We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Scientific Characters

Rhetoric, Politics, and Trust in Breast Cancer Research

Written by Lisa Keranen

Publication Year: 2010

Scientific Characters chronicles the contests over character, knowledge, trust, and truth in a politically charged scientific controversy that erupted after a 1994 Chicago Tribune headline: “Fraud in Breast Cancer Research: Doctor Lied on Data for Decade.” In the aftermath of this dramatic news, Dr. Bernard Fisher, the eminent oncologist and celebrated pioneer of breast cancer research, came under intense scrutiny following allegations that one of his investigators falsified data in landmark breast cancer research. Although he was eventually cleared of all wrongdoing, the controversy called into question the treatment decisions of tens of thousands of women, because Fisher’s research had demonstrated that lumpectomy and radiation were as effective as breast removal for early stage cancers—a finding that was hailed as revolutionary in women’s health care.
            Moving back and forth between news coverage, medical journals, letters to the editor, and oncology pamphlets, Lisa Keränen draws insights from rhetoric, literary studies, sociology, and science studies to analyze the roles of character in shaping the outcomes of the “Datagate” controversy. Throughout the scandal, debates about the character of Fisher and other key players endured, showing how scientific knowledge is shaped by perceptions of the personal temperament, trustworthiness, integrity, and transparency of those who produce it. As administrators, politicians, scientists, patients, journalists, and citizens attempted to make sense of what had happened, and to assess the integrity of the research, they raised questions, assigned blame, attributed responsibility, and reshaped the norms of scientific practice. Scientific Characters thusaddresses what happens when scientists, patients, and advocates are called to defend themselves in public concerning complex technical matters with direct implications for human life. In assessing the rhetoric that animated Datagate, Scientific Characters sheds light on the challenges faced by scientists and citizens as science becomes more bureaucratized, dispersed, and accountable to varied publics.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press


pdf iconDownload PDF (157.9 KB)
p. -

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (312.7 KB)
pp. vii-x

Scientific Characters was neither a stationary nor a solitary endeavor. Portions of this book unfolded on a boat, in high- altitude hippie caf

List of Acronyms and Abbreviations

pdf iconDownload PDF (288.8 KB)
pp. xi-xii

read more

Introduction: Trust and Character in Datagate

pdf iconDownload PDF (488.8 KB)
pp. 1-18

March 13, 1994, was a disheartening day in the high-stakes world of breast cancer research. The Chicago Tribune broke the news with a front- page headline proclaiming “Fraud in Breast Cancer Study: Doctor Lied on Data for Decade.”1 Before this announcement, only a small cadre of medical researchers and government investigators knew that Dr. Roger Poisson...

read more

1. Scientists under Scrutiny: The Centrality of Character in Science-Based Controversy

pdf iconDownload PDF (577.7 KB)
pp. 19-44

When the Datagate controversy was but two weeks old, breast cancer patients and the broader medical establishment were still reeling from the news of Roger Poisson’s tarnished data when auditors uncovered evidence damaging enough, the whiff of wider...

read more

2. A Beneficent Healer and a Career-Minded Falsifier? Physician Researcher Role Conflict and the Janus-Faced Dr. Roger Poisson

pdf iconDownload PDF (618.2 KB)
pp. 45-72

In the fallout from the public disclosure that he had falsified North America’s landmark breast cancer data, Dr. Roger Poisson became a doctor in disgrace. He was summarily shamed by the medical community, disbarred from federal research funding, and forced from his academic job...

read more

3. The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of a Scientific Revolutionary: Competing Characterizations of Dr. Bernard Fisher

pdf iconDownload PDF (778.0 KB)
pp. 73-118

On the morning of October 27, 2000, Dr. Bernard Fisher stood before a lectern in lecture rooms 5 and 6 of the University of Pittsburgh’s Scaife Hall. Just moments before, School of Medicine dean Dr. Arthur Levine had lauded Fisher as “one of the most influential scientists of our time.” Pronouncing the occasion a “once in a lifetime experience,” Levine told the...

read more

4. Fighting for a Place at the Table: Women as Consumers, Partners, and Subjects of Science—and the “Dark Knight” Who Tried to “Protect” Them

pdf iconDownload PDF (665.4 KB)
pp. 119-154

On April 13, 1994, the voices of cancer patients and women’s health advocates reverberated through Rayburn Hall as they testified during Congressman Dingell’s hearing on “scientific misconduct in breast cancer ...

read more

5. Recharacterizing Science and Public Life: Trust, Dialogue, and Citizen Engagement

pdf iconDownload PDF (424.7 KB)
pp. 155-168

As I conclude this book, headlines continue to deliver sensational tales of scientists cheating their way to fame and fortune. “Fraud Rocks Anesthesiology Community,” reported Anesthesiology News in March 2009, dramatizing the story of falling star and pain management pioneer Dr. Scott S. Reuben, who stands accused of fabricating data in twenty- one studies published in lead-...

Appendix: Chronology of the Controversy

pdf iconDownload PDF (329.6 KB)
pp. 169-172


pdf iconDownload PDF (710.5 KB)
pp. 173-208


pdf iconDownload PDF (485.7 KB)
pp. 209-226


pdf iconDownload PDF (506.8 KB)
pp. 227-236

E-ISBN-13: 9780817384913
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817317041

Page Count: 236
Publication Year: 2010