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Academic Bias

 

 

About this Research (posted 6/18/05)

    I excerpt from the research that I do in order to create a table of contents and aid readers in finding topics that are interesting to them. When deciding what to excerpt, I follow the general guideline that I'll excerpt what readers suggest/email about, and/or what comes up in personal conversation. However, the 'About this Research' excerpt is not sufficient to address a concern I have been stewing over for some time and which also seems to be interesting to some folks.  

    In the research that I have done and am currently doing, I have noticed a disturbing trend that may be indicative of an underlying societal problem. Thus far, everything that I have written and discussed on this site has ignored this elephant in the room. Perhaps I have unconsciously ignored it because of the inherent conflict of interest I have in reporting it. I say this because its existence certainly benefits this site and others like it and drives my enthusiasm in the work that I do. I am speaking of Academic Research Bias. 

    I have run across this pattern in so many different areas that it can not be dismissed as an anomaly. The first place I ran across it was in my review of  Fahrenheit 9/11. I wanted to take the total number of deaths attributed to Saddam Hussein, divide that by the total years he had been in power, and compare his deaths per year with the number of deaths from the American Invasion of Iraq. Were my numbers accurate? Well, somewhat. I used a number of different sources and used a high/low estimate to increase accuracy. I found that, using low end data, Saddam's averages were about the same as those killed as a result of the American invasion (which, for arguments sake, was blamed on America not Saddam). But, when using more reasonable average estimates, more people were killed per year under Saddam than by the recent American invasion. Now, this may have since changed, but at the time this was, in my opinion, a very relevant bit of information, found nowhere else on the web.

    Next, during my research on Welfare, I was attempting to isolate populations that were heavily affected by Welfare in order to try and understand changes in family structure and other sociologic phenomena. Specifically, I was looking for graphs/charts from 1930 onwards showing the percent of African Americans on Welfare, the percent of single African American mothers on Welfare, and the percent of African American Children on Welfare. I did not question for a moment I would be able to find this information because it is so central to the questions I was asking and that policy makers must also be asking. However, the data simply did not exist. I spent many hours slogging through the confusing, replicating, and dilapidated data centers of multiple government agencies. These government agencies broke down the most arcane and useless racial stats you could ever want, but ignored what I was looking for. I found the same pattern with Native Americans. I ended up calculating rough rates from a variety of sources and hodgepodging together some estimates. 

    Finally, in my current research on homosexuality (not yet published), I have been trying to find out what percent of the homosexual community has HIV/AIDS. I was interested in this as, it seems to me, one cannot write indepthly on the subject of homosexuality without giving at least a range estimation of this important fact. I was sure at least the public health authorities would have numbers on this. Yet, to my surprise, no data or reasonable estimates existed. I was also interested in prison transmission of HIV/AIDS and some new data that showed HIV increasing among the black population. I wondered what percent of blacks were gay and/or engaged in homosexual activity as compared to whites and/or other races. Again, I found nothing. Yet, I found plenty of other data on homosexuality and even some on African American homosexuals, which was staggeringly detailed, yet entirely pointless and irrelevant. Currently, I have put together some rough estimates of these answers; others might never be answered. 

    So, looking at all this, we need to ask; what the heck is going on?! The 'big picture' questions that I am asking are so reasonable and relevant to policy that it boggles the mind that no one has ever published work on it. People must be thinking about these questions, especially those not in the fog of academia. Now, it might be the case that I just haven't looked in the right places, but I find that hard to believe considering the amount of time I've spent searching and the ease with which I've found information on other inquiries. I have pondered over this dilemma for some time and have reached some tentative conclusions:

    Similarly to the well documented bias in the media, there is a well documented leftward political tilt in academia. For example: 

Professors Fund Liberal Candidates

9/13/04 Daily Princetonian

    After effectively clinching the Democratic nomination on Super Tuesday, Kerry secured $40,950 from donors identifying themselves as employees or affiliates of Princeton University. President Bush received a sole donation of $250, according to FEC records through June.

    In addition to donations made directly to the candidates, the Democratic National Committee has raised $53,351 from University donors for the 2004 election cycle, while the Republican National Committee has received only $500. Liberal political action committees such as Moveon.org have raked in thousands more from University affiliates.

    The University's results were in step with those of Yale and Harvard, both of which had 95 percent of donations going to Kerry. Harvard employees donated $213,045 to Kerry, representing the largest amount given by the employees of any institution or company, according to the Center for Public Integrity.

Republicans Outnumbered In Academia, Studies Find

11/18/04 New York Times

    One of the studies, a national survey of more than 1,000 academics, shows that Democratic professors outnumber Republicans by at least seven to one in the humanities and social sciences. That ratio is more than twice as lopsided as it was three decades ago.

