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Meet the woman who’s tracking down systematic research fraud – Elsevier (Jennifer A. Byrne and Christopher Tancock | July 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on August 6, 2019
 

The topic of research fraud is a serious – and growing issue. In this article, we interview Professor Jennifer A. Byrne about her work in identifying systematic fraud, the software she’s helped develop and the pioneering work she’s been doing to promote a better appreciation and regard for the importance of a “clean” body of research literature.

Great Elsevier interview of Jennifer A. Byrne (who recently wrote the great guest post in the Research Ethics Monthly, The F-word, or how to fight fires in the research literature) about her personal drive to take on systematic research fraud.  Well done Jenny!

Tell us a little about your background and research interests.
I’m a molecular biologist and a cancer researcher. My research interests include studying the functions of specific genes in cancer, investigating the genetic basis of childhood cancer predisposition, and studying the operations of cancer biobanks.
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How did you begin your work on (systematic) fraud?
This started by accident, when I read five papers about a gene that my team had identified years before. These papers were very similar, even sharing particular nucleotide (or gene) sequence reagents. I could also see that the same reagent was being used in different ways, which couldn’t be right. Further analyses revealed that some reagents were wrongly identified, meaning that some reported results were impossible. When I realised that many other papers had these same types of errors, I fell into a strange new scientific reality, where I’ve been ever since.
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Does psychology have a conflict-of-interest problem? – Nature (Tom Chivers | July 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on August 5, 2019
 

Some star psychologists don’t disclose in research papers the large sums they earn for talking about their work. Is that a concern?

Generation Z has made Jean Twenge a lot of money. As a psychologist at San Diego State University in California, she studies people born after the mid-1990s, the YouTube-obsessed group that spends much of its time on Instagram, Snapchat and other social-media platforms. Thanks to smartphones and sharing apps, Generation Z has grown up to be more narcissistic, anxious and depressed than older cohorts, she argues. Twenge calls them the ‘iGen’ generation, a name she says she coined. And in 2010, she started a business, iGen Consulting, “to advise companies and organizations on generational differences based on her expertise and research on the topic”.

Twenge has “spoken at several large corporations including PepsiCo, McGraw-Hill, nGenera, Nielsen Media, and Bain Consulting”, one of her websites notes. She delivers anything from 20-minute briefings to half-day workshops, and is also available to speak to parents’ groups, non-profit organizations and educational establishments. In e-mail exchanges, she declined to say how much she earns from her advisory work, but fees for star psychologists can easily reach tens of thousands of dollars for a single speech, and possibly much more, several experts told Nature.

Twenge’s academic papers don’t mention her paid speeches and consulting. Yet that stands in stark contrast to the conflict-of-interest (COI) guidelines issued by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), an influential organization whose standards have been widely adopted by many medical and some psychology journals. Those guidelines say that such ‘personal fees’ should be declared as potential COIs in research papers because readers should be made aware of any financial interests that they might perceive as potentially influencing the findings.

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Why India is striking back against predatory journals – Nature (Bhushan Patwardhan | July 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on August 2, 2019
 

Our foe is determined and adaptable, says Bhushan Patwardhan. A list of credible titles is the latest salvo in the fight against shoddy scholarship.

According to 2015 estimates, more than 8,000 predatory journals churn out more than 400,000 items a year, and India — which has also seen a spurt in high-quality scientific publications — contributes more than one-third of the articles in predatory publications.

Last month, India launched its latest salvo against the ‘pay and publish trash’ culture that sustains predatory journals. Over several months, more than 30 organizations representing universities and academic disciplines have vetted journals to release a reference list of respectable titles. Predators sabotaged our last attempt. We hope this better-curated list will help to cut off the supply of manuscripts to the unscrupulous operators that profit financially by undercutting academic quality.

Fending off the attack of trash science will be a long battle. Predatory journals have severely compromised scientific scholarship. They collect fees, but do not perform peer review or other promised services. My country’s experience so far shows both what makes an academic enterprise vulnerable to predatory publishers, and the coordinated efforts necessary to thwart them.

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Journals’ Plagiarism Detectors May Flag Papers in Error – The Scientist (Diana Kwon | June 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on August 1, 2019
 

One recent case, in which a scientist claims his submitted manuscript was rejected despite a lack of actual plagiarism, highlights the limitations of automated tools.

If the researcher’s claims are true, this case points to an uncomfortable situation: Institutional research misconduct approaches need to be more robust and not rely solely on automated detection tools.

Last week, Jean-François Bonnefon, a behavioral scientist at the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, tweeted that a scientific manuscript he submitted to a journal had been rejected by a bot. The program had flagged his paper for plagiarism, highlighting the methods, references, and authors’ affiliations. “It would have taken 2 [minutes] for a human to realize the bot was acting up,” Bonnefon wrote in one of his tweets. “But there is obviously no human in the loop here.”
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In a massive Twitter thread that followed, several other academics noted having similar experiences.
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“I found [Bonnefon’s] experience quite disconcerting,” Bernd Pulverer, chief editor of The EMBO Journal, writes in an email to The Scientist. “Despite all the AI hype, we are miles from automating such a process.” Plagiarism is a complex issue, he adds, and although tools to identify text duplication are an invaluable resource for routine screening, they should not be used in lieu of a human reviewer.
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