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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

Dark past of deep-brain stimulation – Nature (Christian Lüscher | March 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on April 1, 2018
 

Christian Lüscher considers an alarming career from the early days of psychiatry.

Many people consider deep-brain stimulation (DBS) to have begun in 1987 in Grenoble, France, when Pierre Pollak and Alim Benabid stopped a person’s tremor by delivering high-frequency pulses of electricity to her thalamus. In fact, more than three decades earlier, a psychiatrist called Robert G. Heath at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, had experimented with this approach. Now, science writer Lone Frank pulls Heath (1915–99) from obscurity for her exploration of DBS, The Pleasure Shock.

As AHRECS readers know, we believe there is a trap in using egregious ethical lapses/scandals in human research ethics professional development activities, but this awful story is a less commonly known example and a chance to talk about the ends not justifying the means.

Frank has traced and interviewed surviving patients, former collaborators, family members and current DBS scientists. The result is a rarity: a thrilling, well-researched read. Above all, it is a chilling reminder of how early neurosurgical experimentation knew few ethical boundaries — even firmly within the medical and academic establishment. Heath was chair of Tulane’s psychiatry and neurology department for 31 years, from 1949 to 1980.
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Today, DBS is an approved treatment for Parkinson’s disease, dystonia (uncontrollable muscle contractions) and essential tremor. Other indications, such as therapy for obsessive–compulsive disorder, depression and addiction, are the focus of intensive research. Just a few patients are treated ‘off label’, with mixed results.
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Cambridge Analytica controversy must spur researchers to update data ethics – Nature (Editorial | March 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on March 30, 2018
 

A scandal over an academic’s use of Facebook data highlights the need for research scrutiny.

Revelations keep emerging in the Cambridge Analytica personal-data scandal, which has captured global public attention for more than a week. But when the dust settles, researchers harvesting data online will face greater scrutiny. And so they should.

At the centre of the controversy is Aleksandr Kogan, a psychologist and neuroscientist at the University of Cambridge, UK. In 2014, he recruited people to complete a number of surveys and sign up to an app that handed over Facebook information on themselves — and tens of millions of Facebook friends. Kogan passed the data to SCL, a UK firm that later founded controversial political-consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica in London. (All those involved deny any wrongdoing.)

Last week, Facebook announced restrictions on data harvesting by third parties, including drastically reducing the kinds of information that app developers can access. (It had already changed its rules in 2014 to stop developers gleaning data from users’ friends through their apps.) But damage has been done: the public has good reason to be angry about the way in which researchers and companies have seemingly used personal data without consumers’ full understanding or consent.

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Authorship wars: academics outline the rules for recognition – THE (Holly Else | November 2017)0

Posted by Admin in on March 23, 2018
 

Holly Else reveals the results of a THE poll seeking to uncover the extent of authorship abuses as well as views on what criteria should generate credit

“The final draft came back and all we had was a red circle around my boss’ name and an arrow that pointed to the front of the authorship list.”

This incident is seared into the memory of a pre-doctoral academic from India, who recently submitted a manuscript for publication. The researcher, who spoke to Times Higher Education on condition of anonymity, says that the principal investigator in the laboratory where he works full-time made a “minimal technical contribution” to the project in question, and merely corrected a few grammatical errors and spelling mistakes in the previous draft, before promoting himself to lead author.

“It’s unfair [but] I don’t really feel like I have much of choice. I am at a junior level…I need to get a bunch of papers out,” the junior academic says, explaining that publications are vital to secure a place on a PhD programme.

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Facebook scandal: I am being used as scapegoat – academic who mined data – The Guardian (Matthew Weaver | March 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on March 22, 2018
 

The academic at the centre of Facebook’s data breach claims he has been unfairly scapegoated by the social network and Cambridge Analytica, the firm that acquired the information.

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