    In a separate study of voter registration records, Professor Klein found a nine-to-one ratio of Democrats to Republicans on the faculties of Berkeley and Stanford.

    At both universities [Harvard, and University of California], employees gave about $19 to the Kerry campaign for every dollar for the Bush campaign.

    The ratio of Democratic to Republican professors ranged from 3 to 1 among economists to 30 to 1 among anthropologists.

College Faculties A Most Liberal Lot, Study Finds

3/29/05 Washington Post

    College faculties, long assumed to be a liberal bastion, lean further to the left than even the most conspiratorial conservatives might have imagined, a new study says.

    By their own description, 72 percent of those teaching at American universities and colleges are liberal and 15 percent are conservative, says the study being published this week. The imbalance is almost as striking in partisan terms, with 50 percent of the faculty members surveyed identifying themselves as Democrats and 11 percent as Republicans.

    The disparity is even more pronounced at the most elite schools, where, according to the study, 87 percent of faculty are liberal and 13 percent are conservative. 

    David Horowitz sums it up nicely, saying:

    "Diversity" is the big buzzword in the world of higher education these days, but "intellectual diversity" the diversity that really matters to a good education and a healthy democracy is not on the radar screens of the academic establishment at all.

    All of this is disconcerting for a number of reasons. First, young and impressionable students are getting more or less indoctrinated at our nation's Universities. Better said, they are merely continuing their indoctrination from their public high schools, middle schools and elementary schools. Second, you, the taxpayer, are forced to pay for their indoctrination.

    Now, you might argue that many of these schools are private and so are free from governmental influence. Nothing could be further from the truth. Billions upon billions of dollars of Federal and state money flow to these universities in the form of research grants, tuition grants, and spending programs of every imaginable type.

To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical.  

- Thomas Jefferson

    But the worst part about the Liberal capture of our education institutions is that much of the research they put out is slanted and biased. The bureaucrats controlling the purse strings for most of these grants and bloated spending programs are (generally) Liberals, so if your research is 'provocative' or 'controversial', you might worry that your funding and livelihood would be cut. Like journalists, a Liberal who is a researcher considers himself, professionally, a researcher first and a Liberal second, often not realizing that one is influencing the other. Since, as documented on this website, the media is also similarly biased, we are constantly treated to the spectacle of these academic 'experts' pontificating on a wide variety of issues, without their ideology being disclosed. These 'experts' are also consulted by our politicians on policy and often move in and out of government positions.

        Taking all of this into consideration, it is a wonder there are any Conservatives/Libertarians at all in this country! However, I recognize the danger of painting with too broad of a brush. Generalities are just that, generalities, and the focus of this analysis on ideology may be semantically misleading. Human nature is plagued by an emphasis on seniority and power relations. New researchers follow in the footsteps of old researchers, who show them 'how things are done'. For example, my analysis on Welfare would never be published in one of these academic journals because it wasn't written in the 'proper style'. More and more I see the stifling pressures of conformity, cognitive dissidence, risk aversion, and Huxley's doublethink, bubbling the putrid waters of academia.  

    My main point is that many of these 'experts' and 'researchers' know a great deal of big words, are well read (selectively), and have high IQs (whatever that proves), but spend most of their time split between inventing complex nomenclature, statistical, and computer models that no one else can understand (including themselves) and making sure that they are not shying out of their research 'comfort zone', prestablished with set boundaries by whomever the self anointed and, of course, senior, Liberal researchers/funders happen to be at the time. 

    But, what is the point of it? What are they accomplishing? More importantly, why is our money being used to fund them? In reality, they are not all that 'smart', they are not all that 'productive', and what they have to say isn't particularly interesting or informative.
There is nothing ignorant about my liberal friends; it's just that so much of what they know isn't so. 

- Ronald Reagan

    Of course, one might argue the same scenario would occur with Conservative/Libertarian oriented research. How do I know my findings are not biased? This is a valid point and I would counter in a few different ways. First, if something is objectively correct, but happens to fit an ideological mold, then complaints of 'bias' are irrelevant. Disregarding 'correctness', even if it is 'biased', it adds great value to the collective knowledge just by being rare and different. In other words, if you have 10 Liberally biased research papers, a Conservatively biased one could only be welcome to an objective outsider. I always find it hilarious that some Liberals consider the Fox News show Hannity and Colmes biased because Hannity is a Conservative. Including a Conservative host in addition to a Liberal host made the show biased! 

    Besides, what is the definition of a hypothesis? You have a 'guess' on what might occur and do experiments/investigations to see if you're right. What is wrong with trying to prove your hypothesis/bias? No one can escape being 'biased'; taken too literally, the term can be construed as a definition of our individual differences. The problem is that in certain areas of academic research, especially social research, we have a bunch of Liberals that seem to all have the same basic hypothesis.

