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The Dying Scientist and his Rogue Vaccine Trial – Wired (Amanda Schaffer | May 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on June 18, 2018

Bill Halford was convinced he’d found a miracle cure, but he was running out of time to prove it. So he teamed up with a Hollywood executive and recruited a band of desperate patients.

IN A PHOTO from 2009, Bill Halford, who was then 40 years old, looks like a schoolboy who hasn’t quite grown into his big ears. He wears an ill-fitting red shirt tucked into belted khakis; his jawline is square and his eyes are full of wonder. The picture was taken at Southern Illinois University, where he was a respected professor. A few years before, he had made a significant discovery—one that would determine the course of his life.

Halford, a microbiologist, had taken an interest in the peculiar nature of herpes—how it lies dormant in the nervous system and reactivates to cause disease. Herpes is one of the most pervasive viral infections in the world, sometimes causing painful genital blisters, and it has frustrated scientists attempting to find a cure. But in 2007, Halford realized that a weakened form of the virus he’d been studying might serve as a vaccine. He designed an experiment in which he inoculated mice with this variant, then exposed them to the wild-type form of the virus. In 2011 he published the results: Virtually all the mice survived. By contrast, animals that were not injected with his vaccine died in large numbers. It was promising science.

That same year, however, Halford became seriously ill. At first he thought he had a sinus infection, but it turned out to be a rare and aggressive form of cancer, sinonasal undifferentiated carcinoma. Halford was 42 years old at the time, with two teenage children. He underwent chemotherapy and radiation followed by surgery, but he was told that the form of cancer he had did not usually stay at bay for long. Halford had always been determined—“a 90-hours-a-week sort of researcher,” as his wife, Melanie Halford, puts it. The cancer diagnosis only seemed to harden his focus. Others had tried, and failed, to develop a herpes vaccine, but Halford was convinced that his method—using a live, attenuated form of the virus—would succeed. He would use whatever time he had left to show he was right.

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‘Silicon Valley is ethically lost’: Google grapples with reaction to its new ‘horrifying’ and uncanny AI tech – Financial Post (Mark Bergen | May 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on June 8, 2018

The most talked-about, futuristic product from Google’s developer show isn’t even finished yet — and Google hasn’t agreed how to do it.

After watching the demo you might be left wondering: How long until large-scale telephone surveys are conducted by digital assistants? How should we handle disclosure/deception? Should the assistant be named in the research output?

At its I/O conference on Tuesday, Alphabet Inc.’s Google previewed Duplex, an experimental service that lets its voice-based digital assistant book appointments on its own. It was part of a slate of features, such as automated writing in emails, where Google touted how its artificial intelligence technology saves people time and effort. In a demonstration on stage, the Google Assistant spoke with a hair salon receptionist, mimicking the “ums” and “hmms” pauses of human speech. In another demo, it chatted with a restaurant employee to book a table. The audience of software coders cheered.
Outside the Google technology bubble, critics pounced. The company is placing robots in conversations with humans, without those people realizing. The obvious question soon followed: Should AI software that’s smart enough to trick humans be forced to disclose itself. Google executives don’t have a clear answer yet. Duplex emerged at a sensitive time for technology companies, and the feature hasn’t helped alleviate questions about their growing power over data, automation software and the consequences for privacy and work.


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The Case of the Girl from La Noria: Implications for Ethics in Research with Human Remains – Etilmercurio (Por Invitado Especial | April 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on June 5, 2018

A recent article describing the whole-genome sequencing of a body of alleged «extraterrestrial» origin according to UFO organisations (1), journalists (2), and other media outlets (3), has initiated an important controversy regarding adherence to scientific, legal and ethical standards for studies involving human skeletal remains. This controversy began with the commentary published by Etilmercurio (4), which was followed by press reports (5,6,7), public statements released by local and international scientific organisations (8,9,10), the authors of the original article (11), and the journal where it was published (12).

Further commentary on this archeological project that prompted a UFO conspiracy and media storm. Do your institution’s guidelines speak to such projects (including legal frameworks in the source country)? We’ve included a link to an earlier item about this case.

The basic issues raised by researchers questioning the article are clearly summarised in a tweet by Professor Tom Higham (School of Archaeology, University of Oxford, UK): «Accepting a human sample sent via TV film crew from a private owner in Spain; not seen or viewed by them – without any checks for provenance or permission, let alone ethical considerations… what were they thinking?». This is exactly what the authors (Nolan and Butte) claimed in their statement, as part of their argument disavowing responsibility, without acknowledging their lack of involvement as the root of the problem.
In their statement (11), the authors attempted to rebut these claims, identifying an earlier lack of criticism or legal action from the Chilean press and authorities when these remains originally became subject to public attention in 2013. Moreover, they declare to have followed U.S. regulations in this regard, completely ignoring Chilean law.

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Why detailed retraction notices are important (according to economists) – Retraction Watch (Alison McCook | March 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on June 4, 2018

When journals retract a paper but don’t explain why, what should readers think? Was the problem as simple as an administrative error by the publisher, or more concerning, like fraud? In a recent paper in Research Policy, economists led by Adam Cox at the University of Portsmouth, UK, analyzed 55 retractions from hundreds of economics journals, mostly issued between 2001 and 2016. (Does that number sound low? It should — a 2012 analysis of retractions in business and economics found they are a relatively rare occurrence.) In the new paper, Cox and his colleagues analyzed how many notices failed to provide detailed information, the potential costs of these information gaps, and what journals should do about it.

Retraction Watch: You used “rational crime theory” to analyze retraction notices and their consequence to offenders in economics. Could you explain briefly how rational crime theory works in this context?

Adam Cox: Rational crime theory is a framework for explaining why an individual may commit a crime. This involves an (implicit) cost-benefit analysis by (prospective) perpetrators of crime, or in our case, (prospective) perpetrators of research impropriety. If the benefits exceed the costs then a rational individual may be tempted to participate in the crime.

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