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The Fraud Finder: A conversation with Elisabeth Bik – The Last Word on Nothing (Sally Adee | February 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on March 10, 2019

When you think of plagiarism, poems and books probably spring to mind more easily than, say, scientific papers. And words more easily than images. But plagiarism is not uncommon in science papers, and it often takes the form of images fiddled with and grafted from elsewhere. Whether they’re a consequence of laziness or a desire to mislead, these have played a role in the replication crisis many disciplines are now facing.

It’s a lot more difficult to detect plagiarism and fraud in scientific images than in written text. And even when you have irrefutable proof of wrongdoing, there are some surprising barriers to holding its authors to account. Nonetheless, some people are up to the task.

Meet Elisabeth Bik: by day, a mild-mannered director of science at a microbiome startup. By night (and on weekends), she takes to the internet and sifts through the scientific literature for the subtle visual fingerprints of misconduct. She has identified more than a thousand fraudulent images, and her work has led at least one journal to change the way it screens submissions. Her work has been featured several times by Retraction Watch, a blog that flays scientific malfeasance*.

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(US) Is it time to revise the definition of research misconduct? (Papers: David B. Resnik | February 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on March 9, 2019


Often the US approach to research integrity is held up as the gold standard, but it isn’t without its critics and problems. Enshrining national arrangements in law both elevates their standing but also reduces their agility.  A regulatory approach can make it easier to argue for institutional resources to implement, while also can result in a greater fixation on complying with the letter of the law but not necessarily its spirit. We agree its high time for learned academies to get tough on sexual harassment and bullying, but national approaches to research misconduct must encompass the breadth of destructive/toxic/bad behaviour and be agile enough to respond to emergent problems and evolving societal expectations. And that isn’t ‘just’ a gender and International Women’s Day issue.

U.S. federal policy defines research misconduct as fabrication of data, falsification of data, or plagiarism (FFP). In recent years, some have argued or suggested that the definition of research misconduct should also include sexual harassment, sabotage, deceptive use of statistics, and failure to disclose a significant conflict of interest (COI). While the arguments for revising the definition of misconduct used by federal agencies to include misbehaviors other than FFP are not convincing at this point in time, the arguments for revising definitions used by other organizations, such as professional societies, universities, or journals, may be. Since these other organizations play an important role in promoting integrity in science and deterring unethical behavior, they may consider adopting definitions of misconduct that extend beyond FFP. Debates about the definition of research misconduct are a normal and healthy part of broader discussions about integrity in science and how best to promote it. These debates should continue even if the federal definition of misconduct remains unchanged.

Research misconduct, fabrication, falsification, plagiarism, definition, sexual harassment, sabotage, statistics

David B. Resnik (2019) Is it time to revise the definition of research misconduct?, Accountability in Research, 26:2, 123-137, DOI: 10.1080/08989621.2019.1570156

(US) This neuroscientist is fighting sexual harassment in science – but her own job is in peril – Science (By Meredith Wadmam | February 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on March 3, 2019

BethAnn McLaughlin has no time for James Watson, especially not when the 90-year-old geneticist is peering out from a photo on the wall of her guest room at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s Banbury Center.

Time is most definitely up for sexual harassment in the research sector.  This particular story is more about sexual harassment in science+acaemia, rather than research and about institutional processes.  The achievements of researchers shouldn’t be lauded if they are a sexual harasser or a bully. A repeat who bring in large grants shouldn’t be treated any differently than everyone else. The damage they do is toxic

“I don’t need him staring at me when I’m trying to go to sleep,” McLaughlin told a December 2018 gathering at the storied New York meeting center as she projected a photo of her redecorating job: She had hung a washcloth over the image of Watson, who co-discovered DNA’s structure, directed the lab for decades—and is well-known for racist and sexist statements.

The washcloth image was part of McLaughlin’s unconventional presentation—by turns sobering, hilarious, passionate, and profane—to two dozen experts who had gathered to wrestle with how to end gender discrimination in the biosciences. McLaughlin, a 51-year-old neuroscientist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) in Nashville, displayed the names of current members of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) who have been sanctioned for sexual harassment. She urged other NAS members—several of whom sat in the room—to resign in protest, “as one does.” She chided institutions for passing along “harassholes” to other universities. “The only other places that do this are the Catholic Church and the military,” she said.

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Why journal editors should dig deeper when authors ask for a retraction – Retraction Watch (Ivan Oransky | February 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on March 2, 2019

Imagine you’re a journal editor. A group of authors sends you a request to retract one of their papers, saying that “during figure assembly certain images were inappropriately processed.”

What do you do next? Do you ask some tough questions about just what “inappropriately processed” means? Do you check your files for whether the author’s institution had told you about an investigation into the work? Do you Google the author’s names? Do you…search Retraction Watch?

It seems unlikely that any of those things happened in the case of a recent retraction from Nature Communications, or, if they did, they don’t seem to have informed the notice. We don’t know for sure, because, as is typical, the journal isn’t saying much. But here’s what we do know.

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