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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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Fraud Ain’t The Game0

Posted by Admin in on May 1, 2019

Forget about morality. Wrong is wrong.

In a parallel universe, not unlike our own, a graduate student is working late. She is putting the finishing touches on a paper she hopes will be the cornerstone of her PhD, which — as much as it’s often reasonably soul-destroying — is progressively becoming more exciting. She works late to preserve this excitement. It gives her hope that maybe one day this rotten, unforgiving business will work out, that she will have a life of curiosity and progress. People doubt her. She does not doubt herself. Or, at least, not too often.

Even though at first glance this item might appear to be just a provocation, the commentary is actually insightful.

In another parallel universe, a tenured professor who is a complete bastard has finished kicking his neighbour’s garbage bins and yelling at the television for the evening, and slopes off to his study. It is working late nights like this, he grouses in a moment of self-pity, that caused his third wife to leave him (it actually wasn’t this, it’s because he’s a miserable wretch who would try the patience of St. Anthony and wipe the smile off the face of a golden retriever). He is a shiny brittle little man. He is a sneer in a cardigan, a tumble-dried faculty Grinch without the fetching skin tone. He is a martinet, a hypocrite, a bastard, and a ruiner.

Her latest study is a model of good scientific practice and prudence. She has tried to be careful, open, honest, forthright. The studies are correctly powered. The interventions are reasonable. The notes are careful. The data is freshly scrubbed and annotated, should anyone request it. She’s a model citizen. It’s important to her to BE a model citizen.

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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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The Pernicious Effects of Compression Plagiarism on Scholarly Argumentation (Papers: M. V. Dougherty | April 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on April 26, 2019

Despite an increased recognition that plagiarism in published research can take many forms, current typologies of plagiarism are far from complete. One under-recognized variety of plagiarism—designated here as compression plagiarism—consists of the distillation of a lengthy scholarly text into a short one, followed by the publication of the short one under a new name with inadequate credit to the original author. In typical cases, compression plagiarism is invisible to unsuspecting readers and immune to anti-plagiarism software. The persistence of uncorrected instances of plagiarism in all its forms—including compression plagiarism—in the body of published research literature has deleterious consequences for the reliability of scholarly communication. Not the least of these problems is that original authors are denied credit for their discoveries. When unsuspecting researchers read articles that are the products of plagiarism, they unwittingly engage the arguments of hidden original authors through the proxy of plagiarists. Furthermore, when these researchers later publish responses to the plagiarizing articles, not knowing they are engaging products of plagiarism, they create additional inefficiencies and redundancies in the body of published research. This article analyzes a suspected instance of compression plagiarism that appeared within the pages of this journal and considers the particular ways in which plagiarism of this variety weakens the quality of scholarly argumentation, with special attention paid to the field of philosophy.

Compression plagiarism Authorship Research misconduct Retractions Argumentation Scholarly communication 

Dougherty, M.V. (2019) The Pernicious Effects of Compression Plagiarism on Scholarly Argumentation. Argumentation.