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Weaponised research: how to keep you and your sources safe in the age of surveillance – The Conversation (Sara Koopman | May 2017)0

Posted by Admin in on August 8, 2017

Surveillance has become so ubiquitous that it appears likely that Russia was caught in the act conspiring to fix the 2016 United States presidential election, and at least one of his staffers was basically overheard conspiring with them.

Politicians aren’t the only ones being watched. Edward Snowden’s 2013 revelations detailing the US National Security Agency’s widespread surveillance have made clear that, these days, everyone should be thinking about privacy and security.

That includes academics, some of whom are undertaking sensitive, even dangerous, research. How can we work safely and ethically in an era of internet spying and wiretapping?

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This commentary refers to possibilities that are, to be candid, pretty alarming. It does suggest there are circumstances where researchers shouldn’t take a mobile phone with them into meetings/interviews with participants, and notes/data might be a source of risk if it is stored on a researcher’s machine (even in circumstances where the project’s output is published without personal identifiers).


Questionable research practices among italian research psychologists (Papers: Franca Agnoli | March 2017)0

Posted by Admin in on August 6, 2017


The findings of this work, which point to similar phenomena and apparent causes of research integrity breaches internationally, suggest where greater attention is required to address research integrity problems.

A survey in the United States revealed that an alarmingly large percentage of university psychologists admitted having used questionable research practices that can contaminate the research literature with false positive and biased findings. We conducted a replication of this study among Italian research psychologists to investigate whether these findings generalize to other countries. All the original materials were translated into Italian, and members of the Italian Association of Psychology were invited to participate via an online survey. The percentages of Italian psychologists who admitted to having used ten questionable research practices were similar to the results obtained in the United States although there were small but significant differences in self-admission rates for some QRPs. Nearly all researchers (88%) admitted using at least one of the practices, and researchers generally considered a practice possibly defensible if they admitted using it, but Italian researchers were much less likely than US researchers to consider a practice defensible. Participants’ estimates of the percentage of researchers who have used these practices were greater than the self-admission rates, and participants estimated that researchers would be unlikely to admit it. In written responses, participants argued that some of these practices are not questionable and they have used some practices because reviewers and journals demand it. The similarity of results obtained in the United States, this study, and a related study conducted in Germany suggest that adoption of these practices is an international phenomenon and is likely due to systemic features of the international research and publication processes.

Agnoli F, Wicherts JM, Veldkamp CLS, Albiero P, Cubelli R (2017) Questionable research practices among italian research psychologists. PLoS ONE 12(3): e0172792.
Publisher (open access – including the data):

French scientist fined for failure to disclose industry ties – Nature (Barbara Casassus | July 2017)0

Posted by Admin in on August 6, 2017

Pulmonologist Michel Aubier has been found guilty of misleading France’s Senate during an inquiry on air pollution.

This international news story is another ‘good’ example of the perils and community reaction when a researcher fails to disclose a conflict of interest.

In an unprecedented court case in Paris, an eminent French lung specialist has been fined €50,000 (US$57,000) and given a six-month suspended prison sentence because he did not disclose his ties to the oil industry during a Senate air-pollution inquiry.
The case is the first time that the French Senate has pressed criminal charges over false testimony. “It is an extremely important decision,” the Senate’s lawyer, Emmanuel Marsigny, told reporters. “It underlines the importance of the Senate’s commissions of inquiry and the risk of false declarations.” French researchers say that it also serves as a sharp reminder of the importance of disclosing all possible conflicts of interest when presenting evidence.

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Some scientists hate NIH’s new definition of a clinical trial. Here’s why – Nature (Jocelyn Kaiser | July 2017)0

Posted by Admin in on August 3, 2017

Nancy Kanwisher, a cognitive neuroscientist, has spent her career pinning down how the human brain responds to visual inputs such as faces. As part of that work, Kanwisher asks volunteers—usually college students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, where she works—to lie in an MRI machine that records their brain activity while they do a task, such as viewing a photo. Although such studies reveal information that can be relevant to diseases, and disorders such as autism, they do not test treatments.

But a few weeks ago, Kanwisher and colleagues in related behavioral research fields—from cognitive psychology to vision science—were dismayed to learn that the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, could soon deem their studies to be clinical trials. That designation would impose a raft of new requirements on studies that have already passed ethics review, such as following different standards for funding applications, and reporting results on, a public database.

NIH officials say they simply want to ensure that all clinical trials—including those testing drugs, medical devices, and behavioral interventions—meet recently bolstered standards for rigor and transparency. But Kanwisher and others say that the agency’s widening definition of clinical trials could sweep up a broad array of basic science studies, resulting in wasted resources and public confusion. “The massive amount of dysfunction and paperwork that will result from this decision boggles the mind” and will hobble basic research, Kanwisher says. To prevent that outcome, she and dozens of other researchers, along with several scientific societies, have flooded NIH with letters and emails expressing concern about the policy, which the agency announced last September but is only now implementing.

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