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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

Advocating for publishing peer review – ASAbio (Iain Cheeseman | April 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on June 13, 2018

Journals play a critical role in the scientific process, refining research through peer review and disseminating it to appropriate communities. At its best, the publishing process is a partnership among editors, staff, authors, reviewers, and readers. Each group has a vested interest in working together to ensure a robust and fair editorial evaluation, rigorous and constructive review, and the broadest visibility of the work. This process functions best when each group communicates openly with the others as we strive to refine the way that science is conducted and disseminated.

One of the advantages of publishing peer reviews is that it will expose illegitimate publishers for what they are (vanity/pay-to-play publishers) but further study would be prudent on the impact of reputational concerns on reviews and to address the potential for compounded bias in reviews.

The last few years have seen a revolution in life sciences publishing with the adoption of preprints and increasingly diverse experiments from traditional journals. A recent meeting organized by ASAPbio, HHMI, and Wellcome focused on bringing more transparency and innovation to our peer review system. One of the most important tangible recommendations to come from the meeting, in my opinion, was the proposal that journals should widely adopt more transparency in the peer review process. There was near unanimous consensus from the participants—which included scientists, representatives of journals, scientific societies, and funders—that more journals should commit to publishing the peer reviews of every paper that appears in the journal. Similar to the peer review processes offered by EMBO Journal, eLife, and others, the reviewers could still remain anonymous, but this transparency would provide much better insight into the assessment process and nature of the paper.
Make your voice heard: writing letters to the editor

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(US) NIH moves to punish researchers who violate confidentiality in proposal reviews – Science (Jeffrey Brainard | March 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on June 9, 2018

When a scientist sends a grant application to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, and it goes through peer review, the entire process is supposed to be shrouded in secrecy. But late last year, NIH officials disclosed that they had discovered that someone involved in the proposal review process had violated confidentiality rules designed to protect its integrity. As a result, the agency announced in December 2017 that it would rereview dozens of applications that might have been compromised.

Now, NIH says it has completed re-evaluating 60 applications and has also begun taking disciplinary action against researchers who broke its rules. “We are beginning a process of really coming down on reviewers and applicants who do anything to break confidentiality of review,” Richard Nakamura, director of NIH’s Center for Scientific Review (CSR), said at a meeting of the center’s advisory council earlier this week. (CSR manages most of NIH’s peer reviews.) Targets could include “applicants who try to influence reviewers … [or] try to get favors from reviewers.”

“We hope that in the next few months we will have several cases” of violations that can be shared publicly, Nakamura told ScienceInsider. He said these cases are “rare, but it is very important that we make it even more rare.”

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Why all randomised controlled trials produce biased results (Papers: Alexander Krauss | March 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on June 7, 2018


Background: Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) are commonly viewed as the best research method to inform public health and social policy. Usually they are thought of as providing the most rigorous evidence of a treatment’s effectiveness without strong assumptions, biases and limitations.

Objective: This is the first study to examine that hypothesis by assessing the 10 most cited RCT studies worldwide.

Data sources: These 10 RCT studies with the highest number of citations in any journal (up to June 2016) were identified by searching Scopus (the largest database of peer-reviewed journals).

Results: This study shows that these world-leading RCTs that have influenced policy produce biased results by illustrating that participants’ background traits that affect outcomes are often poorly distributed between trial groups, that the trials often neglect alternative factors contributing to their main reported outcome and, among many other issues, that the trials are often only partially blinded or unblinded. The study here also identifies a number of novel and important assumptions, biases and limitations not yet thoroughly discussed in existing studies that arise when designing, implementing and analysing trials.

Conclusions: Researchers and policymakers need to become better aware of the broader set of assumptions, biases and limitations in trials. Journals need to also begin requiring researchers to outline them in their studies. We need to furthermore better use RCTs together with other research methods.

Key messages

  • RCTs face a range of strong assumptions, biases and limitations that have not yet all been thoroughly discussed in the literature.
  • This study assesses the 10 most cited RCTs worldwide and shows that trials inevitably produce bias.
  • Trials involve complex processes – from randomising, blinding and controlling, to implementing treatments, monitoring participants etc. – that require many decisions and steps at different levels that bring their own assumptions and degree of bias to results.

Keywords: Randomised controlled trial, RCT, reproducibility crisis, replication crisis, bias, statistical bias, evidence-based medicine, evidence-based practice, reproducibility of results, clinical medicine, research design

Krauss, A. (2018) Why all randomised controlled trials produce biased results. Annals of Medicine. 50:4, 312-322, DOI: 10.1080/07853890.2018.1453233
Publisher (Open Access):

Australian Academy of Science – Code of Conduct0

Posted by Admin in on June 3, 2018

“This Code of Conduct and associated implementation plan, guidelines, policy and procedures have been developed to provide context and guidance to Academy Fellows, employees and others representing or otherwise involved with the Academy in its efforts to achieve its mission.

It’s great to see an Australian code of conduct specifically refer to bullying and harassment.

The document covers the Academy’s values, expectations and requirements regarding conduct, the policy principles on which the code and its implementation are based, and guidelines and procedures for responding to breaches of the code.
The Academy does not tolerate bullying and harassment and has a commitment to investigating and where warranted acting on reported or alleged instances of bullying and harassment in a prompt and decisive manner…”

Access the Code of Conduct and related materials

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