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‘Cult’ Universal medicine practices promoted by researchers, UQ launches investigation – ABC News (Josh Robertson | Apr 2017)0

Posted by Admin in on April 17, 2018

Researchers who promoted an alleged cult and showcased its bizarre healing claims in published studies have embroiled one of Australia’s top universities in an academic misconduct probe.

The University of Queensland (UQ) and two international medical journals are investigating alleged ethical violations in research around Universal Medicine (UM), an organisation based in Lismore in New South Wales, which touts the healing power of “esoteric breast massage” and other unproven treatments.

Founded by Serge Benhayon — a former bankrupt tennis coach with no medical qualifications who claims to be the reincarnation of Leonardo Da Vinci — UM is a multi-million-dollar enterprise with 700 mostly female followers in 15 countries.

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Algorithms Are Opinions Embedded in Code – Scholarly Kitchen (David Crotty | January 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on April 6, 2018

Recent discussions about peer review brought me back to thinking about Cathy O’Neil’s book, Weapons of Math Destruction, reviewed on this site in 2016. One of the complaints about peer review is that it is not objective — in fact, much of the reasoning behind the megajournal approach to peer review is meant to eliminate the subjectivity in deciding how significant a piece of research may be.

As algorithms play an increasing role in the design, conduct (including the collection and analysis of data), reporting and  our evaluation of research, it is essential to recognise they can be built upon values and beliefs that could distort the body of  knowledge. Often these tools can be treated as more objective than entirely human-based techniques, but sometimes not even the original coders understand how they work or the degree to which they echo very subjective attitudes.

I’m not convinced that judging a work’s “soundness” is any less subjective than judging its “importance”. Both are opinions, and how one rates a particular manuscript will vary from person to person. I often see papers in megajournals that are clearly missing important controls, but despite this, the reviewers and editor involved judged them to be sound. I’m not sure this is all that different from asking why some reviewer thought a paper was significant enough to be in Nature. Peer reviews, like letters of recommendation, are opinions.
Discussions along these lines inevitably lead to suggestions that with improved artificial intelligence (AI), we’ll reduce subjectivity through machine reading of papers and create a fairer system of peer review. O’Neil, in the TED Talk below, would argue that this is not likely to happen. Algorithms, she tells us, are not objective, true, or scientific and they do not make things fair. “That’s a marketing trick.”

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Hundreds of universities targeted in global data steal – University World News (Yojana Sharma | March 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on April 2, 2018

Information emerged last week of data stolen from universities around the world after the United States Department of Justice released details indicting nine Iranian nationals for stealing research from universities, research institutions, technology companies and other organisations, including the United Nations.

The amount of data stolen is staggering in scale, equivalent to eight billion double-sided pages of text. More than 300 universities were targeted and around 8,000 professors’ email accounts were compromised, it is alleged.

The information stolen from universities was used by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – Iran’s intelligence organisation and other Iranian government and university clients – or sold for profit inside Iran, according to US Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, releasing the indictment details on 23 March.

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Cambridge Analytica controversy must spur researchers to update data ethics – Nature (Editorial | March 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on March 30, 2018

A scandal over an academic’s use of Facebook data highlights the need for research scrutiny.

Revelations keep emerging in the Cambridge Analytica personal-data scandal, which has captured global public attention for more than a week. But when the dust settles, researchers harvesting data online will face greater scrutiny. And so they should.

At the centre of the controversy is Aleksandr Kogan, a psychologist and neuroscientist at the University of Cambridge, UK. In 2014, he recruited people to complete a number of surveys and sign up to an app that handed over Facebook information on themselves — and tens of millions of Facebook friends. Kogan passed the data to SCL, a UK firm that later founded controversial political-consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica in London. (All those involved deny any wrongdoing.)

Last week, Facebook announced restrictions on data harvesting by third parties, including drastically reducing the kinds of information that app developers can access. (It had already changed its rules in 2014 to stop developers gleaning data from users’ friends through their apps.) But damage has been done: the public has good reason to be angry about the way in which researchers and companies have seemingly used personal data without consumers’ full understanding or consent.

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