Granberg, Donald O., and John F. Galliher. A Most Human Enterprise: Controversies in the Social Sciences.
Article Type: Book review
Subject: Books (Book reviews)
Author: Murphy, Linda
Pub Date: 03/22/2011
Publication: Name: International Social Science Review Publisher: Pi Gamma Mu Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2011 Pi Gamma Mu ISSN: 0278-2308
Issue: Date: Spring-Summer, 2011 Source Volume: 86 Source Issue: 1-2
Topic: NamedWork: A Most Human Enterprise: Controversies in the Social Sciences (Nonfiction work)
Persons: Reviewee: Granberg, Donald O.; Galliher, John F.
Accession Number: 263035415
Full Text: Granberg, Donald O., and John F. Galliher. A Most Human Enterprise: Controversies in the Social Sciences. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2010. x + 151 pages. Paper, $60.00.

The world of academe has always struggled with the topic of research violations. From plagiarism to abusing human and animal subjects, we are always on the watch for research that does not meet the standards of our discipline. Each discipline has its own series of journals where scholars review each other's research. It is in those journals where the guidelines for research are best spelled out for everyone.

The social sciences have their own journals and peer-review process; and within social sciences are sociology and psychology, which are the focus fields of this book. Sociologists Donald Granberg and John Galliher have put together a series of case studies in A Most Human Enterprise that report and examine a wide variety of abuses in the world of academic research. The title of the book is a good choice because those who committed the abuses include those who believe that because they are researching for the betterment of humankind their violation was validated by the usefulness of the results.

This book organizes various types of research abuse into categories, led by the way case studies are laid out in it. The first series of studies examine cases where humans were mistreated, or misled, in some way, to achieve valid research data. The next sections examine a different type of research abuse, plagiarism. These studies present various types of plagiarism that occur in the academic world, starting with the invention of data on the part of the researcher. The study of social psychologist Karen Ruggiero is very revealing about how easy it is to manipulate or invent data, and how long it might take for anyone to figure out that the research is invalid. What is really frightening to the academic heart is that it might never have been revealed. One cannot help but ask the question, how much invalid research is out there that has never been challenged? The authors do an excellent job of presenting that case and that question in this section of case studies. They offer no solutions to the various aspects of poor research techniques, but this study offers one: It was an academic outside of Cyril Burt's field of educational psychology who caught the fraud because he was viewing the data with a different set of eyes. Philosopher Thomas Kuhn comes to mind with the idea of breaking out of the paradigm and thinking outside the box. Perhaps all journals should employ some reviewers who are not members of that specific field so that they can see things through a different lens.

All academics are aware of another form of plagiarism that is often ignored, namely, the lifting of data and research from students, particularly graduate students. There is an assumption between students and professors that the research the students are doing will be beneficial to the professor as well, part of the payment for the amount of time the professor spends with the student. This leads to the following question: What are the boundaries between valid use of a student's research and actual theft? The chapter does not really address that question, but merely lays out the issue.

One of the most valuable contributions of this book is to define the victims in these types of academic research. While it is easy to see the human victims in cases such as the Tuskegee study, it is often difficult to see the many types of victims other types of research create. It is in the Ruggiero case, involving a Harvard psychologist denied tenure at the University of Texas due to the fabrication of data, that the victims of such questionable research are spelled out most effectively.

The greatest weakness of this book is the overall judgmental approach that the authors take toward abusive academic research. Even while judging others for their poor academic standards, they do not see the irony that those very cases provided the research they themselves use to produce this book. No academic is completely innocent of using data produced through bad research. All of us in the academic world, while castigating the abusive techniques in conducting research, will still use the results of the research, whether it came from Nazi scientists, Russian scientists noted for abusive research techniques or our own social scientists. While all researchers should be as circumspect as possible in the way they produce their data, and just plain inventing or stealing data is never acceptable, it is easy to forget that the boundaries of knowledge often cannot be crossed if risks are not taken.

A Most Human Enterprise is an important book to keep on the shelf. It is an especially useful source for professors to recommend to beginning research students so that they can understand what good research is and how to spot the frauds in their own discipline.

Linda Murphy, PhD

Department of Social Sciences

Blinn College

Bryan, Texas
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2011 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.