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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

Rude paper reviews are pervasive and sometimes harmful, study find – Science (Christie Wilcox | December 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on December 26, 2019
 

There’s a running joke in academia about Reviewer 2. That’s the reviewer that doesn’t bother to read the manuscript a journal has sent out for evaluation for possible publication, offers condescending or outright offensive comments, and—of course—urges the irrelevant citation of their own work. Such unprofessional conduct is so pervasive there’s even a whole Facebook group, more than 25,000 members strong, named “Reviewer 2 Must Be Stopped!” But it is no laughing matter, concludes a new study that finds boorish reviewer comments can have serious negative impacts, especially on authors belonging to marginalized groups.

Peer reviewers are supposed to ensure that journals publish high-quality science by evaluating manuscripts and offering suggestions for improvement. But often, referee comments stray far from that mission, found the new PeerJ study, which surveyed 1106 scientists from 46 countries and 14 disciplines. More than half of the respondents—who were promised anonymity—reported receiving at least one “unprofessional” review, and a majority of those said they had received multiple problematic comments.

Those comments tended to personally target a scientist, lack constructive criticism, or were just unnecessarily harsh or cruel, the authors report. For example, one author received a review that stated: “The phrases I have so far avoided using in this review are ‘lipstick on a pig’ and ‘bullshit baffles brains.’” Another reported receiving this missive: “The author’s last name sounds Spanish. I didn’t read the manuscript because I’m sure it’s full of bad English.”

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Disaster-zone research needs a code of conduct – Nature (JC Gaillard & Lori Peek | November 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on December 10, 2019
 

Study the effects of earthquakes, floods and other natural hazards with sensitivity to ethical dilemmas and power imbalances.

A magnitude-7.0 earthquake rocked Anchorage, Alaska, in late November 2018. Roads buckled and chimneys tumbled from rooftops. Business operations were disrupted. Schools were damaged across the district. This was the largest earthquake to shake the region in a generation, and there was much to learn. What was the state of the infrastructure? Might further quakes occur? How did people respond? Teams of scientists and engineers from across the United States mobilized to conduct field reconnaissance in partnership with local researchers and practitioners. These efforts were coordinated through the clearing house set up by the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute in Oakland, California, which provided daily in-person and online briefings, as well as a web portal for sharing data.

This discussion is especially relevant at the moment given the bushfires/megafires raging in Australia (and California) and the volcano eruption on White Island, New Zealand.  Our sincere best wishes and hopes to anyone affected by these awful disasters.

But researchers are not always so welcome in disaster zones. After the deadly Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami on 26 December 2004, hundreds of academics from countries including Japan, Russia, France and the United States rushed to the region to collect perishable data. This influx of foreign scientists angered and fatigued some locals; many declined researchers’ requests for interviews. The former governor of Aceh province, Indonesia, where more than 128,000 people died, described foreign researchers as “guerrillas applying hit-and-run tactics”1. Yet research on tsunami propagation and people’s response to the event has led to improved warnings and emergency-response plans.
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When, on 28 September 2018, an earthquake and tsunami hit the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, dozens of researchers found themselves unable to enter the country2. Indonesian law now requires foreign scientists to obtain a special visa before they can begin research. Data-collection protocols must be submitted to the government in advance and projects must have an Indonesian partner. Violators could face criminal charges and even prison.
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(US) NIH must better protect research from foreign influence, federal watchdog says – STAT (Lev Facher | September 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on October 13, 2019
 

WASHINGTON — Foreign governments and corporations could profit from American academic institutions’ failure to safeguard taxpayer-funded biomedical research, according to a set of new reports from a federal watchdog.

Even though this is a US centric item, its points about institution conflicts of interest and overseas funding are very relevant to Australasia.  It also makes some good comments about pharmacology research.

The reports, issued by the Department of Health and Human Services inspector general, show that 54% of research institutions funded by the National Institutes of Health — some 1,013 universities and academic centers — failed to publish financial conflict-of-interest policies online. In 2018, according to the report, the NIH conducted just three audits to determine grantee institutions’ own efforts to safeguard their research — down from 28 in 2012.
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“The concern, generally speaking, is whether financial interests threaten or distort the use of NIH funds for their intended research purpose or the results of that scientific research,” Erin Bliss, an assistant HHS inspector general, said in an interview. “There are also concerns around the diversion of intellectual property, which could be an economic or a national security risk, and the potential for distortion or inappropriate influence of funding decisions.”
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Pay-to-Participate Trials and Vulnerabilities in Research Ethics Oversight – JAMA Network (Holly Fernandez Lynch, et al | September 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on October 2, 2019
 

Faced with the prospect of death or debilitating disease, patients and their families may be willing to try almost any treatment. A number of systems exist to help prevent this understandable desperation from resulting in serious harm, including standards of medical professionalism, requirements for product approval by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and oversight of research by institutional review boards (IRBs). There are gaps in this safety net, however, that become particularly evident in the context of clinical trials that require patients to pay to participate. Although these trials may sometimes satisfy the standards of ethical research, the research oversight system in the United States is not sufficiently robust to ensure that this will always be the case.

Pay-to-Participate Trials
Clinical research is typically funded by governments, charitable foundations, and private companies. Built into this traditional funding system are review mechanisms intended to select for high-priority, high-quality studies. These mechanisms can often prevent the initiation of low-value studies, but they may also limit innovation by prioritizing incremental progress over bold ideas or deprioritizing research with little commercial promise. Inevitably, limited resources may force funders to forgo important studies.

One response is to seek out alternative funding sources, including study participants. Short of fraud protections, there is no legal prohibition against asking patients to pay to participate in research. The FDA explicitly permits charging for investigational products under certain circumstances, while regulations governing research consent simply call for disclosure of any “additional costs” that may result from participation.

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