    Also, we might guess a Conservative in the Liberally dominated field of, say, welfare research, would be less prone to 'risk aversion' and the herd like mentality then some of his/her Liberal colleagues. Being an outsider already, this person would be less likely to worry about 'rocking the boat'. Indeed, in my opinion, and for the reasons previously mentioned, the default ideology is Liberalism, and those who have discovered it's pitfalls likely used some sort of creative reasoning processes to detect them. Again, I am generalizing. 

    Another point is that those proposing 'Conservative/Libertarian' leaning solutions to problems, or peddling 'ideologically suspect' research are often viciously and personally attacked. If I am searching for and singling out blacks and gays for research to ask certain unorthodox questions then I must be racist or bigoted? I'll be posting a great example of this where a former gay advocate researcher was slammed for newer findings that ran contrary to the agenda of various groups. It takes courage to walk down a path knowing what is going to be flung at you, especially when the media is against you. This phenomena has also been illustrated in African Americans Politics and Welfare.

    However, on the left, we observe a double standard. Intentions are never questioned. Someone arguing for slave reparations can never be called racist, yet the person opposing them is open to the charge? But this is what is, not what should be. It is because the other academics, media, and, in turn, the popular culture, say it is.

    Unfortunately, during the exploratory process of planning research, there is often much 'concern' over how others will interpret or use one's findings. Taking one of my examples, will others use my African American welfare data and upcoming homosexual data to advance their own racist and bigoted agenda? Or will Liberals use it to advocate policies to which I am opposed? This risk aversion, distinct from ideology, but ultimately stemming from it, is probably most responsible for why the questions I proposed were not answered. If you were against the war in Iraq, but calculated the death rates as I did, would you not be giving ammunition to those opposed to your beliefs?

    I say this 'concern' is unfortunate because its flaws transcend ideology and suppress science. By subscribing to this theory one is working front to back, rather than from science to ideology. This inversion can only be harmful. Those that suppress or condemn certain research, or choose not to investigate controversial issues are, if you think about it, actually conceding a substantive portion of the debate to their ideological opponents. It is akin to a sort of circular reasoning: "If I do this research and come up with certain findings, it might strengthen my opponents argument, therefore I won't do the research." 

    So, returning to my Welfare example, I can't worry about what other people do with my findings. Political correctness has no place in scientific investigation. In fact, if you are a regular reader of this site, you know these findings actually suggest the opposite of what the racists and bigots would conclude. Those looking for validation of prejudice will actually find it in the status quo research, the very stuff academia huddles around and perpetuates! 

 

 

Posted 4/19/06

U.S. Research Funds Often Lead to Start-Ups, Study Says

4/10/06 New York Times 

    A new study of university scientists who received federal financing from the National Cancer Institute found that they generated patents at a rapid pace and started companies in surprisingly high numbers.

    The study, the authors say, suggests that the commercial payoff for the government's support for basic research and development in the life sciences is greater than previously thought.

    The paper, to be published today, comes at a time when politicians and policy makers in the United States and Europe are questioning the value of government funds invested in fundamental research. In theory, those investments should be a wise use of taxpayers' money, according to many economists, who assert that innovation must be an engine of economic growth and job creation in developed nations.

    According to what economists? If the gist behind this article is true, then wouldn't private investors and private bankers be falling over each other to hire these researchers and fund all of this research? Of course, this 'business' is in name only, he just wanted the funding to pay his salary, substitute his other more time consuming grants, and continue to work on his projects. These endeavors are a good and necessary allocation of resources. How do we know this? Because people are choosing to voluntarily fund the projects.

    With government this is not the case; government throws billions of dollars down the drain each year, funding useless, irrelevant, cockamamie research. The occasional successes of this research is the exception not the rule. Of course, government has no clue what areas of research are promising and which ones are not and so all of these 'scientists' end up chasing the funds wherever they appear, no matter how ridiculous the nitch. The research follows the money, the reverse is not true.

    Interestingly, I recently heard a speaker (an academic researcher) talk about a new way to get funding: start your own business. Of course, this 'business' is in name only, he just wanted the funding to pay his salary, substitute his other more time consuming grants, and work on his projects. He could do this because the SBA (Small Business Administration), a bloated, porkbarelling branch of the Federal government has been expanding exponentially in recent years and they have a lot of grant money.

    These folks will chase the money wherever it goes and into whatever government program has the mullah, like piglets looking to suckle from a fat sow, they will fight for their place for a teat. 

The king's cheese is half wasted in parings;
But no matter, 'tis made of the people's milk.

 - Benjamin Franklin

 

 

 

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