A panel is proposed to monitor research protocols and final reports for reasonableness of conclusions and research ethics to assure ethical treatment of research subjects and protect the greater good of the community.
Elements of the Wizard of Oz story are used to help characterize the academic-layperson partition in the paranormalist community. The wizard represents parapsychologists and other people representing themselves with the authority of an advanced college degree. Of course, munchkins represent layperson community. Dorothy represents the honest broker influence proposed in this essay.
Master article for editing is athttp://atransc.org/bp/Practitioner_advocacy_panel
The paranormalist community consists of several loci of interest which are related by the desire to understand the same phenomena. It is difficult to characterize these loci because many cultural influences are at play which have nothing to do with the phenomena. A rough first cut might beresearchers, practitioners and seekers.
Research is claimed by parapsychologists because of their academic credentials, but when the loci are characterized in terms of acceptance of survival, parapsychology is demonstrably more concerned with human potential rather than survival of personality as a preferred explanation for phenomena. (This is sometimes described in terms of the Super-Psi Hypothesis versus the Survival Hypothesis.) Consequently, survival has become the domain of citizen scientists, most of whom do not have an advanced degree.
From the perspective of survival, paranormal phenomena appear to be interrelated. As such, from the story of blind men describing an elephant we know that it is necessary to have a collective view if the phenomena are to be properly understood. We are all gathered around the same metaphorical elephant, but in practice, there is little shared understanding. We are demonstrably incapable of correctly describing these phenomena.
Wizard of Oz Syndrome
As it turns out, the major themes in the Wizard of Oz story lend themselves to many different cultural stories. For instance, the innate goodness in people is portrayed in the story by virtually everyone but some of the witches.
The relationship of the wizard with the other citizens of Oz illustrates the main point of this essay. William Bouffard provides a good description of this complex of behaviors in his December 2012 blog, The Wizard of Oz Syndrome.1As he describes it in the workplace:
My premise is that the typical workplace sociopathic management acts no differently than the Wizard. They can exhibit many personalities that manifest themselves depending on whom they are targeting at the time. To the organization as a whole, they are the giant head; to the loyal sycophants they are like a beautiful woman; to those being bullied they’re a horrible monster, and to all others (who get in their way or challenge them) they are a ball of fire–a dictator. This then is The Wizard of Oz Syndrome.
People in management that suffer with this syndrome begin to believe they are behind the metaphorical curtain, pulling all the strings and that without them the organization just can’t function.
The academic-layperson partition is the cultural separation of those who identify themselves as academically superior personalities as compared to those who either do not have an advanced degree or who do not assume authority under cloak of their advanced degree. From my perspective as a layperson, the complex of behaviors represented by the academic side of the partition include a priori assumption of knowledge and academic authority resulting in reluctance to collaborate with layperson practitioners. The most grievous behavior concerns mistreatment of witness and practitioner research subjects.
The complex of behaviors represented by the layperson side of the partition include expectation that people claiming academic authority will fairly study experienced phenomena and provide meaningful guidance in how to deal with the unknown.
The relationship can be characterized as a general contempt for laypeople and baseless respect for parapsychologists. Probably the most disturbing aspect of the Wizard of Oz Syndrome is that parapsychologists, as the wizards in this story, behave as if they believe their wizard status. This can be characterized as a Wizard Complex.
Dorothy the Revealer
Because of how he presented himself, the munchkins in the Wizard of Oz feared the wizard and attributed super-human powers to him. As it turned out, the wizard was an interloper to the land of Oz just like Dorothy. While he was clever, he was also deceptive and treated the munchkins to suit his wants. By contrast, Dorothy’s innocence inadvertently revealed the wizard as just an ordinary man.
Continuing this comparison between the Oz story and the paranormalist community, there is no Dorothy the Revealer counterpart in our community. Writing about these issues does not fulfill the Revealer function. Dorothy is an honest broker in the Oz story because her only agenda was to find her way home. Whatever she did in behalf of the citizens of Oz was due to her innocent nature and not to her desire to take advantage of the situation.
