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What not to do in graduate school – Nature (Buddini Karawdeniya | July 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on April 3, 2020

Six limiting maxims PhD students should avoid.

During my time as a graduate student researching analytical sensors in the Dwyer laboratory at The University of Rhode Island in South Kingstown, I made a lot of mistakes — some of which matured into valuable lessons. If you are already in graduate school, or have decided to start, here are six things I recommend you do not do.

Compare yourself with others

I’ve met many scientists who spiral into stress and disappointment because they compare themselves unfavourably with others. Every research field, project and graduate student is unique. In some fields, it can take years to find a breakthrough worth publishing; in others, it’s easier to publish frequently. I became worried by the third year of my PhD, when it seemed as if it was taking me longer than others to publish my research project. It took me almost six years to complete my PhD, but my hard work paid off when I published a piece on my flagship project in Nature Communications, alongside almost a dozen other publications and two patent applications from various other projects. Instead of looking at what others are doing, learn to be introspective. Grow from your mistakes, and find more efficient and effective work tactics.

Blindly trust your data

I have learnt to be suspicious of my data. Consider what could go wrong when obtaining them — if something seems weird or wrong in some way, it probably is. I was once designing a sensor that would detect minuscule amounts of chemicals with a laser. One day, thrillingly, the signal looked fabulous: the laser power was turned all the way to the highest setting instead of my usual setting; and the higher the laser power, the higher the signal. Although it looked great, it turned out that the equipment was enormously overestimating the sensing performance and was therefore producing useless data. Be aware of issues such as sample contamination, labelling errors or faulty instrument calibrations. Just because you yourself obtained the data, do not blindly trust them.

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Retraction: The “Other Face” of Research Collaboration? (Papers: Li Tang, et al | March 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on April 2, 2020


An excellent discussion and a useful inclusion in your institution’s resources for early career researchers.

The last two decades have witnessed the rising prevalence of both co-publishing and retraction. Focusing on research collaboration, this paper utilizes a unique dataset to investigate factors contributing to retraction probability and elapsed time between publication and retraction. Data analysis reveals that the majority of retracted papers are multi-authored and that repeat offenders are collaboration prone. Yet, all things being equal, collaboration, in and of itself, does not increase the likelihood of producing flawed or fraudulent research, at least in the form of retraction. That holds for all retractions and also retractions due to falsification, fabrication, and plagiarism (FFP). The research also finds that publications with authors from elite universities are less likely to be retracted, which is particularly true for retractions due to FFP. China stands out with the fastest retracting speed compared to other countries. Possible explanations, limitations, and policy implications are also discussed.

Tang, L., Hu, G., Sui, Y., Yang, Y. & Cao, C. (2020) Retraction: The “Other Face” of Research Collaboration? Science and Engineering Ethics.

Australian junior scientists report damaging lack of support at work – Nature (Chris Woolston | March 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on March 31, 2020

System built on short-term contracts and grants causes many to consider leaving.

Four out of five early-career researchers in Australia have considered leaving science or their jobs because of factors including questionable research practices and an absence of institutional support, suggests a survey of 658 postdocs and junior faculty members.

What does your institution do to support early career researchers?  This story suggests Australian institutions aren’t doing enough

The study was led by Katherine Christian, a social scientist at Federation University Australia in Ballarat, who is collecting data for her PhD thesis on the challenges faced by early-career researchers in the country. “I found everything I expected, but more so,” she says.

The national survey ran online from March to June 2019; it targeted people who had earned a PhD or equivalent degree within the past ten years and were working at research institutions or universities in science, technology, engineering, mathematics or medicine. The results were posted on the preprint server bioRxiv last month (K. Christian et al. Preprint at bioRxiv; 2020).

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(US and China) KU researcher charged with failing to disclose conflict of interest with Chinese university – KMBC News (August 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on March 25, 2020

A researcher at the University of Kansas was indicted Thursday on federal charges of hiding the fact he was working full-time for a Chinese university while doing research at KU funded by the U.S. government.

Feng “Franklin” Tao, 47, of Lawrence, Kansas, is charged with one count of wire fraud and three counts of program fraud, according to Jim Cross, the public information officer for U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister in the District of Kansas.

Tao is an associate professor at KU’s Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis. He was employed since August 2014 by the CEBC, the mission of which is to conduct research on sustainable technology to conserve natural resources and energy.

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