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Austrian agency shows how to tackle scientific misconduct – Nature (Editorial | September 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on October 22, 2018

A decade on from a major academic scandal, officials there have got their act together.

Many countries are trying to clamp down on scientific misconduct. Last week, the UK government promised to look into setting up an independent body to oversee institutional investigations into research misconduct, and the Netherlands has revamped its research-integrity code. Last month, India said it would crack down on widespread academic plagiarism. And earlier this year, Chinese officials pledged to get tough on academic fraud with new laws that include a dedicated government agency to police misconduct.

The problem is that much of this renewed political attention is not translating into meaningful action. High-profile cases of exposed malpractice continue to pile up, and surveys of researchers regularly confirm that poor behaviour is shockingly more common than many who promote the values of science might want to accept.

So it is promising to report from a meeting in Vienna last week that was held to celebrate ten years of the Austrian Agency for Research Integrity. The organization is not perfect, but it has much to be proud of. Its work shows what can be achieved given the requisite political will. And it reveals some of the problems that remain, in Austria and elsewhere. Officials in countries that are looking for ways to tackle misconduct should pay close attention.

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The Rise of Peer Review: Melinda Baldwin on the History of Refereeing at Scientific Journals and Funding Bodies – Scholarly Kitchen (Robert Harington | September 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on October 17, 2018

I  was recently given the opportunity to read a fascinating paper by Melinda Baldwin, (Books Editor at Physics Today magazine, published by the American Institute of Physics), entitled “Scientific Autonomy, Public Accountability, and the Rise of “Peer Review” in the Cold War United States” (Isis, volume 109, number 3, September 2018). Melinda is an accomplished historian of science, with a special emphasis on the cultural and intellectual history of science and scientific communication. Not only is her writing infectiously entertaining, the story itself is new, or at least it is new to me. It turns out that peer reviewing in scientific journals is a relatively recent construct, first emerging in the nineteenth century and not seen as a central part of science until the late twentieth century.

A great piece reflecting on the history of peer review that nicely contextualises current frustrations and future directions. A worthy inclusion in ‘further reading’ lists when speaking about peer review.

Melinda paints a picture of constant change in peer review, which perhaps provides a lesson for us all. Maybe this should be obvious, but there is no status quo in academic publishing, and while we may feel our moment is more important than those that have gone before, or those ahead of us, expectations and models are fluid, be you author, reviewer, publisher, institution, or funder.
In this interview I ask Melinda to talk about her article, and provide some more personal views on peer review topics of the moment.

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The “problem” of predatory publishing remains a relatively small one and should not be allowed to defame open access – LSE Impact Blog (Tom Olijhoek and Jon Tennant | September 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on October 15, 2018

A recent investigation led by an international group of journalists raised concerns over the scale of the problem of deceptive publishing practices, with many researchers of standing and reputation found to have published in “predatory” journals. However, while the findings of this investigation garnered significant media attention, the robustness of the study itself was not subject to the same scrutiny. To Tom Olijhoek and Jon Tennant, the profile afforded to investigations of this type causes some to overstate the problem of predatory publishing, while often discrediting open access publishing at the same time. The real problem here is one of education around questionable journals, and should not distract from more urgent questions around the shifting scholarly ecosystem.

Writing about the scale of questionable publishing Tom Olijhoekand Jon Tennant suggest the relative scale of the problem isn’t as bad as some science reporters suggest, but that doesn’t mean it’s not having an impact that is concerning. We agree. There are plenty of open access publishers which have high editorial standards and there are some large and supposedly reputable publishers that sometimes feel like they are running an expensive protection racket.

Full disclosure: Tom Olijhoek is Editor-in-Chief of DOAJ and Jon Tennant is the founder of the Open Science MOOC.
Imagine you want to investigate the quality of restaurants. You know beforehand there are bad restaurants. So you set up your investigation by going to a number of bad restaurants of bad reputation. What do you find? You find that a number of restaurants are really bad, an inevitable conclusion. You even find that people of standing and reputation have visited these restaurants on occasion.
Would the conclusion here be that all restaurants are bad? Several investigations of this kind have looked into the problem of “predatory” or “questionable” publishers, the most famous being the heavily criticised and deeply flawed “sting operation” by John Bohannon in Science magazine. In science speak, this is called doing an experiment without an appropriate control group, usually sufficient for research to be desk rejected for being fundamentally flawed.

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(US) Mount Sinai multiple sclerosis researcher admits to misconduct – Retraction Watch (Ivan Oransky | May 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on October 14, 2018

A researcher who has received millions in funding from the U.S. National Institutes of Health and who runs a lab at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York has confessed to falsifying data in a 2014 paper.

Gareth John, who studies multiple sclerosis and other neurological diseases, “has expressed remorse for his actions,” according to a report released last week from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Research Integrity.

John falsified data in two different figures in a 2014 paper in Development, “Combinatorial actions of Tgfβ and Activin ligands promote oligodendrocyte development and CNS myelination,” according to the report. In one figure, a Western blot, he “removed the lower set of bands, reordered the remaining bands and used those bands to represent the actin control,” among other falsifications, and in another, he cut and pasted bands “onto a blank background and used those false bands to create a graph.”

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