Practitioner Advocacy Panel
This essay is written to propose a cooperative effort amongst members of our community to provide a resource for researchers and practitioners which will facilitate a positive contribution to the community of research. There is likely no set approach to such a panel, so its formation and function should be decided by volunteers. Here are points to consider for its organization:
The Panel would probably be most effective with an odd number of at least seven people representing both sides of the academic-layperson partition. There should be at least one parapsychologist, practitioner in mediumship and/or healing and one Instrumental TransCommunication practitioner.
All positions should be filled by way of a vote on social media. Perhaps a Facebook page can be setup on which candidates could provide a brief bio and the number of likes counted as votes. However it is done, the Panel will be of little use if it is not accepted by the general community.
A chairperson should be selected from the panel by other members of the panel. All positions should be for a limited period so that not all come up for reelection at the same time. Say positions 1, 3, 5 for three years, positions 2, 4 and 6 for two years and position 7 for one year.
The Panel would be responsible for the development of practices which describe its function and how members of the community are asked to interface with the panel. These would include a practice for ethics, the panel’s charter and mission statement.
The Panel’s charter will include the authority to review research proposals, especially protocols and provide guidance concerning collaboration, ethical treatment of research subjects (practitioners, witnesses) and reporting. The charter will also include the authority to review research reports before they are published and provide guidance for ethical treatment of research subjects. The Panel should be expected to make public comment about concluding remarks in reports as to their agreement with protocols and resulting data.
Submission of research proposals and reports to the Panel should be considered a courtesy rather than mandatory, and resulting comments from the Panel should be considered suggestions rather than requirements. As is the nature of best practices, it is reasonable for members of the community to ask whether or not such research has been reviewed by the Panel. Perhaps note to the effect that the “Research has been conducted in compliance with applicable best practices” at the end of a report would signal intention to support the community.
The panel would be responsible for identifying literature and human resources from which to draw their comments to researchers and practitioners. The objective is that the Panel would represent the best practice of the time. The panels should not, under any circumstances, attempt to dictate science or protocol. At the same time, a poor report from the Panel would be expected if research report conclusions were not representative of data collected within the protocol.
The panel should publish an occasional (at least once a year) report of activities.
The National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research 1979 Belmont Report should be used as the bases of a research ethics standard.2
The current culture amongst researchers of speaking to the community without listening to the community has fostered an atmosphere in which it appears reasonable to defame a practitioner with little or no empirical support. At the same time, the academic community is sheltered community response by the academic-layperson partition. The inspiration for a Practitioner Advisory Panel has come from real-world situations in which research subjects have been abused by trusted researchers.
The Panel is not expected to provide expert opinion about the quality of research. The objective is limited to establishing the reasonableness of protocols and subsequent reports, and the wellbeing of research subjects. This is an important standard. The Panel should not assume the authority to determine good or bad science. The standard should always be whether or not the data emerges from the protocol and the conclusions emerge from the data.
The overriding goal of the Panel should be to protect the public image of the community and the wellbeing of research subjects.
The reason for this practice comes from the treatment of a physical medium test subject by parapsychologists. The protocol appears to have been limited to proof gathering with little reference to theory. The final report came in the form of three articles accusing the medium of fraud which reportedly had occurred outside of the study.
The researchers continued to use every opportunity to make negative public comments about the medium. At the same time, only one publication gave the medium a forum to respond, albeit as a layperson responding to a team of doctorates. Reviewing the incident, it has become clear that all three major parapsychological organizations have been involved in the attack. There has been little evidence of corrective response from peer parapsychologists, reinforcing the academic-layperson partition.
The resulting damage to the medium’s reputation (defamation) and unethical treatment will certainly have lasting negative impact on the larger community. The intention of this practice is to provide a means of addressing such treatment, and assuming the researchers intended well, providing guidelines for future ethical treatment of research subjects. 3 4
- Bouffard, William, The Wizard of Oz Syndrome, 12/28/2012, puttincologneontherickshaw.com/authors-blog/the-wizard-of-oz-syndrome/
- The Belmont Report, The National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research, 1979, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, gov/ohrp/humansubjects/guidance/belmont.html
- Butler, Tom. The Felix Study: Personal Attack Under Cover of Science. 2014. ethericstudies.org/scientist-attack-medium/
- Butler, Tom. The Arrogance of Scientific Authority. 2015. ethericstudies.org/arrogance-of-science/