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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

Doing the Right Thing: A Qualitative Investigation of Retractions Due to Unintentional Error (Papers: Mohammad Hosseini, et al | 2017)0

Posted by Admin in on May 23, 2017

Retractions solicited by authors following the discovery of an unintentional error—what we henceforth call a “self-retraction”—are a new phenomenon of growing importance, about which very little is known. Here we present results of a small qualitative study aimed at gaining preliminary insights about circumstances, motivations and beliefs that accompanied the experience of a self-retraction. We identified retraction notes that unambiguously reported an honest error and that had been published between the years 2010 and 2015. We limited our sample to retractions with at least one co-author based in the Netherlands, Belgium, United Kingdom, Germany or a Scandinavian country, and we invited these authors to a semi-structured interview. Fourteen authors accepted our invitation. Contrary to our initial assumptions, most of our interviewees had not originally intended to retract their paper. They had contacted the journal to request a correction and the decision to retract had been made by journal editors. All interviewees reported that having to retract their own publication made them concerned for their scientific reputation and career, often causing considerable stress and anxiety. Interviewees also encountered difficulties in communicating with the journal and recalled other procedural issues that had unnecessarily slowed down the process of self-retraction. Intriguingly, however, all interviewees reported how, contrary to their own expectations, the self-retraction had brought no damage to their reputation and in some cases had actually improved it. We also examined the ethical motivations that interviewees ascribed, retrospectively, to their actions and found that such motivations included a combination of moral and prudential (i.e. pragmatic) considerations. These preliminary results suggest that scientists would welcome innovations to facilitate the process of self-retraction.

Integrity, Error. Misconduct, Retractions, Corrections, Moral reasoning

Hosseini M, Hilhorst M, de Beaufort I, Fanelli D (2017) Doing the Right Thing: A Qualitative Investigation of Retractions Due to Unintentional Error. Science and Engineering Ethics – 10.1007/s11948-017-9894-2

Four in 10 biomedical papers out of China are tainted by misconduct, says new survey – Retraction Watch (Mark Zastrow | May 2017)0

Posted by Admin in on May 23, 2017

Chinese biomedical researchers estimate that 40% of research in their country has been affected in some way by misconduct, according to a new survey.

The authors are quick to caution against putting too much stock in this figure due to the subjective nature of the survey, published in Science and Engineering Ethics. The estimates also spanned a wide range, with a standard deviation of ±24%. But they say that the responses to this question and others on the survey suggest that scientists in the region feel academic misconduct remains a major problem that authorities have failed to adequately address. (Indeed, a recent analysis from Quartz using Retraction Watch data showed that researchers based in China publish more papers retracted for fake peer reviews than all other countries put together.)

The survey was designed by employees at Medjaden, a Hong Kong-based editing company that assists mainland Chinese biomedical researchers publishing in English-language journals. They invited all of their registered users by email to complete two surveys—roughly 10,000 users in 2010 and 15,000 in 2015. Like most online surveys, this one had a low response rate—around 5%, so caveats about sampling bias apply.

Read the rest of this discussion piece

Codes of Ethics for Economists: A Pluralist View (Papers: Sheila C Dow | 2013)0

Posted by Admin in on May 22, 2017

Within the discussion of ethics and economics some have considered designing a code of ethics for economists. But the idea of such a code is potentially problematic from a pluralist standpoint. Some possibilities are discussed here to show that any code concerning the behaviour of economists presumes a particular view of human nature and thus of professionalism. Further, issues of socio-economic power in the profession pose problems for the interpretation and implementation of some possible principles, notably those referring to standards of competence and truth-seeking. It is therefore concluded that any code of ethics should take the form of general guidelines, with primacy given to the  ethics of pluralism: tolerance, even-handedness and open-mindedness, on which the interpretation of all other ethical
considerations rests.

Code of ethics, epistemology, pluralism

Dow S (2013) Codes of Ethics for Economists: A Pluralist View, Economic Thought, 2 (1), pp. 20-29.
Publisher  (open access):

A mathematical theory of knowledge, science, bias and pseudoscience (Papers: Daniele Fanelli ​| 2016)0

Posted by Admin in on May 20, 2017

This essay unifies key epistemological concepts in a consistent mathematical framework built on two postulates: 1-information is finite; 2-knowledge is information compression. Knowledge is expressed by a function K(Y;X)K(Y;X) and two fundamental operations, ⊕,⊗⊕,⊗. This KK function possesses fundamental properties that are intuitively ascribed to knowledge: it embodies Occam’s razor, has one optimal level of accuracy, and declines with distance in time. Empirical knowledge differs from logico-deductive knowledge solely in having measurement error and therefore a “chaos horizon”. The KK function characterizes knowledge as a cumulation and manipulation of patterns. It allows to quantify the amount of knowledge gained by experience and to derive conditions that favour the increase of knowledge complexity. Scientific knowledge operates exactly as ordinary knowledge, but its patterns are conditioned on a “methodology” component. Analysis of scientific progress suggests that classic Popperian falsificationism only occurs under special conditions that are rarely realised in practice, and that reproducibility failures are virtually inevitable. Scientific “softness” is simply an encoding of weaker patterns, which are simultaneously cause and consequence of higher complexity of subject matter and methodology. Bias consists in information that is concealed in ante-hoc or post-hoc methodological choices. Disciplines typically classified as pseudosciences are sciences expressing extreme bias and therefore yield K(Y;X)≤0K(Y;X)≤0. All knowledge-producing activities can be ranked in terms of a parameter Ξ∈(−∞,∞)Ξ∈(−∞,∞), measured in bits, which subsumes all quantities defined in the essay.

Fanelli D. (2016) A mathematical theory of knowledge, science, bias and pseudoscience. PeerJ Preprints 4:e1968v2