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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

It’s time to stand up to the academic publishing industry – UA (Adriane Macdonald & Nicole Eva | February 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on June 26, 2018

Academia is unique in that professionals with highly specialized expertise, who are paid by public institutions, write articles and provide peer reviews to corporations who profit greatly without giving back to the research enterprise. In any other industry, such experts would charge up to $1,500/hour for their services; in academia, this expertise is given away to for-profit companies. Why are we willing to gift our review services and intellectual property to businesses, who then turn around and charge our institutions again for the products of our own research? Why are universities, governments and taxpayers OK paying for the labour costs of a massive multi-billion-dollar industry? Why aren’t publishers expected to pay for the production of the products that they profit greatly from? What if academics started charging publishers for their expert peer reviews? And what if the funds raised were used to help subsidize the costs of research and of building an open access system – run not by for-profit companies, but by our postsecondary institutions?

Publishers are dependent on the quality of their peer-review process; if their articles are found to have poor or non-existent peer review, the credibility of their journals is called into question and won’t attract high-quality research papers for publication. Yet, as dependent as publishers are on a rigorous process, they would cease to exist without the free labour of scholars writing and reviewing the articles. Some might counter that reviewing is part of the academic’s job; that it all comes as part of their (often not insubstantial) salary. This may be true, but the benefit of academic expertise largely goes to private, not public, parties. In addition, much of the time spent reviewing is over and above the teaching, research and service that academics spend the bulk of their work-week doing. It may be giving back to the profession, but at what toll on the researchers, our public institutions, and the academy?

Research is not free. It is paid for with taxpayer dollars through both academics’ salaries and government research grants; it is paid for a third time through outrageous subscription fees paid by university libraries. Depending on the institution, academic libraries pay $350,000 to $9-million annually in subscription fees. It is also paid for by academics, who spend their lives honing these skills at a great cost both financially and personally.

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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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