided if you already got promising preliminary results.

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9 hours ago, ScienceNostalgia101 said:

what's stopping public-sector researchers from also pretending they're trying to cure it instead of actually curing it, to keep the funding coming in?

Basic integrity plays a large part. 

Do you think everyone is a lying cheat or only scientists?

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Basic integrity is only as resilient as the willpower that sustains it. If you see your rivals surpass you by being lying cheats, your willpower might not remain intact.

 

But yeah, I don't single scientists out for this. I would've thought my mention in the OP of my thoughts on polling would've made that clear.

 

In any case, thanks for the explanation, CharonY. I'll keep it in mind from this point forward.

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15 minutes ago, ScienceNostalgia101 said:

Basic integrity is only as resilient as the willpower that sustains it.

I suggest there are two kinds of integrity -  basic integrity and learned integrity. Scientific training is replete with emphasis on integrity. One could say that science is a discipline that seeks the truth through objective investigation. We know that some scientists fake their results. We also know this is done against the principles and the practice they have absorbed during their education. The vast majority of scientists display integrity in their work because they have spent years having integrity hammered into them directly and indirectly.

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4 hours ago, ScienceNostalgia101 said:

Basic integrity is only as resilient as the willpower that sustains it. If you see your rivals surpass you by being lying cheats, your willpower might not remain intact.

Don't project your weaknesses onto others.

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5 hours ago, ScienceNostalgia101 said:

Basic integrity is only as resilient as the willpower that sustains it. If you see your rivals surpass you by being lying cheats, your willpower might not remain intact.

 

But yeah, I don't single scientists out for this. I would've thought my mention in the OP of my thoughts on polling would've made that clear.

I do not think that you made a lot of things clear, to be honest. For the most part it just read like a stream of thoughts that may be obvious to you but at least to me it is at best cryptic.

Specifically in science there is a big risk if someone is found to be falsifying data. Once trust is lost in a researcher, their career is over. And also competition is fierce. The only folks who might have it easier are bigshots who already have a distinguished career and thereby may ultimately be given a bit more leeway. But again, actual fraud would be a career ender in either case.

 

4 hours ago, Area54 said:

The vast majority of scientists display integrity in their work because they have spent years having integrity hammered into them directly and indirectly.

It seems we have to do more hammering, especially in undergrad given the massive spike in cheating related to online classes.

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5 hours ago, CharonY said:

It seems we have to do more hammering, especially in undergrad given the massive spike in cheating related to online classes.

It is troubling to hear that. Either I am naive, or forty, fifty years ago there was more inherent honesty. I cannot recall any conversations about cheating with undergraduate colleagues, or any reports of it occurring. And there were no admonitions against it, presumably since none were thought necessary. Was I decieved, or have things deteriorated over the last few decades? What is your impression? Do you know of any studies into the phenomenon?

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I have not checked literature, but my own experience would suggest that cheating might be increasing and it is also dependent on the system. In North America, studying is viewed by most students as a financial decision. Especially among medical students there is a strong incentive to achieve high grades by whatever means.

Students are also better informed than they used to be. They are much less afraid of potential repercussions by their profs and have developed strategies to maximize grades with the least effort. They are also more cynical and have less qualms of finding ways to (in their minds) beat the system. You have the weird situation where based on performance you might think that a student is lazy or stupid, but has the surprising ability to play the system to their advantage.

It is incredible how many for example file doctor's note claiming to have ADHD, dyslexia or other conditions requiring them to have more time than their peers. And most are premeds!

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@CharonYThank you for your response. That's quite sad. I went to university because I wanted to learn; acquiring a degree was almost a side issue, related more to an inherent competitiveness and the possibility, if the degree was good enough, I could go on learning for longer. But that was against a backdrop where tuition fees were paid by the state and, because of the meagre financial status of my parents, I recieved a full grant (not a loan). The only person I would have been cheating, by cheating, would have been myself.

I have difficulty getting my head around the concept of cheating. You mentioned laziness. Laziness is a different matter. I rather favour laziness. To me laziness involves using the most efficient method of learning things. That means understanding the principles, not parrot fashion, but at a deep level and furnishing oneself with enough examples so that the principles can be discerned in novel situations. I find one has to work really quite hard at being lazy.

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1 hour ago, Area54 said:

The only person I would have been cheating, by cheating, would have been myself.

I have difficulty getting my head around the concept of cheating.

For me, as someone who aligns deeply with your central point that we should learn for the sake of learning and self-improvement and strive for continuous improvement throughout our lives (kaizen), the issue is better framed in terms of the system itself.

Those who are honest and work hard are not receiving the same benefits from the system as they did in the past. For too many millions of people, hard work and knowledge alone are no longer sufficient to maximize the chances of a good life and the avoidance of suffering. For many, the only way to advance sufficiently is to game the system... to get the best grade... to avoid any and all red marks on their record and public transcript... to get that better job, that better performance review, that better paycheck, that better chance of comfortable retirement.

