How should the academic world respond when a research study published in a peer-reviewed journal comes to a conclusion you wouldn’t expect? In the past, some might have challenged the methodology or even considered doing a second study to see if the conclusions could be replicated.
The latest tactic is to bring pressure on the researchers and their universities so they will disavow their own study. That is what happened to professors at Michigan State University and the University of Maryland who studied police shootings. They analyzed 917 fatal police shootings of civilians to test whether the race of the officer or the civilian predicted fatal police shootings. Neither did. Their study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that once “race specific rates of violent crime” were taken in the account, they found no disparities based on race.
Heather MacDonald is a fellow with the Manhattan Institute, and has been a guest on my radio program. She has cited this study in her congressional testimony and also referred to their article in some of her writings. She even added that other professors also challenged the study design. The two professors in the original study concluded that even under the proposed study design, there was “no significant evidence of anti-black disparity in the likelihood of being fatally shot by police.”
Given the current climate, you can imagine the amount of pressure they have been under. Earlier this month, the authors decided to retract their paper under the excuse that its conclusion had been misused. They specifically mentioned op-eds by Heather MacDonald.
This retraction illustrates what’s wrong with the academic world. No longer is the focus on finding the truth. Political consensus is already driving much of the research done in this country. Researchers will likely suppress any results that challenge the latest liberal, progressive narrative. Truth will be set aside.