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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

(US) Major U.S. cancer center ousts ‘Asian’ researchers after NIH flags their foreign ties – Science (Mara Hvistendahl | April 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on May 11, 2019

HOUSTON, TEXAS—The MD Anderson Cancer Center here has ousted three senior researchers after the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, informed it that the scientists had committed potentially “serious” violations of agency rules involving confidentiality of peer review and the disclosure of foreign ties. The researchers are among five MD Anderson scientists that NIH cited in letters to the cancer center, which is part of the University of Texas (UT) system. MD Anderson officials say they invoked termination proceedings against three of the researchers, are still investigating allegations against one, and determined termination was not warranted for the fifth scientist.

The new developments are linked to a sweeping effort launched last year by NIH to address growing U.S. government fears that foreign nations, particularly China, are taking unfair advantage of federally funded research. NIH says its inquiries about the foreign ties of specific NIH-funded researchers have prompted at least 55 institutions to launch investigations. The cases at MD Anderson, which received $148 million in NIH funding in 2018, are the first publicly known instances where NIH’s inquiries appear to have led an institution to invoke termination proceedings against researchers judged to have violated the rules.

Cancer center officials have not named any of the five researchers. MD Anderson President Peter Pisters says all are “Asian”; Science has confirmed that three are ethnically Chinese. Several faced NIH inquiries about their ties to China, according to internal cancer center documents and NIH emails provided by MD Anderson to the Houston Chronicle and reviewed by Science. Those documents also show that MD Anderson has been working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for several years on undisclosed national security investigations, which included searches of faculty email accounts and in one instance, video surveillance. Those investigations could be linked to the recent departures and to the NIH letters; MD Anderson had put at least one faculty member named by NIH on leave in December 2017, months before NIH sent its letter and 1 week after FBI gained access to several MD Anderson network accounts.

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Peer-review experiments tracked in online repository – Nature (Richard Van Noorden | March 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on May 8, 2019

ReimagineReview records trials that are probing the pros and cons of different approaches to review.

A grass-roots group of biologists has started a website to keep track of the proliferation of experiments in academic peer review — including trials and platforms aimed at making the review process faster, cheaper, and more transparent and interactive.

“Peer review is deeply embedded into the scientific process, and it serves multiple purposes: giving and receiving feedback, error detection and correction, and filtering and curation. Yet, there’s little evidence that it functions optimally,” notes the site, called ReimagineReview.

At launch, it listed around two dozen peer-review projects or trials, filed under categories such as transparency; quality of review; bias in review; speed; and incentives and recognition for reviewing. The site’s creators aim to add more projects and they invite scientists working on new ideas to add their experiments to its registry.

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We need to relearn how to play nice in peer review – UA/AU (Daniel Harris | March 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on April 16, 2019

By changing the way we discuss scholarly work, we will not only improve scholarship but also reduce the unnecessary hostility rampant in academia.

Academia has emerged as an unassuming minefield of mental health hazards. Examples from the scholarly and lay literatures detail rampant depression, anxiety and panic symptoms among academics, especially graduate students. A recent study of over 3,000 PhD students in Belgium revealed that 32 percent were at risk of having or developing a psychiatric disorder. It was also found that compared to a highly educated general population, PhD students had 3.5 times the risk of lost self-confidence and 3.4 times the risk of feeling worthless. Family-work conflicts and a culture of closed decision-making were among the strongest independent predictors of psychiatric distress among participants.

A recent example from the news media described “the silencing effect of academia” and the “need to be thick-skinned” to progress successfully as an academic. Despite the concerning severity and omnipresence of anxiety experienced by the author and the author’s peers, a culture of silence reigned. Nature also published a series of testimonials written by doctoral students and researchers describing their experiences with mental health and suggestions to drive culture change. Establishing support systems, broadening career prospects, and accessing professional mental health services, were among the many suggestions to remain resilient in a viciously competitive, and at times, distressingly lonely work environment. As a PhD student in epidemiology, my lay review of these articles forced me to consider my own journey as a researcher and graduate student in public health.

Like most graduate students, I suffer from imposter syndrome. As such, I obsess about the quality of my work – afraid, at best, to disappoint my department and mentor, and at worst, to have my name blacklisted among the community of public health researchers. While my obsessive tendencies are arguably adaptive, they nonetheless hinder my quality of life and have questionable long-term sustainability. Therefore, like the scientist I am, I went searching for possible etiological explanations for my worsening anxiety. Paradoxically, I discovered that I frequently contribute to the very academic culture causing my own mental health challenges: the unnecessary and unacademic belittling of peer-reviewed work.

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Rare trial of open peer review allays common concerns – Nature (Dalmeet Singh Chawla | February 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on March 6, 2019

Study suggests that making reviewers’ reports freely readable doesn’t compromise peer-review process.

These study results are indeed surprising and welcome for proponents for open science, but we agree with Dalmeet’s concluding comments: Publishers (and research institutions) need to do more to encourage peer review and to recognise the contribution made by peer reviewers.

A rare analysis of open peer review — in which reviews are posted alongside published papers — has overturned some common conceptions about the practice: notably, that it doesn’t put the reviewers off or affect their recommendations on whether to accept a paper.
The analysis, published on 18 January in Nature Communications1, also indicates that open reviewers mostly prefer to remain anonymous, and that they don’t take any longer to complete reviews than in the conventional process.

“I think the case for publishing peer reviews is quite clear in terms of transparency and accountability,” says Tony Ross-Hellauer, an information scientist at the Graz University of Technology in Austria who conducted a 2017 survey about open peer review. “In terms of clearing away some doubts about publishing peer reviews, I think this study is really good news.”

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