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 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.
Tacking across news coverage, medical journals, letters to the editor, and oncology pamphlets, Dr. 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. Scientific Characters thus addresses what happens when scientists, patients, and advocates are called to speak in public concerning complex technical matters with direct implications for human life and sheds light on the challenges faced by scientists and citizens as science becomes more bureaucratized, dispersed, and accountable to varied publics.
Rhetoric, Politics, and Trust in Breast Cancer Reseach
Recipient of the 2011 Marie Hochmuth Nichols Award for Outstanding Scholarship in Public Address from the Public Address Division of the National Communication Association.
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