Sexual orientation and identity
IT WAS SUCH a joy to see the cover articles on sexual orientation and identity (February Monitor). For nearly 30 years, I have worked on those issues and to read these excellent and accurate reports brought tears to my eyes. I have been proud to have been a member of APA, as it has been a leader on lesbian, gay and bisexual concerns for at least 20 years and that leadership has made a very significant contribution. The current focus on the international stage and on promoting healthy student environments, as described in those articles, is exactly right. As the psychologist pioneer Evelyn Hooker once said: "I never thought our research would make such a difference in people's lives!" A big collective hug to everyone involved in this wonderful work.

Hancock, Maine

I WAS HAPPY TO SEE THE FEBRUARY MONITOR--good for you for bringing some up-to-date information on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (GLBT) issues to the general readership. However, there are a handful of school districts that have formal support services that you should have noted. For example, the Minneapolis Public Schools has services that:

  • Include the "T" in GLBT--there is extensive work with transgendered youth, staff and their families.

  • Provide services not just for students but for GLBT staff and families.

  • Have a GLBT PTA.

  • Provide consultation and training to many other schools, including those from out of state that seek their expertise.

  • Encourage students to attend and present at statewide and national queer youth conferences.

So, while San Francisco is my favorite place on the planet, it is not the center of the queer universe when it comes to cutting-edge youth programs. Thanks for your ear!

Minneapolis, Minn.

Research fraud and plagiarism
BRIDGET MURRAY COMPILED helpful suggestions for policing against research fraud (February issue), but the causes of such fraud remain. In my basic statistics course, I include a cautionary lecture on statistical significance. I tell students that despite the presumed objectivity of scientists regarding research outcomes, there are pressures on researchers to achieve significance. Editors rarely accept research articles in which no statistical significance has been found, and hiring, salary, promotion and grants depend in large part upon the quantity of publications.

Dissertations supposedly add meaningfully to a discipline's knowledge, so there had better be some significant results in those dissertations. Even undergraduates experience pressure to achieve significance. Early in my career, at an institution requiring research projects as a requirement for graduation, we told undergrads that achieving statistical significance did not affect their passing the requirement. One research advisee of a colleague had found significance, and the colleague spent part of his summer writing the study for publication. Having received the first draft, the student came in and confessed that he had fudged the data, since he was tired of not getting significant results. Students read their papers at mini-conventions on campus, and we realized that whenever a student didn't achieve statistical results, we would question the way the study was conducted. If there was significance, however, we rewarded the student by saying such things as "interesting study" and "publishable."

We need to find a way to reward research effort, not just statistical significance, reducing the pressures to fabricate data.

Purdue University-Calumet

IN LIGHT OF THE RECENT PUBLICITY surrounding historians Stephen Ambrose's and Doris Kearns Goodwin's writing transgressions, Bridget Murray's article on student plagiarism was timely. Three follow-up comments are offered here.

First, there's a missed opportunity to reconcile the discussion of the so-called "old-fashioned" cloze procedure for fingering plagiarizers and the statement that "Internet papers are typically written by other students, making Internet plagiarism harder to detect." What was missed is that it is for just such Internet situations where the cloze procedure can be used to great advantage--surely a situation in which the medium is less important than the message.

Second, a recommendation by Goddard is a good one: to "walk" students through APA style on citation and teach them how to paraphrase appropriately. Without referring to the specific section of APA's Publication Manual, however, a reader is likely to assume that paraphrasing per se is the panacea. Not so. Writers who "borrow" a source's ideas or structures without proper attribution are similarly engaging in plagiarism (or what I have previously termed "paraphragiarism"). Thirdly, the article mentions that Miguel Roig's software for detecting plagiarism scans texts for "strings of six words or more," but then cites Stephen Davis as claiming that "[e]ven if a program says the probability of plagiarism is one in a thousand, a jury will think that's a reasonable doubt." Based on that assertion, my final point is simply this: A one-in-a-thousand probability and "reasonable doubt" may well be ascribed to a six-word match, but would the jury still be out for a word-for-word copied five-page text?

University of Arizona

Psychology around the world
DESPITE LIVING IN ONE OF the wealthiest, most educated countries in the world, Americans have this tendency to complain about how difficult their lives are. Perhaps the Sept. 11 tragedies have humbled us to some degree. Unfortunately, we know from our training in psychology that learning endures only when the lesson is repeated.

With this mind, I applaud the Monitor for introducing its yearlong focus on "Psychology Around the World" in the January issue. In addition to gaining great exposure to the work being done in our global community, American psychologists need to be reminded that we really have very little to complain about after all is said and done.

For decades, psychologists in other countries have struggled with myriad challenges. During the past 15 years, I have had the good fortune to lecture in more than 20 countries around the world and I have always made it a point to spend time with my colleagues. In some of the developing nations that I have visited, psychologists earn as little as $50 a month. Although this may go further there than it does here, it doesn't take care of expenses.

Your regular feature should help remind U.S. psychologists that despite the occasional hardships we may experience, we really do have a wonderful life.

Harvard Medical School and
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

Organized religion and corporate capitalism
THE DECEMBER MONITOR quoted two statements I made at the past-APA President's forum during APA's Annual Convention in San Francisco: One, that psychology strive to get rid of organized religion and, two, that we try to eradicate big international corporate capitalism. My paper had as its ethical focus the statement that all humans on earth have equal value. I argued that religions and huge corporations are the principal causes of inequality.

The February Monitor printed letters questioning my knowledge of the benefits of religion. One need only consider the gender inequality that is part of each of the world's major organized religions to see how they undermine the ethical position I was advocating.

Longboat Key, Fla.