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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

Pseudoscience and COVID-19 — we’ve had enough already – Nature (Timothy Caulfield | April 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on May 3, 2020

The scientific community must take up cudgels in the battle against bunk.

Cow urine, bleach and cocaine have all been recommended as COVID-19 cures — all guff. The pandemic has been cast as a leaked bioweapon, a byproduct of 5G wireless technology and a political hoax — all poppycock. And countless wellness gurus and alternative-medicine practitioners have pushed unproven potions, pills and practices as ways to ‘boost’ the immune system.

Thankfully, this explosion of misinformation — or, as the World Health Organization has called it, the “infodemic” — has triggered an army of fact-checkers and debunkers. Regulators have taken aggressive steps to hold marketers of unproven therapies to account. Funders are supporting researchers (myself included) to explore how best to counter the spread of COVID-19 claptrap.

I have studied the spread and impact of health misinformation for decades, and have never seen the topic being taken as seriously as it is right now. Perhaps that is because of the scale of the crisis and the ubiquity of the nonsensical misinformation, including advice from some very prominent politicians. If this pro-science response is to endure, all scientists — not just a few of us — must stand up for quality information.

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(Korea) Korean professors indicted in admissions case tied to politics – Times Higher Education (Joyce Lau | January 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on May 1, 2020

Former justice minster and wife alleged to have faked materials for children’s university applications

A former South Korean justice minister and his wife, both university professors, have been charged following an academic misconduct investigation tied to their children’s university applications.

Cho Kuk, the former minister who is a professor at Seoul National University, and Chung Kyung-shim, a Dongyang University professor, were indicted on multiple charges on 31 December, the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office confirmed to Times Higher Education. 

The charges against Professor Cho, which come after months of investigation into academic misconduct, include bribery, falsifying documents and obstruction of business, the Yonhap news agency reported. Professors Cho and Chung are accused of faking materials for their son’s application to law school and their daughter’s entry to medical school.

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(Australia) Survey of Australian STEMM Early Career Researchers: job insecurity and questionable research practices are major structural concerns (Preprint Papers: Katherine Christian, et al | February 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on April 23, 2020


Sobering findings for anyone responsible for guiding the research culture of an Australia university. There’s no reason to believe this is confined to STEMM.

We sought to understand the pressures on Early Career Researchers (ECR) in the Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, & Medicine (STEMM) disciplines, collecting data from 658 ECRs working in Australia. Respondents indicated a “love of science”, but most also indicated an intention to leave their position. Decisions were primarily motivated by job insecurity (52%), while grievances included poor supervision (60%), bullying or harassment (34%), inequitable hiring practices (39%) and poor support for families (9.6%). A concerning rate of “questionable research practices” by colleagues (34.1% to 41.1%) was reported to have impacted ECR career advancement. Our study links recent reports that characterise the health of the research industry, providing direct insight from ECRs on job insecurity, workplace culture challenges, and the logical rise of questionable research practices. Internationally, nationally and institutionally the research community needs to improve job security (care for our people) and the quality of research data (our product).

Christian, K., Johnstone, C., Larkins, J., Wright, W. & Doran, M. R. (2020) Survey of Australian STEMM Early Career Researchers: job insecurity and questionable research practices are major structural concerns. bioRxiv 2020.02.19.955328; doi:
This article is a preprint and has not been certified by peer review

(US) Sexual misconduct legal battle raises questions about microbe researcher’s work – Science (Gretchen Vogel | February 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on April 22, 2020

A researcher famed for his work on the microbiomes of hunter-gatherers has been accused by several women of sexual assault, according to U.S. court documents. Jeff Leach, a resident of Terlingua, Texas, co-founded a major open-source, crowdfunded project on the microbiome and is the co-author of multiple papers on gut microbes, including one in Science. In the publicity resulting from the allegations, other questions have emerged about Leach’s academic qualifications and his behavior in the field.

The sexual assault accusations came to light as a result of a defamation suit Leach filed in September 2019. In July 2019, Katy Schwartz, who worked at the Terlingua tourist lodge that Leach runs, filed a police report alleging that he had sexually assaulted her. Schwartz did not press charges, but asserts in court documents that she wanted her experience documented because she feared Leach could be a danger to others.

In the wake of the lawsuit against Schwartz, three other local women filed affidavits. One alleged that Leach had assaulted her, putting his hand up her shorts “without any warning.” A second alleged that he raped her in a “violent assault” for which “there was no consent.” A third affidavit alleged that Leach sexually assaulted a woman, became violent during an argument, and threatened her with litigation.

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