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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

Steps towards transparency in research publishing – Nature (September 2017)0

Posted by Admin in on January 19, 2018

As research and editorial processes become increasingly open, scientists and editors need to be proactive but also alert to risks.

This Nature piece reflects upon components of and challenges/risks in open science.

Progress in the transparency of both research and editorial processes is gathering pace. This was demonstrated at the International Congress on Peer Review and Scientific Publication in Chicago, Illinois, earlier this month, and in various discussions that are under way among publishers, researchers and others.
The examples given here relate to initiatives by the Nature Research journals, some of which follow pioneering work by other publishers.

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Stranger than fiction – Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science (Andrew Gelman | December 2017)0

Posted by Admin in on January 17, 2018

Someone pointed me to a long discussion, which he preferred not to share publicly, of his perspective on a scientific controversy in his field of research. He characterized a particular claim as “impossible to be true, i.e., false, and therefore, by definition, fiction.”

Even though this item is very short, we decided to include it in the Resource Library because we agree with the deceptively simple insight that there is value in changing our language/implicit characterisation of researchers when there is a problem with the veracity of a claim in a research output. The rationale for the change in language/thinking is very similar to the suggestion we use the term ‘illegitimate publishers’ rather than ‘predatory publishers’.

But my impression of a lot of research misconduct is that the researchers in question believe they are acting in the service of a larger truth, and when they misrepresent data or exaggerate conclusions, that they feel they’re just anticipating the findings that they already know are correct. This is inappropriate from a scientific perspective but it doesn’t quite feel like lying either. Again, having not read any of the details I am not saying that any aspects of this apply to this person’s particular story, I’m just speaking in general.
It would be fair to characterize the typical unjustified claim in a scientific paper (pick your favorite example here) not quite as fiction (defined as “literature in the form of prose, especially short stories and novels, that describes imaginary events and people”), in that any evidence of such a claim is imaginary. But that doesn’t sound quite right to me. I’d characterize it more as “misleading exposition,” if such a literary classification could be said to exist.

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“A concerning – largely unrecognised – threat to patient safety:” Nursing reviews cite retracted trials – Retraction Watch (Alison McCook | January 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on January 16, 2018

Too many papers cite retracted research — even after it’s been retracted. It’s a problem. It can be especially a problem in clinical fields, where patient care is at stake. Recently, Richard Gray at La Trobe University in Australia and his colleagues examined the scope of the problem in the nursing field, noting how many systematic reviews included findings from retracted clinical trials. We spoke with Gray about their findings, published in the International Journal of Nursing Studies — and what they might mean for the safety of patients.

We were so impressed by this discussion and the importance of the central point that we have invited Richard to write a guest post for a future edition of the Research Ethics Monthly (we hope to be able to include it in the May 2018 edition).

Retraction Watch: Retractions are a concern in any field, but as you note, when clinical practice is at stake, it can be particularly worrisome. Do you think your findings raise any potential concerns about patient safety?
Richard Gray:  We identified 23 reviews that included a retracted trial. In a clinical discipline such as nursing, practitioners rely heavily on systematic reviews to inform their care and treatment decisions. If a review includes a study that is retracted, the integrity of the review must be challenged. There is no established mechanism to do this. As a consequence, clinicians may continue to base decisions on evidence from systematic reviews that is unsound. This is a concerning – largely unrecognised – threat to patient safety.

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Disagreement over the legal definition of misconduct – Nature INDEX (Yojana Sharma | January 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on January 15, 2018

A dispute between Australia’s major research funding agencies and universities over the definition of research misconduct has revealed global inconsistencies in the way misconduct is defined and regulated, as well as its ambiguous legal status.

The 2007 Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research, which is under review, included a definition that many universities say make it difficult to establish misconduct. It required institutions to prove that acts of fabrication, falsification and plagiarism were intentional and deliberate, as well as that negligence or recklessness had taken place. Many universities did not adopt the description.

“There are a variety of behaviours that scientists consider to be seriously unethical,” says David Resnik, a bioethicist at the NIH National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in the United States. The challenge is “deciding which are the most important to prevent.” Australia in the hot seat.

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