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Hyped-up science erodes trust. Here’s how researchers can fight back – Vox (Brian Resnick | June 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on June 18, 2019
 

Science is often poorly communicated. Researchers can fight back.

In 2018, psychology PhD student William McAuliffe co-published a paper in the prestigious journal Nature Human Behavior. The study’s conclusion — that people become less generous over time when they make decisions in an environment where they don’t know or interact with other people — was fairly nuanced.

But the university’s press department, perhaps in an attempt to make the study more attractive to news outlets, amped up the finding. The headline of the press release heralding the publication of the study read “Is big-city living eroding our nice instinct?

From there, the study took on a new life as stories in the press appeared with headlines like “City life makes humans less kind to strangers.”

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Why journal editors should dig deeper when authors ask for a retraction – Retraction Watch (Ivan Oransky | February 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on March 2, 2019
 

Imagine you’re a journal editor. A group of authors sends you a request to retract one of their papers, saying that “during figure assembly certain images were inappropriately processed.”

What do you do next? Do you ask some tough questions about just what “inappropriately processed” means? Do you check your files for whether the author’s institution had told you about an investigation into the work? Do you Google the author’s names? Do you…search Retraction Watch?

It seems unlikely that any of those things happened in the case of a recent retraction from Nature Communications, or, if they did, they don’t seem to have informed the notice. We don’t know for sure, because, as is typical, the journal isn’t saying much. But here’s what we do know.

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Learning lessons from the Paolo Macchiarini case – Horizons (Matthias Egger | December 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on February 23, 2019
 

Independent bodies – not universities – should investigate suspicions of scientific misconduct, says Matthias Egger.

I was sitting next to Agneta Bladh, the chair of the Swedish Research Council, when the conversation over dinner turned to the case of Paolo Macchiarini. You may have heard of the Swiss-born, Italian ‘star surgeon’, who after several investigations was found guilty of scientific misconduct in June 2018 and dismissed from the Karolinska Institutet near Stockholm.

Food for thought for those of us who reside in countries (e.g. Australia and New Zealand) where universities/research institutions conduct their own research misconduct investigations (with the perceived conflicts of interest that raises)

Briefly, Macchiarini had become famous in regenerative medicine for using synthetic scaffolds seeded with patients’ stem cells in trachea transplants. The Lancet, which published several of his papers, praised him as someone who crosses frontiers to innovate, ominously citing the poet T. S. Eliot: “only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go”.
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The story makes sobering reading. All three patients who received a transplant in Sweden died. Macchiarini was cleared of research misconduct in 2015, with The Lancet defending him in an editorial. Events came to a head a year later after the nationwide screening of a series (‘The Experiments’) by filmmaker Bosse Lindquist, which provoked a massive response and a crisis of confidence at the Karolinska Institutet. A slew of resignations followed: the Vice-Chancellor, the dean of research and the chair of the university board, and investigations were re-opened. In June 2018, the University found Macchiarini and six others guilty of scientific misconduct, and The Lancet retracted two of his papers.
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A Star Surgeon Left a Trail of Dead Patients—and His Whistleblowers Were Punished – LeapsMag (Eve Herold | October 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on February 22, 2019
 

[Editor’s Note: This is the first comprehensive account of the whistleblowers’ side of a scandal that rocked the most hallowed halls in science – the same establishment that just last week awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine. This still-unfolding saga is a cautionary tale about corruption, hype, and power that raises profound questions about how to uphold integrity in scientific research.]

When the world-famous Karolinska Institutet (KI) in Stockholm hired Dr. Paolo Macchiarini, he was considered a star surgeon and groundbreaking stem cell researcher. Handsome, charming and charismatic, Macchiarini was known as a trailblazer in a field that holds hope for curing a vast array of diseases.

This horrifying case will be depressingly familiar for New Zealand readers, because it could easily be described as Sweden’s v own ‘unfortunate experiment’

He claimed that he was regenerating human windpipes by seeding plastic scaffolds with stem cells from the patient’s own bone marrow—a holy grail in medicine because the body will not reject its own cells. For patients who had trouble breathing due to advanced illness, a trachea made of their own cells would be a game-changer. Supposedly, the bone marrow cells repopulated the synthetic scaffolds with functioning, mucus-secreting epithelial cells, creating a new trachea that would become integrated into the patient’s respiratory system as a living, breathing part. Macchiarini said as much in a dazzling presentation to his new colleagues at Karolinska, which is home to the Nobel Assembly – the body that has awarded the Nobel Prizes in Physiology or Medicine since 1901.
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Karl-Henrik Grinnemo was a young cardiothoracic surgeon and researcher at Karolinska in 2010, when Macchiarini was hired. “He gave a fantastic presentation with lots of animation and everyone was impressed,” Grinnemo says of his first encounter with Macchiarini. Grinnemo’s own work focused on heart and aortic valve regeneration, also in the field of stem cell research. He and his colleagues were to help establish an interdisciplinary umbrella organization, under Macchiarini’s leadership, called the Advanced Center for Translational Regenerative Medicine, which would aim to deliver cures from Karolinska’s world-class laboratories to the bedsides of patients in desperate need.
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