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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

“Failure is an essential part of science:” A Q&A with the author of a new book on reproducibility – Retraction Watch (Ivan Oransky | April 2017)0

Posted by Admin in on April 24, 2017

We included this interview in the library primarily as a heads-up about the release of this book.

Reproducibility is everywhere recently, from the pages of scientific journals to the halls of the National Academy of Sciences, and today it lands in bookstores across the U.S. Longtime NPR correspondent Richard Harris has written Rigor Mortis (Basic Books), which is published today. (Full disclosure: I blurbed the book, writing that “Harris deftly weaves gripping tales of sleuthing with possible paths out of what some call a crisis.”) Harris answered some questions about the book, and the larger issues, for us.
Retraction Watch (RW): Rigor Mortis begins with the story of the 2012 Nature paper by C. Glenn Begley and Lee Ellis that is now famous for sounding the alarm about reproducibility in basic cancer research. But as you document, this is not a problem that began in 2012. When did scientists first start realizing there was a problem?
Richard Harris (RH): Some people cite John Ioannidis’s notable paper, published in 2005, titled “Why Most Published Research Findings are False,” but even in that paper he’s citing previous concerns. CK Gunsalus at the University of Illinois reaches back to Demosthenes (384-322 BC), who said “nothing is easier than self-deceit.” That’s clearly the nub of the problem. I’m actually not convinced it’s a crisis. What is new is scientists are increasingly aware of these serious problems. That’s actually good. Nobody wants science to spin its wheels, and recognizing a problem is the first step toward solving it.

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How many scientists fabricate and falsify research? A systematic review and meta-analysis of survey data (Papers: Daniele Fanelli | 2009)0

Posted by Admin in on April 24, 2017


The frequency with which scientists fabricate and falsify data, or commit other forms of scientific misconduct is a matter of controversy. Many surveys have asked scientists directly whether they have committed or know of a colleague who committed research misconduct, but their results appeared difficult to compare and synthesize. This is the first meta-analysis of these surveys.

To standardize outcomes, the number of respondents who recalled at least one incident of misconduct was calculated for each question, and the analysis was limited to behaviours that distort scientific knowledge: fabrication, falsification, “cooking” of data, etc… Survey questions on plagiarism and other forms of professional misconduct were excluded. The final sample consisted of 21 surveys that were included in the systematic review, and 18 in the meta-analysis.

A pooled weighted average of 1.97% (N = 7, 95%CI: 0.86–4.45) of scientists admitted to have fabricated, falsified or modified data or results at least once –a serious form of misconduct by any standard– and up to 33.7% admitted other questionable research practices. In surveys asking about the behaviour of colleagues, admission rates were 14.12% (N = 12, 95% CI: 9.91–19.72) for falsification, and up to 72% for other questionable research practices. Meta-regression showed that self reports surveys, surveys using the words “falsification” or “fabrication”, and mailed surveys yielded lower percentages of misconduct. When these factors were controlled for, misconduct was reported more frequently by medical/pharmacological researchers than others.

Considering that these surveys ask sensitive questions and have other limitations, it appears likely that this is a conservative estimate of the true prevalence of scientific misconduct.

Fanelli D (2009) How Many Scientists Fabricate and Falsify Research? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Survey Data. PLoS ONE 4(5): e5738.
Publisher (open access):

Do Pressures to Publish Increase Scientists’ Bias? An Empirical Support from US States Data (Papers: Daniele Fanelli | 2010)0

Posted by Admin in on April 24, 2017


The growing competition and “publish or perish” culture in academia might conflict with the objectivity and integrity of research, because it forces scientists to produce “publishable” results at all costs. Papers are less likely to be published and to be cited if they report “negative” results (results that fail to support the tested hypothesis). Therefore, if publication pressures increase scientific bias, the frequency of “positive” results in the literature should be higher in the more competitive and “productive” academic environments. This study verified this hypothesis by measuring the frequency of positive results in a large random sample of papers with a corresponding author based in the US. Across all disciplines, papers were more likely to support a tested hypothesis if their corresponding authors were working in states that, according to NSF data, produced more academic papers per capita. The size of this effect increased when controlling for state’s per capita R&D expenditure and for study characteristics that previous research showed to correlate with the frequency of positive results, including discipline and methodology. Although the confounding effect of institutions’ prestige could not be excluded (researchers in the more productive universities could be the most clever and successful in their experiments), these results support the hypothesis that competitive academic environments increase not only scientists’ productivity but also their bias. The same phenomenon might be observed in other countries where academic competition and pressures to publish are high.

Citation: Fanelli D (2010) Do Pressures to Publish Increase Scientists’ Bias? An Empirical Support from US States Data. PLoS ONE 5(4): e10271.
Publisher (open access):

Publishing: rise in retractions is a signal of integrity – Nature (Daniele Fanelli | 2014)0

Posted by Admin in on April 23, 2017

A stigma should not be attached to the retraction of a scientific paper, as you explain (Nature 507, 389–391; 2014). It should also be emphasized that the rise in retractions over the past few years does not signify a surge in misconduct: on the contrary, it reflects a growing scientific integrity.

Fanelli D (2014) Publishing: rise in retractions is a signal of integrity. Nature – doi:10.1038/509033a

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