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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

Friday afternoon’s funny – Catching participants with trickery0

Posted by Admin in on June 19, 2020

Cartoon by Don Mayne
Full-size image for printing (right mouse click and save file)

Tricking participants into exposing themselves to serious harm is a serious ethical breach.  Any use of overt deception should only be used with considerable justification.  In Australia this is reflected in the National Statement (2007 updated 2018)

When Your Supervisor Is Accused of Research Misconduct – The Scientist (Katarina Zimmer | June 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on June 7, 2020

Early career researchers face unique challenges when a senior collaborator becomes embroiled in allegations of scientific malpractice.

Evolutionary ecologist Kate Laskowski didn’t have a good start to her new faculty position at the University of California, Davis. She was just a few months in when, late last year, she received an email from a researcher who had some concerns about a study she had coauthored in 2016 with the prolific McMaster University spider biologist Jonathan Pruitt.

To avoid costly consequences, researchers should always carefully scrutinise data provided by collaborators – even if they are more experienced researchers.  We included links to 13 other useful reads.

As a graduate student at the University of Illinois, and later a postdoc at the Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries in Germany, Laskowski had collaborated with Pruitt on a study of spider social behavior. The email noted that the raw data collected in Pruitt’s lab, then at the University of California, Santa Barbara, contained odd duplicate values in the columns of a spreadsheet that documented behavioral differences among individual spiders. After combing through the data herself, Laskowski ultimately came to the conclusion that the data, and the study based on them, weren’t trustworthy, and requested earlier this year that the American Naturalist retract the paper. She’d go on to retract another two, both of which she’d coauthored with Pruitt.

These studies—which supported the hypothesis that the behaviors of individual spiders are influenced by social interactions—would be the first of several of Pruitt’s papers to come under scrutiny from scientific journals, in a series of retractions and expressions of concern that has rattled the animal behavior research community and affected numerous collaborators, including many students and early-career researchers. “I’m in my first year of . . . my dream job,” Laskowski tells The Scientist. “I’ve been so excited to set up new projects, and then I’ve had to spend the past four months dealing with all of these old papers that I thought I was over and done with.”

Read the rest of this discussion piece

(EU) Greek scientist found to have de-frauded European Research Council – Science|Business (Éanna Kelly | May 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on June 6, 2020

ERC confirms it is seeking return of €190,000 in first case of fraud recorded at agency

OLAF, the EU’s anti-fraud agency, this week confirmed an unnamed Greek scientist de-frauded the European Research Council (ERC) of roughly €190,000.

“A complex fraud involving a Greek scientist and her network of international researchers has been uncovered by investigators,” OLAF said.

The case involves a grant of €1.1 million from the ERC to an unnamed Greek university. The money was intended to finance a research project run by a young female scientist, whose father was employed at the university, and was said to involve a network of more than 40 researchers from around the world.

The fraud team became suspicious when it discovered how the international researchers involved in the research project were being paid.

Read the rest of this discussion piece

(Australia) Survey of Australian STEMM Early Career Researchers: job insecurity and questionable research practices are major structural concerns (Preprint Papers: Katherine Christian, et al | February 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on April 23, 2020


Sobering findings for anyone responsible for guiding the research culture of an Australia university. There’s no reason to believe this is confined to STEMM.

We sought to understand the pressures on Early Career Researchers (ECR) in the Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, & Medicine (STEMM) disciplines, collecting data from 658 ECRs working in Australia. Respondents indicated a “love of science”, but most also indicated an intention to leave their position. Decisions were primarily motivated by job insecurity (52%), while grievances included poor supervision (60%), bullying or harassment (34%), inequitable hiring practices (39%) and poor support for families (9.6%). A concerning rate of “questionable research practices” by colleagues (34.1% to 41.1%) was reported to have impacted ECR career advancement. Our study links recent reports that characterise the health of the research industry, providing direct insight from ECRs on job insecurity, workplace culture challenges, and the logical rise of questionable research practices. Internationally, nationally and institutionally the research community needs to improve job security (care for our people) and the quality of research data (our product).

Christian, K., Johnstone, C., Larkins, J., Wright, W. & Doran, M. R. (2020) Survey of Australian STEMM Early Career Researchers: job insecurity and questionable research practices are major structural concerns. bioRxiv 2020.02.19.955328; doi:
This article is a preprint and has not been certified by peer review