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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

“Ethical shades of gray:” 90% of researchers in new health field admit to questionable practices – Retraction Watch (Alison McCook | March 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on July 9, 2018

It’s always interesting to know how many researchers in any given field engage in so-called questionable research practices that don’t rise to the level of out-and-out fraud: honorary authorship, citing articles they don’t read, choosing reference lists that would please editors or reviewers, for instance. And when the researchers work in a field with potential health implications, the findings are even more compelling. Lauren Maggio and Anthony R. Artino, Jr. from the Uniformed Services University spoke to us recently about the findings from their survey (posted in bioarXiv) of health professions education researchers, a relatively new field that studies how future health professionals are trained.

This interview reflects on survey data that will be quite sobering for research office staff, health research leaders and publishers/editors. We have added a trove of related news, commentaries and other resource items.

Retraction Watch: You note that 90% of the people who volunteered to complete the survey admitted to at least one questionable research practice. Was that surprising?

Lauren Maggio and Anthony R. Artino, Jr.: Yes, we were quite surprised! We had an idea that many of these practices were happening, but we didn’t know the extent of the problem and weren’t sure if respondents would be honest about their practices. For example, one of our survey respondents said he was happy we were doing the survey, but he cautioned that respondents would not admit to these practices, even if they were doing them. It seems he was wrong, and we suspect that he too would be quite surprised by our findings.

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Peer Review Fails to Prevent Publication of Paper with Unsupported Claims About Peer Review – Scholarly Kitchen (Tim Vines | March 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on July 6, 2018

While there is a steady stream of journal articles criticizing peer review, a recent publication, “Comparing published scientific journal articles to their pre-print versions”, has a number of major problems. It’s perhaps ironic that a paper finding no value in peer review is so flawed that its conclusions are untenable, yet its publication in a journal is itself an indictment of peer review.

This story was too ironic for us to ignore. We included links to 14 other items reflecting on peer review.

The article’s premise: journal peer review is meant to improve manuscripts, thereby justifying the cost of APCs and subscriptions. The authors hypothesize that those improvements should lead to measurable changes in the article text. They obtained preprints from arXiv and bioRxiv and located their published equivalents, then used a suite of text divergence metrics to compare them.
There are three serious problems right away:

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The pros and cons of publishing peer reviews – Crosstalk (Deborah Sweet | May 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on July 4, 2018

At the ASAPBio/HHMI meeting on peer review in February, the topic of “open peer review” came up several times, and it’s been aired recently on social media as well. We’ve been mulling this subject at Cell Press for a while now too, and we’d like add our thoughts to the overall discussion.

This thought-provoking piece discusses open peer review (e.g. publishing reviews) and it raises some considerations that may not have occurred to you. One of the pros that isn’t discussed is that it would more readily expose illegitimate/predatory/vanity publishers.

Openness in peer review can take various forms, and some people at the ASAPBio/HHMI meeting argued strongly that all peer review should take place entirely in the open, with names attached, at all times. However, given the various legitimate concerns about requiring everyone to review non-anonymously, most people took a more pragmatic view by focusing on the idea of journals posting the reviews they obtain for published papers, retaining reviewer anonymity, in a way that some journals already do. This is the type of approach that we have also been discussing.
We can see arguments in favor of publishing reviews but also a number of caveats and questions that give us pause. Some of these points have already come up in other coverage about the meeting, posts about the overall topic, and even pilots, but for completeness we are including them here as well, as they have formed part of our discussion. Some are also fairly clear, while others are more hypothetical, but we think they all merit consideration and airing, along with broader points related to defining the underlying goal.

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Can soil science research dig itself out from a citation stacking scandal? – Retraction Watch (Alison McCook | April 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on July 2, 2018

Last year, the soil science community was rocked by reports that an editor, Artemi Cerdà, was accused of citation stacking — asking authors to cite particular papers — boosting his profile, and that of journals where he worked. (Cerdà has denied the allegations.) The case had some major fallout: Cerdà resigned from two journals and the editorial board of Geoderma, additional editors resigned from their posts, and a university launched an investigation. In the midst of the mess, a group of early career scientists in the field released an open letter, urging the leaders of the community “to establish a clear road map as to how this crisis will be handled and which actions will be taken to avoid future misconducts.” Today, Jan Willem van Groenigen, Chair of the Editors in Chief of Geoderma, along with other editors at the journal, published a response to those letter-writers — including a list of the 13 papers that added 83 citations the journal has deemed “unwarranted.” The editorial includes a list of “actions we have taken to prevent citation stacking from recurring and to further strengthen the transparency of the review process” — including monitoring editors and showing authors how to report suspicious conduct.

A reviewer systematically required authors to include references to his articles and/or journals. Even though the decision has been to treat the authors as not culpable this might be an opportunity to observe they could have been treated as partly responsible and so institutions should provide advice/assistance to help ECRs respond appropriately to any such pressure. Having said that, the instructions of the reviewer appeared to have the support of the editors and you have to feel for the ECRs who found themselves subject to such apparent coercion.

Retraction Watch: It’s been nine months since the young researchers released their open letter — why respond now?.

Jan Willem van Groenigen: This is not our first response. We already responded early March 2017 to this case by online publishing a “letter to the Geoderma community” in which we stated that citation stacking had taken place in our journal. We also stated the number of affected articles and the approximate number of unwarranted citations, although we did not provide details on them like we do in our current editorial. We also announced that Prof. Cerda had withdrawn as member of our Editorial Board. I think that, after the [European Geosciences Union] journals who detected and published this misconduct first, we might have been the first journal to respond.

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