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The female problem: how male bias in medical trials ruined women’s health – The Guardian (Gabrielle Jackson | November 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on November 14, 2019

Centuries of female exclusion has meant women’s diseases are often missed, misdiagnosed or remain a total mystery

From the earliest days of medicine, women have been considered inferior versions of men. In On the Generation of Animals, the Greek philosopher Aristotle characterised a female as a mutilated male, and this belief has persisted in western medical culture.

The historical, and continued, exclusion of women from clinical trials is a significant problem that really hasn’t been addressed by drives by granting bodies.  Similar exclusion tends to be the experience of people whose first language isn’t English, people living with a disability and First Nation peoples. Researchers and research ethics review bodies can play an important role in addressing this major problem.

“For much of documented history, women have been excluded from medical and science knowledge production, so essentially we’ve ended up with a healthcare system, among other things in society, that has been made by men for men,” Dr Kate Young, a public health researcher at Monash University in Australia, tells me.

Young’s research has uncovered how doctors fill knowledge gaps with hysteria narratives. This is particularly prevalent when women keep returning to the doctor, stubbornly refusing to be saved.

“The historical hysteria discourse was most often endorsed when discussing ‘difficult’ women, referring to those for whom treatment was not helpful or who held a perception of their disease alternative to their clinician,” Young wrote in a research paper published in the journal Feminism & Psychology.


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Contract cheating will erode trust in science – Nature (Tracey Bretag | October 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on November 13, 2019

To combat academic dishonesty, focus on educational systems and not just individual offenders, says Tracey Bretag.

Stories of students paying others to do their work come from all around the world. In the 2015 MyMaster scandal in Australia, hundreds of students who were enrolled in more than a dozen universities paid a total of at least Aus$160,000 (US$108,000) to a ‘service’ that provided ghost-written essays and responses to online tests. In 2018, YouTube stars on more than 250 channels received money for promoting a cheating service called EduBirdie. Similar companies have been uncovered in the United States and elsewhere. Scientists should not deceive themselves: they are not immune.

Part of a series that we call “KPI=Key Perverse Incentives”. Our current system aids and abets the worst behaviour rather than promoting scholarship for improving the world.

Academics call this ‘contract cheating’. My colleagues and I have assembled what is, to our knowledge, the largest data set on the topic — with responses from some 14,000 students and 1,000 teachers across 8 Australian universities. We found that roughly 6% of students have engaged in the practice; that most who cheat do so more than once; and that both post- and undergraduate students engage in it. Cheating is not new, but the proliferation of commercial, online services in the past 5–10 years has made it easier than ever.

And cheating is becoming increasingly normal. Since the 1990s, universities around the world have reimagined themselves as commercial enterprises that promote educational ‘products’ to student ‘consumers’. In 2017, a commentator likened the brash marketing strategies of some UK universities to the advertising of shampoo, and hundreds of academic papers have openly criticized the ‘marketization’ of higher education. It’s no wonder students opt to take the most convenient route to an academic credential — just as they would shop around for any other deal. In our survey, more than one-third of teachers specifically blamed contract cheating on the commercialization of higher education.

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“Do we have the will to do anything about it?” James Heathers reflects on the Eysenck case – Retraction Watch (James Heathers | October 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on November 12, 2019

We have a tension about resolving inaccuracies in scientific documents when they’re past a certain age.

The Hans Eysenck’s case is a useful and fruitful case for talking about the societal impacts of research misconduct, and to talk about fabrication and conflicts of interest, but it should also be used as a prompt for a proportional response to breaches and our shared responsibilities with regard to research integrity.

Specifically, what should we do with old papers that are shown to be not just wrong, which is a fate that will befall most of them, but seriously misleading, fatally flawed, or overwhelmingly likely to be fabricated, i.e. when they reach the (very high) threshold we set for retraction?

To my way of thinking, there are three components of this:

(1) the continuing use of the documents themselves as citable objects in contemporary research – some research stays current and relevant, other research is consigned to obscurity, or is so completely superseded that it has no bearing on contemporary research whatsoever.

(2) the profile of the authors – some authors of such documents are alive, famous, and have theories with contemporary relevance. Others are dead, obscure, and have theories which have no continuation in any other papers. Like it or not, these authors are treated differently.

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We’re Incentivizing Bad Science – Scientific American (James Zimring | October 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on November 11, 2019

Current research trends resemble the early 21st century’s financial bubble

Whatever you might want to say about humans, our behavior is profoundly affected by the incentive structures we encounter. Imagine what might happen if banks that issued home loans no longer made money off the interest, but rather made money by blending the loans into investment bonds that they then sold to investors. There are a limited number of people fortunate enough to afford a home. Once all those people had mortgages, the banks would then become a mortgage-backed–security factory that had run out of raw materials to make its product.

The banks could simply stop making money—or they could start making loans to anyone who applied, regardless of people’s ability to pay. After all, once the loans were sold to investors, the risk was no longer the bank’s. Of course, the rating agencies are designed to alert us to risk, but they get paid to do so by the banks, and angering your only customer base is not good business. Prior to 2008, without the intention of doing so, the system had evolved such that the bankers were specifically incentivized to inflate a massive bubble in the economy, built upon bad loans and unsustainable debt, and make a fortune doing it at no risk to themselves—and this is precisely what they did.

So, let’s imagine what might happen if the rules of professional science evolved such that scientists were incentivized to publish as many papers as they could and if those who published many papers of poor scientific rigor were rewarded over those who published fewer papers of higher rigor? What would happen if scientists weren’t rewarded for the long-term reproducibility and rigor of their findings, but rather became a factory that produced and published highly exciting and innovative new discoveries, and then other scientists and companies spent resources on the follow up studies and took all the risk?

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