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#15 - Among the many temptations of the digital age

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Complete Question Explanation

Assumption. The correct answer choice is (D)

The author of this stimulus discusses the recent problem of photo manipulation in submissions to
a scientific journal. It seems that a journal of cellular biology recently started examining the digital
images submitted with articles for publication. The journal’s examinations have shown that the
images submitted by dozens of authors were manipulated in violation of the journal’s guidelines.
Based on the evidence, the author concludes that “scientific fraud is a widespread problem among
the authors” who submit articles to the journal.

Just like we saw in Question 12, the author’s conclusion here is flawed because it contains a term
that was not presented in a premise. In this case, the conclusion discusses scientific fraud, when none
of the premises discussed fraud. Rather, the evidence was that the manipulation of the photographs
was a violation of the journal’s guidelines.

The question stem identifies this as an Assumption question. As we discussed in reference to
Question 12, since there is new information in the conclusion, this is a Supporter Assumption
question. Our prephrase is that the correct answer choice will connect this new information,
regarding scientific fraud, to the evidence of digital photograph manipulation in violation of
the journal’s guidelines. The correct answer choice will likely tell us that digital photograph
manipulation in violation of the journal’s guidelines is scientific fraud.

Answer choice (A): Keep in mind that the correct answer choice will describe information required
for the conclusion to be valid. This answer choice is incorrect because the conclusion does not
require that the scientists who submitted manipulated images were aware that the journal was
using the software described in the stimulus. To the contrary, evidence that the scientists knew the
photographs would be analyzed may weaken the conclusion that they were attempting to commit
scientific fraud.

Answer choice (B): This answer choice explains why scientists submit digital images with their
articles. However, it does not connect the violation of the journal’s guidelines with scientific fraud.

Answer choice (C): Here, the answer choice is incorrect because it is unnecessarily restrictive. While
the stimulus did discuss scientific fraud in cellular biology, we cannot say that the documentation
with digital images is the only way to commit scientific fraud in the field of cellular biology.

Answer choice (D): This is the correct answer choice, although it does not precisely match our
prephrase. In the prephrase, we said that the correct answer choice would likely connect a violation
of the journal’s guidelines with scientific fraud. This answer choice is more narrow than our
prephrase, stating that the purpose of the scientists in submitting the manipulated images was “to
misrepresent the information conveyed by those images,” i.e., it was their intent to commit fraud.

Answer choice (E): As with answer choice (C), this answer is too restrictive. It does not have to be
the case that widespread fraud is only a problem relating to articles submitted to journals of cellular
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I am having some trouble with answer choice C.

Isn't violating the journal's guidelines the same as "scientific fraud"?

Maybe the scientists did not manipulate images in order to misrepresent but in the end, they did violate the guidelines, meaning they committed fraud.
Adam Tyson
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That's part of the problem with this question, nikaar - we don't actually know that these images constitutes fraud! But, the authors of this test assume that we know that the concept of fraud includes some intention to misrepresent. An honest mistake isn't fraud - an intentional deception is. So, these manipulated photos might be intended to deceive, and thus be fraudulent, or they might be innocent on the part of the scientists submitting them (maybe they were just trying to clear up an image to make it easier to see, or to enhance contrast, etc., without meaning to violate the guidelines). That's a vocab issue, perhaps, and those do come up on this test, so add that to your lexicon - fraud requires some intention to decieve, rather than just a mistake.

More than that, though, there is a bigger problem with answer C, and that is the word "only." Do we have any reason to believe that the author things that the inclusion of digital images is the ONLY way to commit fraud in these cases? Or, could the author agree that there may be other ways to commit fraud, like by inventing data or hiding contrary results? Or by the scientist claiming to have better credentials than they actually have? The negation of answer C would be "Scientific fraud is possible in the field of cellular biology even if the research is not documented with digital images." Or, we could paraphrase it as "documenting with digital images is not the only way to commit scientific fraud in the field of cellular biology." Would either of those negations hurt this argument that "scientific fraud is a widespread problem among the authors submitting to that journal"? Not a bit! Those claims could be true, and the author could still be right. That proves that C is NOT an assumption of the argument. The right answer, negated, will wreck the argument.
Adam M. Tyson
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I chose B bcs I was thinking that in the premise the question was saying that "among people who submitted photos," many of the photos were manipulated, however, in the conclusion, it says that "among the authors submitting to that journal," fraud is a widespread issue. i was thinking that what if there are 1,000 people submitting to that journal, but only 10 of them submitted with photos, and among these 10 people, let's say 8 of 10 used manipulated photos, but that's still only 8 out of 1,000 for the whole group. That's why I picked B, trying to equate "authors submitting to that journal" to "people who submitted photos."

Can someone please help me out?
Robert Carroll
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Your thinking was great in general terms, because you identified a serious problem with the argument - the conclusion claims that fraud is widespread, but in order for that to be true, we need some information that proves fraud is occurring in a good number of cases. If fraud is limited to a small minority of cases, then it's not fair to say it's "widespread".

As the explanation of the correct answer makes clear, another issue in the stimulus is that "fraud" hasn't been proven even in the possibly small minority of cases in the premises. Since that's a separate problem and has already been discussed here, I won't rehash that discussion. I'll instead address your issue. Although it would be good to provide information establishing that the manipulation of images isn't limited to a few cases but is indeed widespread, we have to be very careful about how strong a claim we make. This is an Assumption question. Thus, an answer choice goes too far (proves too much) can be wrong precisely because of that. Applying this logic to answer choice (B), you can see that there is no need for this argument to assume that all articles have to be submitted with digital images. It could be that no articles are required to be submitted with digital images, yet all or at least a lot of them do include digital images. And those images may be manipulated in a fraudulent way. Thus, the negation of answer choice (B) does not harm the argument, showing that the assumption in that answer is too strong - it's not necessary for the argument to work.

Robert Carroll