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(China/Gene) Chinese scientist who produced genetically altered babies sentenced to 3 years in jail – Science (Dennis Normile | December 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on January 5, 2020
 

He Jiankui, the Chinese researcher who stunned the world last year by announcing he had helped produce genetically edited babies, has been found guilty of conducting “illegal medical practices” and sentenced to 3 years in prison.

Given the degree of recklessness and premeditation, the lifetime health effects and that the genetic modifications are inheritable, some may feel an even harsher sentence would have been warranted.  Nevertheless, it is welcome to see the Chinese court impose large fines and prison sentences.

A court in Shenzhen found that He and two collaborators forged ethical review documents and misled doctors into unknowingly implanting gene-edited embryos into two women, according to Xinhua, China’s state-run press agency. One mother gave birth to twin girls in November 2018; it has not been made clear when the third baby was born. The court ruled that the three defendants had deliberately violated national regulations on biomedical research and medical ethics, and rashly applied gene-editing technology to human reproductive medicine.
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All three pleaded guilty, according to Xinhua. The court also fined He, formerly of the Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) and known as JK to friends and colleagues, 3 million Chinese yuan ($429,000). His collaborators were identified as Zhang Renli, of a medical institution in Guangdong province, and Qin Jinzhou, from a Shenzhen medical institution; Zhang received a 2-year prison sentence and was fined 1 million yuan, according to Xinhua, whereas Qin was given 18 months in prison with a 2-year reprieve, and a 500,000 yuan fine.
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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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