Mad Scientist: Should Traver 1951 Be Retracted and How

By Matan Shelomi.

Published by The International Journal of Science in Society

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In 1951, entomologist Jay Traver published in the Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington her personal experiences with a mite infestation of her scalp that resisted all treatment and was undetectable to anyone other than herself. Traver is recognized as having suffered from Delusory Parasitosis: her paper shows her to be a textbook case of the condition. The Traver paper is unique in the scientific literature in that its conclusions may be based on data that was unconsciously fabricated by the author’s mind. The paper may merit retraction on the grounds of error or even scientific misconduct “by reason of insanity”, but such a retraction raises the issue of discrimination against the mentally ill. Does the scientific community have an obligation to retract such a paper or demand a letter of concern by the editors? In this workshop, participants will discuss what should be done about the Traver paper, and the conclusions of the meeting will be implemented by the workshop author.

Keywords: Retraction, Publication, Scientific Misconduct, Delusory Parasitosis, Mental Illness

The International Journal of Science in Society, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp.111-115. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 171.927KB).

Matan Shelomi

Graduate Student, Department of Entomology, University of California, Davis, Davis, USA

Mr. Matan Shelomi is a graduate student in entomology under Dr. Lynn Kimsey at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, University of California, Davis. Through his position at the Museum, which fields calls from patients with Delusional Parasitosis on a weekly or even daily basis, he has gained much experience with the condition. This workshop is based on his most recent publication, “Mad Scientist: The Unique Case of a Published Delusion” as published in Science and Engineering Ethics. His other projects have included work in forensic entomology and insect physiology. He graduated from Harvard University in 2009, majoring in organismic and evolutionary biology. He is an NSF fellow, and a member of Mensa and the International Society for Philosophical Enquiry.