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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

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.

NSF tallies 16 cases of alleged harassment by grantees in first year of new rules – Science (Jeffrey Mervis | October 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on March 25, 2020

It’s been 1 year since the National Science Foundation (NSF) implemented a new policy governing when universities must tell it about possible sexual harassment by grantees. Despite adopting a narrow definition of who is covered, agency officials say they are surprised by how many notifications—16 to date—they have received.

Let’s be clear, such harassment is completely unacceptable and cannot be tolerated.  It is also vitally important to pick up that institutions promote a culture that prevents this, but also that allegations need to substantiated as campuses could become rife with the so-called ‘cancel’ culture that could see false allegations due to competition for funding.

The rules apply only to researchers who received an award after 22 October 2018 or a recent amendment to an earlier award, and kick in only when an institution takes what is called an “administrative action.” That could range from monitoring someone’s behavior to banning the alleged perpetrator from campus. Institutions must also notify NSF of the final decision in a harassment investigation involving an NSF grantee, the end of a process that can drag on for years.

If followed by institutions, the notification rules should reduce the chances that the agency is blindsided by media reports of current grantees who are found guilty of harassment. But the rules will not create a database of all sexual harassment investigations at NSF-funded institutions, nor was that NSF’s intention. Rather, the rule addresses NSF’s obligation to ensure a “safe and secure” research environment at places where it is spending money.

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A toast to the error detectors – Nature (Simine Vazire | December 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on March 24, 2020

Let 2020 be the year in which we value those who ensure that science is self-correcting.

Last month, I got a private Twitter message from a postdoc bruised by the clash between science as it is and how it should be. He had published a commentary in which he pointed out errors in a famous researcher’s paper. The critique was accurate, important and measured — a service to his field. But it caused him problems: his adviser told him that publishing such criticism had crossed a line, and he should never do it again.

Scientists are very quick to say that science is self-correcting, but those who do the work behind this correction often get accused of damaging their field, or worse. My impression is that many error detectors are early-career researchers who stumble on mistakes made by eminent scientists, and naively think that they are helping by pointing out those problems — but, after doing so, are treated badly by the community.

Stories of scientists showing unwarranted hostility to error detectors are all too common. Yes, criticism, like science, should be done carefully, with due diligence and a sharp awareness of personal fallibility. Error detectors need to keep conversations focused on concrete facts, and should be open to benign explanations for apparent problems.

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Scientists reveal what they learnt from their biggest mistakes – Nature Index (Gemma Conroy | March 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on March 23, 2020

How retractions can be a way forward.

Be it a botched experiment or a coding error, mistakes are easily made but harder to handle, particularly if they find their way into a published paper.

Although retracting a paper due to an error may not seem a desirable career milestone, it is seen as important for building trust within the research community and upholding scientific rigor.

2017 study found that authors who retract their papers due to a mistake earn praise from peer-reviewers and other researchers for their honesty.

Below are four lessons from researchers who have retracted flawed papers.

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