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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

To move research from quantity to quality, go beyond good intentions – Nature ( Alan Finkel | February 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on May 3, 2019

Australian chief scientist Alan Finkel calls for formal action to bake in better research practices.

In 1969, I skipped school to watch the Moon landing from home. Fifty years later, I struggle to think of an event that would justify truancy today. It’s not for lack of stunning breakthroughs in research, but rather their frequency: if children neglected their work every time the television reported another scientific milestone that my generation scarcely dared to contemplate, they’d end up with no education at all.

Yet there is a growing rumble of concern about the rigour and reproducibility of published research. Problems of over-hyped analysis and puffed-up CVs are well recognized. Financial and career incentives keep researchers on a treadmill, churning out papers.

We cannot know how many of the 1.6 million or so papers now added every year to the Web of Science database are flawed as a consequence, but we can agree that our focus has to shift from quantity to quality if we are to safeguard against shoddy work.

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Figure errors, sloppy science, and fraud: keeping eyes on your data (Papers: Corinne L. Williams, et al | March 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on April 30, 2019

Recent reports suggest that there has been an increase in the number of retractions and corrections of published articles due to post-publication detection of problematic data. Moreover, fraudulent data and sloppy science have long-term effects on the scientific literature and subsequent projects based on false and unreproducible claims. At the JCI, we have introduced several data screening checks for manuscripts prior to acceptance in an attempt to reduce the number of post-publication corrections and retractions, with the ultimate goal of increasing confidence in the papers we publish.

Citation Information: J Clin Invest. 2019.
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We need to talk about systematic fraud – Nature (Jennifer Byrne | February 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on April 28, 2019

Software that uncovers suspicious papers will do little for a community that does not confront organized research fraud, says Jennifer Byrne.

From where I work at the University of Sydney, you cannot see the ocean. However, in Australia, the ocean is part of our national consciousness. This is perhaps why I think of the research literature as an ocean, linking researchers in disparate yet ultimately connected fields. Just as there is growing alarm about our rising, polluted oceans, scientists are increasingly talking about the swelling research literature and its contamination by incorrect research results.

It makes sense for institutional professional development and resource material to discuss good faith errors, mistakes and small missteps. Such problems do occur, they can be costly for researchers and are easily avoided.  Ironically talking to early career researchers, higher degree candidates and more experienced researchers about fraud can distract from the message that mistakes can harm careers. Such fraud is rare, but it does occur. So, Jennifer’s point is an important one. We also need mechanisms that detect and act upon systemic fraud.

Most of the talk centres on unconscious bias and ill-informed sloppiness; conversations about intentional deception are more difficult. Unlike most faulty research practices, fraud actively evades detection. It is also overlooked because the scientific community has been unwilling to have frank and open discussions about it.

In 2015, I discovered several papers had been written about a gene that I and my colleagues first reported in 1998. All were by different authors based in China, but contained shared and strange irregularities. They also used highly similar language and figures. I think the papers came from third parties working for profit, fuelled by the pressure on authors to meet unrealistic publication expectations. (Such operations have been identified by investigative journalists.) I also think that, with most of the protein-coding and non-protein-coding genes in the human genome currently understudied, such third parties are targeting less-well-known human genes to produce low-value and possibly fraudulent papers.

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Singapore legal challenge ‘will chill academic freedom’ – Times Higher Education (Ellie Bothwell | January 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on April 27, 2019

Academics issue warning after news story including critical comments about country’s top universities is removed

Academics fear that the removal of an online article that included critical comments about the country’s two leading universities following a legal challenge will have a chilling effect on freedom of expression.

The story, “Opaque policies, xation with KPIs, rankings: why arts and humanities academics quit NUS, NTU”, which was published by the online newspaper Today, included interviews with several academics who had left or were planning to leave the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

According to the article, scholars claimed that the universities failed to retain talented academics because of their “incessant pursuit of rankings and the relative lack of academic freedom when it comes to certain projects or research initiatives”.

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