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The Guardian view on a Swedish scandal: the precedence of privacy – The Guardian (Editorial | August 2017)0

Posted by Admin in on August 10, 2017

Governments forget at their peril that they must nowadays guard their citizens’ data as carefully as they guard their physical safety

This Editorial isn’t about research, and so definitely isn’t about human research ethics, but it highlights perfectly the need to safeguard confidentiality and the consequences of failing to meet community expectations.

It’s hard to believe that a government could be threatened with collapse because of the way it dealt with driving licences. But that is what has been happening in Sweden in the last week, and the story shows just how vulnerable and delicate the integrity of personal identity is once everything about everyone is recorded in a database somewhere. The story started in the recesses of the bureaucratic state: the transport agency, a branch of the civil service which has to keep records of every car, boat and aeroplane in the country. Since some of these vehicles are military and some of the drivers are people whose identity the state protects with special zeal from criminals, either because they are witnesses or spies, there are rules that state this can only be seen and altered by Swedish citizens who have been cleared by the security services.
In 2015, the incoming director general, Maria Ågren, discovered that this work was to be outsourced to IBM. That was part of a wider pattern which has seen both the left and right of Swedish politics privatise large parts of the old welfare state this century. The law said this couldn’t happen unless IBM’s data handlers had all had security clearance. Her own department told her that couldn’t be done in time. So she decided to ignore the law. IBM, in turn, had the work done in Serbia and elsewhere in eastern Europe. Complaints about security from within the organisation – and, later, from the security police – were ignored. The defence minister and the interior minister knew in the spring of last year but could not find the time to tell the prime minister until January this year, when Ms Ågren was quietly sacked and, later, fined. The government hoped that any potential scandal would disappear along with her.

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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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