The GWT Blog

It's Time for Universities to Apply the Mirror Test

Posted on April 14, 2011

By Howard Gardner
Howard Gardner

On April 13, Professors David Korn and Max Bazerman facilitated a several hour symposium at HLS on conflict of interest (COI, as it is called) in professions, particularly medicine. The papers were of high quality but they did not discuss the issue as it pertains to universities, and Harvard was not mentioned, except incidentally in opening remarks.

I raised the question of what universities in general, and Harvard in particular, should do, with respect to high profile and less dramatic cases of COI and other ethical lapses, such as plagiarism or data manipulation or creation by faculty. I mentioned that at Harvard, in the absence of ‘official’ statements by the President, Deans , and/or the Corporation, or posting on Richard Bradley’s (or Harry Lewis’) blog, there was no ‘commons’ at which these issues could be discussed, both by individuals themselves (I have cases in which I’ve been involved) and by thoughtful observers (like many readers of this blog). (The question was raised as to whether such a site should be curated).

Anyway I’d be quite interested in participating in such a Harvard- or University- endeavor, and I think that our recommendations about other professions and other ’sectors’ would be taken far more seriously if we also held up a mirror toward our own actions and activities.

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