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Indigenous groups look to ancient DNA to bring their ancestors home – Nature (Nicky Phillips – April 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on May 9, 2019

Local communities and geneticists are working together to sequence DNA from remains that were taken from their homelands decades ago.

Several years ago, Gudju Gudju Fourmile welcomed back several members of his Yidinji community who had been taken from their homes in northern Australia almost a century ago. Like many other Indigenous communities in Australia, the Yidinji have worked for decades to bring the bodies of their ancestors home — which Aboriginal communities describe as returning to Country.

Many of the ancestors are off Country as a result of the dehumanizing practices of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when it was common for white collectors to loot graves and sell the remains of Aboriginal people to museums in Australia, the United Kingdom and other countries. “When our remains are off Country, we try to make sure they come back,” says Fourmile, an elder in the community who lives in Cairns. “They need to be comfortable. That’s a big thing for many tribal groups.” And when his community finally reburied its ancestors in 2014, “everybody was so happy. And the Country felt good again,” Fourmile says.

Before the Yidinji elders laid their ancestors to rest, they received a request from scientists who had been analysing the DNA of living community members: could they sequence the ancestors’ genomes, too? With permission granted, a team led by evolutionary geneticist David Lambert at Griffith University in Brisbane extracted DNA from the remains of one individual, and confirmed that the ancient person was closely related to Yidinji people alive today1,2. “When you find something out like that, you jump for joy,” says Fourmile. The event also marked a turning point in the mindset of the community, he says, when members started to realize the potential of DNA analysis to help bring their people back home.

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Australian Mental Health Consumer and Carer Perspectives on Ethics in Adult Mental Health Research (Papers: Alyssa R. Morse, et al | April 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on May 5, 2019

Barriers to research arise when national ethical guidelines governing the inclusion of consumers in mental health research are implemented at the local level. Equivalent guidelines for research involving carers are not available. A social science investigation of Australian mental health consumer and carer perspectives on research ethics procedures was conducted in two interlinked stages: (a) a discussion forum with consumers, carers, and lived-experience researchers and (b) in-depth interviews with consumers and carers. Data collection and analysis drew strongly on methodological features of grounded theory. Privacy, confidentiality, and stigmatizing ethics procedures were key issues for consumer and carer participants. Recommendations for research practice include the following: considering the impact of information sharing on participants’ relationships and adopting individual-focused approaches to managing research risks.

caregiver; carer involvement; consumer involvement; mental health; research ethics; service user

Morse, A. R., Forbes, O., Jones, B. A., Gulliver, A., & Banfield, M. (2019). Australian Mental Health Consumer and Carer Perspectives on Ethics in Adult Mental Health Research. Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics.

To move research from quantity to quality, go beyond good intentions – Nature ( Alan Finkel | February 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on May 3, 2019

Australian chief scientist Alan Finkel calls for formal action to bake in better research practices.

In 1969, I skipped school to watch the Moon landing from home. Fifty years later, I struggle to think of an event that would justify truancy today. It’s not for lack of stunning breakthroughs in research, but rather their frequency: if children neglected their work every time the television reported another scientific milestone that my generation scarcely dared to contemplate, they’d end up with no education at all.

Yet there is a growing rumble of concern about the rigour and reproducibility of published research. Problems of over-hyped analysis and puffed-up CVs are well recognized. Financial and career incentives keep researchers on a treadmill, churning out papers.

We cannot know how many of the 1.6 million or so papers now added every year to the Web of Science database are flawed as a consequence, but we can agree that our focus has to shift from quantity to quality if we are to safeguard against shoddy work.

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We need to talk about systematic fraud – Nature (Jennifer Byrne | February 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on April 28, 2019

Software that uncovers suspicious papers will do little for a community that does not confront organized research fraud, says Jennifer Byrne.

From where I work at the University of Sydney, you cannot see the ocean. However, in Australia, the ocean is part of our national consciousness. This is perhaps why I think of the research literature as an ocean, linking researchers in disparate yet ultimately connected fields. Just as there is growing alarm about our rising, polluted oceans, scientists are increasingly talking about the swelling research literature and its contamination by incorrect research results.

It makes sense for institutional professional development and resource material to discuss good faith errors, mistakes and small missteps. Such problems do occur, they can be costly for researchers and are easily avoided.  Ironically talking to early career researchers, higher degree candidates and more experienced researchers about fraud can distract from the message that mistakes can harm careers. Such fraud is rare, but it does occur. So, Jennifer’s point is an important one. We also need mechanisms that detect and act upon systemic fraud.

Most of the talk centres on unconscious bias and ill-informed sloppiness; conversations about intentional deception are more difficult. Unlike most faulty research practices, fraud actively evades detection. It is also overlooked because the scientific community has been unwilling to have frank and open discussions about it.

In 2015, I discovered several papers had been written about a gene that I and my colleagues first reported in 1998. All were by different authors based in China, but contained shared and strange irregularities. They also used highly similar language and figures. I think the papers came from third parties working for profit, fuelled by the pressure on authors to meet unrealistic publication expectations. (Such operations have been identified by investigative journalists.) I also think that, with most of the protein-coding and non-protein-coding genes in the human genome currently understudied, such third parties are targeting less-well-known human genes to produce low-value and possibly fraudulent papers.

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