If we keep playing baseball or football the same way even when the umpire or referee has begun calling the game differently... marking things as fouls that previously would've been inbounds... then the onus falls to us to begin playing the game differently to align with what the enforcers are doing.

I say all this as someone who doesn't cheat... who avoids lies... who believes in learning as its own reward... and who teaches his kids these values as best I can... but I also recognize that the system itself has evolved and the sad state described above has sadly become more common.

As I think is obvious by this post, my thoughts on this subject are only at best half formed... but in a world where it matters more WHO you know than WHAT you know, it's really not much of a surprise that kids are picking up on and acting upon different cues and paths to success. 

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23 hours ago, zapatos said:

Don't project your weaknesses onto others.

For someone who supposedly has a problem with my "assertions without evidence," you sure love to insinuate ones of your own.

 

Expecting people to value integrity if the world will incentivize the exact opposite of integrity is only going to result in the people who value integrity the most being unable to compete with those who value it the least. At best, it will be a short-lived symbolic victory, as people who value integrity will be squashed too early to make any significant difference. At worst, it will be a deterrent against any integrity on the part of others.

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That reminds me situation from the past. Language teacher was giving novels to read in such quantity it was physically impossible to read them all and learn anything else including other disciplines, basically 24h was not enough to read them all, forcing the all students in the class to use ready novels summaries instead of reading these books for real. Does it count as cheating if you read brief book summary instead of the real book? Teachers who really bother about it, often ask tricky questions about details which can be known only by person who really spent time reading a book..

Flood of knowledge and great amount of books to read in a short period of time forces students to cheating and taking shortcuts..

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43 minutes ago, ScienceNostalgia101 said:

Expecting people to value integrity if the world will incentivize the exact opposite of integrity is only going to result in the people who value integrity the most being unable to compete with those who value it the least.

Please provide evidence this happens in science or stop your vile insinuations against scientists and many others. You've gone from bad-mouthing scientists to bad-mouthing the entire world. Enough.

 

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2 hours ago, iNow said:

For me, as someone who aligns deeply with your central point that we should learn for the sake of learning and self-improvement and strive for continuous improvement throughout our lives (kaizen), the issue is better framed in terms of the system itself.

Those who are honest and work hard are not receiving the same benefits from the system as they did in the past. For too many millions of people, hard work and knowledge alone are no longer sufficient to maximize the chances of a good life and the avoidance of suffering. For many, the only way to advance sufficiently is to game the system... to get the best grade... to avoid any and all red marks on their record and public transcript... to get that better job, that better performance review, that better paycheck, that better chance of comfortable retirement.

If we keep playing baseball or football the same way even when the umpire or referee has begun calling the game differently... marking things as fouls that previously would've been inbounds... then the onus falls to us to begin playing the game differently to align with what the enforcers are doing.

I say all this as someone who doesn't cheat... who avoids lies... who believes in learning as its own reward... and who teaches his kids these values as best I can... but I also recognize that the system itself has evolved and the sad state described above has sadly become more common.

As I think is obvious by this post, my thoughts on this subject are only at best half formed... but in a world where it matters more WHO you know than WHAT you know, it's really not much of a surprise that kids are picking up on and acting upon different cues and paths to success. 

While I agree that there has been a shift from self-improvement to a financial transaction, I disagree to some degree with the motivation. I do not think cheaters feel that they need to cheat is the only way to advance.

Most of the cheaters I found were folks that generally did not even put minimal effort into class. I.e. frequently absent (I do not take attendance), rarely ask questions (beyond "what will the questions in the exam be" and "do I need to know what is written on all the slides"), I doubt that they have read a single page of any of the textbooks (all open access). 

I would understand cases if those folks e.g. had to work to finance their degree. But actually most seem to be fairly well off, wanting go to medical school as their parents are physicians. Or threatening faculty with their big lawyer daddy if they do not raise their scores. Others have basically flat out mentioned that the additional time they want because of their "learning disability" must be provided in a way that gives her benefits over others (I offered to give everyone more time to finish their assignment). And of course I provide folks months of time to prepare and ask about an assignment and obviously all questions only come in during the week it needs to be finished.

Again, I think there is societal-wide change in the attitude of learning for its own benefit and in part that is likely to be driven by economic concerns. At the same time I also think that the personal enjoyment of learning new things has gone. I feel in part it is the way we consume information nowadays (tons of small bites, but never in-depth). Folks confuse hearing about a subject with mastery of it. And often I think that many students nowadays do not feel the excitement when things suddenly come together in ones mind. Every now and then I have a grad student where I see the lights go on during their work. But again, I feel it has been much rarer now than even 10 years ago. Reading a paper is for many not about the new and cool things that someone has done. It is almost just a thing you do and then immediately forget (i.e. shallow reading).

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