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Cambridge University rejected Facebook study over ‘deceptive’ privacy standards – The Guardian (Matthew Weaver | April 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on April 25, 2018
 

Exclusive: panel told researcher Aleksandr Kogan that Facebook’s approach fell ‘far below ethical expectations’

A Cambridge University ethics panel rejected research by the academic at the centre of the Facebook data harvesting scandal over the social network’s “deceptive” approach to its users privacy, newly released documents reveal.

Perhaps, like us, you’ve been wondering what happened with the research ethics review of the initial data collection by Kogan (who is a researcher based at a UK university). That rumination may have deepened given Mark Zuckerberg’s reported testimony to the US Congress committee. But this latest revelation turns the story in a surprising direction. The work was in fact denied ethics approval by the Cambridge research ethics committee!

A 2015 proposal by Aleksandr Kogan, a member of the university’s psychology department, involved the personal data from 250,000 Facebook users and their 54 million friends that he had already gleaned via a personality quiz app in a commercial project funded by SCL, the parent company of Cambridge Analytica.

Separately, Kogan proposed an academic investigation on how Facebook likes are linked to “personality traits, socioeconomic status and physical environments”, according to an ethics application about the project released to the Guardian in response to a freedom of information request.
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The documents shed new light on suggestions from the Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, that the university’s controls on research did not meet Facebook’s own standards. In testimony to the US Congress earlier this month, Zuckerberg said he was concerned over Cambridge’s approach, telling a hearing: “What we do need to understand is whether there is something bad going on at Cambridge University overall, that will require a stronger action from us.”
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The retraction process needs work. Is there a better way? – Retraction Watch (Alison McCook | March 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on April 23, 2018
 

Retractions take too long, carry too much of a stigma, and often provide too little information about what went wrong. Many people agree there’s a problem, but often can’t concur on how to address it. In one attempt, a group of experts — including our co-founder Ivan Oransky — convened at Stanford University in December 2016 to discuss better ways to address problems in the scientific record. Specifically, they explored which formats journals should adopt when publishing article amendments — such as corrections or retractions. Although the group didn’t come to a unanimous consensus (what group does?), workshop leader Daniele Fanelli (now at the London School of Economics) and two co-authors (John Ioannidis and Steven Goodman at Stanford) published a new proposal for how to classify different types of retractions. We spoke to Fanelli about the new “taxonomy,” and why not everyone is on board.

Retraction Watch: What do you think are the biggest issues in how the publishing industry deals with article amendments?

Daniele Fanelli: The issues are fundamentally three, and they are closely interconnected. First, the formats of amendment issued by most journals are too few, often consisting of only two types: “corrections” and “retractions.” Second, the information conveyed by these amendments is very limited. Not only, as RW has highlighted many times in the past, editors are often reluctant to accurately portray the causes underlying an amendment, but more generally I think that the format of a short notice of correction or retraction often impedes effective communication of the nature of errors that can have important repercussions for a broader literature. Thirdly, scientists have little incentive to “do the right thing” and promptly amend any scientific or ethical flaws in their work. Without an active participation of authors, amendments are rarer and harder to produce than we would like. To be fair, much progress has been made on all these fronts, but more and more concerted innovation is needed.

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Facebook Says It Will Help Academics Use Its Data. Here’s How That’s Supposed to Work – The Chronicle of Higher Education (Nell Gluckman | April 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on April 19, 2018
 

There has never been a time when so much data existed about human behavior. What many of us buy, sell, like, dislike, read, and tell our friends is recorded on the internet thanks to sites like Facebook. To social scientists, the company is sitting on a gold mine.

Some of that information is public, but much is not, and the company’s reach is so vast most people don’t know how far it extends. Several research projects that use Facebook data have ended as high-profile privacy-breach scandals in part because subjects didn’t know they were being studied. In the most recent and possibly the largest data breach at the company, an academic harvested information about millions of Facebook users and shared it with Cambridge Analytica, a firm that advised the Trump campaign.

One might think that in the wake of that scandal, Facebook would lock academics out. That’s what Gary King, a political scientist at Harvard University who has pitched Facebook about opening up its data for research, expected. He met with Facebook officials right before the Cambridge Analytica news broke and, to his surprise, he got a call a few days later. They wanted him to study the company’s impact on elections.

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A real-life Lord of the Flies: the troubling legacy of the Robbers Cave experiment – The Guardian (David Shariatmadari | April 2017)0

Posted by Admin in on April 17, 2018
 

In the early 1950s, the psychologist Muzafer Sherif brought together a group of boys at a US summer camp – and tried to make them fight each other. Does his work teach us anything about our age of resurgent tribalism?
……Read an extract from The Lost Boys

July 1953: late one evening in the woods outside Middle Grove, New York state, three men are having a furious argument. One of them, drunk, draws back his fist, ready to smash it into his opponent’s face. Seeing what is about to happen, the third grabs a block of wood from a nearby pile. “Dr Sherif! If you do it, I’m gonna hit you,” he shouts.

A useful example of the degree to which such work not only fails modern ethical standards, its results were cherry-picked and stage managed. We note again our caution about using such cases to justify current human research ethics/research integrity arrangements. Also see James Kehoe recent post.

The man with the raised fist isn’t just anybody. He is one of the world’s foremost social psychologists, Muzafer Sherif. The two others are his research assistants. Sherif is angry because the experiment he has spent months preparing for has just fallen apart.
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Born in the summer of 1905 and raised in İzmir province, Turkey, during the dying days of the Ottoman empire, Sherif won a place at Harvard to study psychology. But he found himself frustrated by the narrowness of the discipline, which mainly involved tedious observation of lab rats. He was drawn instead to the emerging field of social psychology, which looks at the way human behaviour is influenced by others. In particular, he became obsessed by group dynamics: how individuals band together to form cohesive units and how these units can find themselves at each other’s throats.
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