Ethics in Transport Planning, Research Authoring, and Journal Editing

This story has it all. Prof. Bent Flyvbjerg has made a career of tracing the role of power and influence in urban planning, most famously how ostensibly “objective” transport planning analyses, such as traffic forecasting and project cost estimation, can be influenced by political circumstances. Now Prof. Flyvbjerg has published a meta-criticism of the process he underwent getting his work publicized (this issue is not publication) by its publisher, the  Journal of the American Planning Association.

This issue has already set off what promises to be an interesting exchange in urban planning academics’ email lists, but a more comprehensive account can be found in a blog called Retraction Watch. Reading the whole blog entry, we see there’s much more to the story, including not only 1) ethics in urban planning practice and 2) ethics in urban planning publication, but also 3) ethics in scientific authorship — case in point, an article by Prof. Flyvbjerg and his coauthors was recently retracted due to its similarities to an earlier article by the same author.

The punch line is perhaps that there is a tangential link in this story to former-professor Diederik Stapel, perpetrator of one of the most extensive scientific frauds ever known, with nearly 50 social psychology articles based on falsified data.