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(US) NIH rejected a study of alcohol advertising while pursuing industry funding for other research – STAT (Sharon Begley | April 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on June 23, 2018
 

It’s rare for officials at the National Institutes of Health to summon university scientists from hundreds of miles away. So when Dr. Michael Siegel of Boston University and a colleague got the call to meet with the director of NIH’s Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, he said, “I knew we were in trouble.”

He never imagined, however, that at the 2015 meeting the director, George Koob, would leap out of his seat and scream at the scientists after their PowerPoint presentation on research the agency had eagerly funded on the association between alcohol marketing and underage drinking. “I don’t f***ing care!” Koob yelled, referring to alcohol advertising, according to the scientists.

Koob also made clear that NIAAA would pull back from such research, recalled Siegel and his colleague, David Jernigan of Johns Hopkins University, who described the previously undisclosed meeting in Bethesda, Md., in separate interviews with STAT. Shocked by the encounter, they retreated to an NIH cafeteria, asking each other what had just happened — and why.

(UPDATE – 19/06/2018 – KHN –165-Page Internal NIH Report Lays Bare Just How Cozy Scientists Were With Alcohol Industry)

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The Dying Scientist and his Rogue Vaccine Trial – Wired (Amanda Schaffer | May 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on June 18, 2018
 

Bill Halford was convinced he’d found a miracle cure, but he was running out of time to prove it. So he teamed up with a Hollywood executive and recruited a band of desperate patients.

IN A PHOTO from 2009, Bill Halford, who was then 40 years old, looks like a schoolboy who hasn’t quite grown into his big ears. He wears an ill-fitting red shirt tucked into belted khakis; his jawline is square and his eyes are full of wonder. The picture was taken at Southern Illinois University, where he was a respected professor. A few years before, he had made a significant discovery—one that would determine the course of his life.

Halford, a microbiologist, had taken an interest in the peculiar nature of herpes—how it lies dormant in the nervous system and reactivates to cause disease. Herpes is one of the most pervasive viral infections in the world, sometimes causing painful genital blisters, and it has frustrated scientists attempting to find a cure. But in 2007, Halford realized that a weakened form of the virus he’d been studying might serve as a vaccine. He designed an experiment in which he inoculated mice with this variant, then exposed them to the wild-type form of the virus. In 2011 he published the results: Virtually all the mice survived. By contrast, animals that were not injected with his vaccine died in large numbers. It was promising science.

That same year, however, Halford became seriously ill. At first he thought he had a sinus infection, but it turned out to be a rare and aggressive form of cancer, sinonasal undifferentiated carcinoma. Halford was 42 years old at the time, with two teenage children. He underwent chemotherapy and radiation followed by surgery, but he was told that the form of cancer he had did not usually stay at bay for long. Halford had always been determined—“a 90-hours-a-week sort of researcher,” as his wife, Melanie Halford, puts it. The cancer diagnosis only seemed to harden his focus. Others had tried, and failed, to develop a herpes vaccine, but Halford was convinced that his method—using a live, attenuated form of the virus—would succeed. He would use whatever time he had left to show he was right.

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Harassment should count as scientific misconduct – Nature (Erika Marín-Spiotta | May 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on June 11, 2018
 

Scientific integrity needs to apply to how researchers treat people, not just to how they handle data, says Erika Marín-Spiotta.

In the past year, allegations of egregious sexual harassment and even assault have emerged across the spectrum of science. Nature has already run several stories on the topic just this quarter.

Sexual harassment in any form is simply unacceptable (irrespective of how successful the perpetrator might be) and can have a toxic impact on careers and lives of everyone it touches. It’s time for it to be discussed in national and institutional research misconduct arrangements.

When I talk to senior scientists, many view harassment as an injustice that happens somewhere else, not in their field or at their institution. But data suggest that the problem is ubiquitous. In separate surveys of tens of thousands of university students across Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, upwards of 40% of respondents say that they have experienced sexual harassment. A survey last year by the US National Postdoctoral Association found that 28% of respondents reported experiencing at least one instance of harassment while they were trainees; offenders were predominantly reported as being faculty or staff members (go.nature.com/2ju83ox). Neither are faculty members safe from mistreatment by colleagues.
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Research culture and policies are quick to denounce plagiarism, data fabrication and mismanagement of funds, yet we have too long ignored the mistreatment of people.
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New tool looks for signs of image doctoring – Retraction Watch interview (Alison McCook | March 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on June 1, 2018
 

One of the most common reasons for retractions is image manipulation. When searching for evidence of it, researchers often rely on what their eyes tell them. But what if screening tools could help? Last week, researchers described a new automated tool to screen images for duplication (reported by Nature News); with help from publishing giant Elsevier, another group at Harvard Medical School is developing a different approach. We spoke with creators Mary Walsh, Chief Scientific Investigator in the Office for Professional Standards and Integrity, and Daniel Wainstock, Associate Director of Research Integrity, about how the tool works, and why — unlike the other recently described automated tool — they want to make theirs freely available.

Retraction Watch: What prompted you to develop this tool?

Mary Walsh and Daniel Wainstock: When reviewing concerns that two published images, representing the results of different experiments, might actually be the same, we typically assess whether the images are too similar to derive from different samples. The answer is often obvious to the naked eye, but not always, and we wanted to determine if it was possible to quantify the similarities.

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