ACN - 101321555 Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

Resource Library

Research Ethics MonthlyAbout Us


Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

(Queensland, Australian case) Fishy research opens a can of worms – THE (John Ross | March 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on May 12, 2018

An expanding research misconduct investigation has stretched its net from the chilly Baltic to an idyllic Queensland island and the grasslands of Saskatchewan

It is the hedgehog of the reef: a tropical fish whose quill-like fin spines inflict a painful sting. Now the zebra lionfish has become embroiled in an expanding research misconduct investigation that stretches from a Queensland island to the chilly Baltic and the grasslands of Saskatchewan.

The journal Biology Letters has issued an expression of concern about a 2014 research paper that claimed that the colourful creatures hunted cooperatively with each other and with other lionfish species – behaviour previously documented among marine mammals such as killer whales and bottlenose dolphins but never demonstrated in fish.

“It has been brought to the attention of the editorial team that there are concerns regarding the validity of data used in the study,” the journal notice says.

Read the rest of this discussion piece


Controversial Australian science journalist admits to duplication in her PhD thesis – Retraction Watch (Alison McCook | May 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on May 9, 2018

A prominent (yet controversial) journalist in Australia has admitted to duplicating three images that were part of her PhD thesis — a practice outside experts agreed was acceptable, if not ideal, at the time, according to a report released today.

Stories like this raise the question: Should data/research materials retention requirements be extended?

As part of an inquiry, the University of Adelaide convened an expert panel to investigate 17 allegations of duplication and/or manipulation in Maryanne Demasi’s 2004 thesis. Duplication is a common reason for retractions, such as when researchers use the same image to depict the results of different experiments.
After earning her PhD in rheumatology, Demasi became a journalist who got headlines for more than just her reporting. In 2013, she produced a controversial series about cholesterol and fat (which suggested they have been unfairly villainized, and which cast doubt on cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins). A few years later, Demasi was fired from the science program Catalyst, after it aired an episode alleging wi-fi could cause brain tumors.

Read the rest of this discussion piece

Scientific misconduct at an elite medical institute: The role of competing institutional logics and fragmented control (Papers: Christian Berggren and Solmaz Filiz Karabag | April 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on May 8, 2018

The incidence of revealed fraud and dishonesty in academia is on the rise, and so is the number of studies seeking to explain scientific misconduct. This paper builds on the concepts of competing logics and institutional fields to analyze a serious case of medical and scientific misconduct at a leading research institute, Karolinska in Sweden, home to the Nobel Prize in Medicine.

The Paolo Macchiarini/Karolinska case highlights an uncomfortable reality: the speed, response and consequences of research misconduct by star researchers is often shaped by a powerful institution conflict of interest. The consequences can be dire. Of course the institutional impacts of being deemed later to be reticent to act are often worse. The internal processes for reflecting on the bona fides of an allegation and the institution’s social responsibility/risks need to be rethought. We have included links to the earlier items about this case.

By distinguishing between a market-oriented, a medical and an academic logic, the study analyzes how various actors − executives, research leaders, co-authors, journal editors, medical doctors, science bloggers, investigative journalists and documentary filmmakers − sustained or tried to expose the misconduct. Despite repeated warnings from patient-responsible doctors and external academic reviewers, Karolinska protected the surgeon, Paolo Macchiarini, until a documentary film at the Swedish national public TV exposed the fraud which led to public inquiries and proposals for a new national ethics legislation.
The analysis illustrates the power of a market-oriented logic focused on brand and image at the research institute and at a leading journal, but also the perseverance of the logics of scientific scrutiny and medical care among practicing doctors and independent academics although the carriers of these logics were less well organized than the carriers of the market-oriented logic. Furthermore, the analysis shows the problem of fragmented control in the academic institutional field. The discussion of remedies compares the Karolinska case, where media actors were instrumental in sanctioning the perpetrators, with a similar instance of medical misconduct at Duke in the US where the government agency (ORI) intervened and shows the limitations of both types of actors. The conclusion highlights the importance of studying misconduct management and institution-building in different fields to develop effective remedies.
Institutional logics, Institutional actors, Scientific misconduct, Retraction, Academic dishonesty, Fragmented control.

Berggren, C. and S. F. Karabag (2018). “Scientific misconduct at an elite medical institute: The role of competing institutional logics and fragmented control.” Research Policy.

Institutional Research Misconduct Reports Need More Credibility (Papers: C.K. Gunsalus, JD, et al | 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on May 7, 2018

Institutions have a central role in protecting the integrity of research. They employ researchers, own the facilities where the work is conducted, receive grant funding, and teach many students about the research process. When questions arise about research misconduct associated with published articles, scientists and journal editors usually first ask the researchers’ institution to investigate the allegations and then report the outcomes, under defined circumstances, to federal oversight agencies and other entities, including journals.1

Depending on institutions to investigate their own faculty presents significant challenges. Misconduct reports, the mandated product of institutional investigations for which US federal dollars have been spent, have a wide range of problems. These include lack of standardization, inherent conflicts of interest that must be addressed to directly ensure credibility, little quality control or peer review, and limited oversight. Even when institutions act, the information they release to the public is often limited and unhelpful.

This short but punchy piece articulates a useful quality standard for institutions when they report research misconduct.

As a result, like most elements of research misconduct, little is known about institutions’ responses to potential misconduct by their own members. The community that relies on the integrity of university research does not have access to information about how often such claims arise, or how they are resolved. Nonetheless, there are some indications that many internal reviews are deficient.
Three recent reports from the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) underscore this phenomenon. In 2016, the Optimizing the Nation’s Investment in Academic Research: A New Regulatory Framework for the 21st Century panel concluded that “Some academic research institutions have failed to respond appropriately to investigators’ transgressions or failed to use effectively the range of tools available to create an environment that strongly discourages, at both the institutional and the individual level, behaviors in conflict with the standards and norms of the scientific community.”2 In 2017, the Committee on Responsible Science noted that “significant gaps exist in the information available to institutions as well as to the rest of the research enterprise about how allegations are handled, what challenges arise, and how successful institutions are able to ensure effective performance.” 3 A third NASEM group, the Committee on the Review of Omics-Based Tests for Predicting Patient Outcomes in Clinical Trials, reported in 2012 that “institutions can be influenced by secondary interest beyond financial interests, such as factors that impact an institution’s reputation. In research, such reputational factors can be quite prominent and difficult to manage, including deference to esteemed and well funded investigators and the importance to both investigators and institutions of faculty publications in high-impact journals.”4

Gunsalus CK, Marcus AR, Oransky I. (2018) Institutional Research Misconduct Reports Need More Credibility. JAMA. 2018;319(13):1315–1316. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.0358