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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

Just How Historic Is the Latest Covid-19 Science Meltdown? – WIRED (Adam Marcus & Ivan Oransky | June 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on June 28, 2020

Don’t blame last week’s journal retractions on the scary pace of the pandemic. “Once-in-a-lifetime” scandals like this seem to happen all the time.

WHEN The Lancet and The New England Journal of Medicine pulled an influential pair of Covid-19 papers last Thursday, it was a rare event in scientific publishing. For medical researchers, this was like seeing The Washington Post and The New York Times take down related news stories at the same time—a confluence of editorial failures that raises dire questions about what went wrong and why. But how surprising is this scandal, really? Could these be among “the biggest retractions in modern history,” as one observer described the news about the paper in The Lancet? That depends entirely on how you read history. Science meltdowns of this type—and the “biggest” retractions that ensue—occur with shocking regularity. Again and again, over decades, scientists and the public have had their confidence in the enterprise shaken by these sorts of disturbing revelations; and then, again and again, over decades, everyone has been surprised. Cue Casablanca.

The latest scandal is, indeed, a bad one. At the moment, we don’t know the full story of what went wrong, beyond that the papers’ authors and the journals’ editors decided that they could no longer trust the underlying data. Both studies purportedly drew from the medical records of 96,000 patients with Covid-19, seen at hundreds of different hospitals around the world. The NEJM article reported that those with cardiovascular disease were at increased risk for death from Covid-19, and that the use of certain heart medications did not appear to compound that risk. The Lancet paper reported that the drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine did not help the 15,000 patients who took them; in fact, these medications seemed to cause significant harm.

The giant data set was never made available for inspection by other scientists, which would be critical for demonstrating that results are reproducible. More astounding, the private and secretive company that owned the data, called Surgisphere, denied full access to the papers’ authors too. That’s bad faith, and it violates best practices for respectable science.

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(EU) Governance of research integrity: Options for a coordinated approach in Europe – EMBO (Sandra Bendiscioli Michele S. Garfinkel | June 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on June 28, 2020

This report is the result of an EMBO project to analyse whether and how a more coordinated approach in Europe would contribute to improving the integrity of research and meeting the challenges of handling cases of research misconduct. We analysed potential functions for a European body, the main ones being investigatory, advisory, and oversight. We also looked at other mechanisms, including the coordination of procedures used by European research performing organizations, funders and publishers. The project included a literature search, and input from an international group of experts through interviews and a workshop organized in partnership with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Global Science Forum (GSF).

To ensure trust in scientific knowledge, scientific1 research must be conducted responsibly and to the highest standards. However, scientific research is not immune from problems: breaches of good practice, accepted norms, regulations and ethical behaviour.

In the past 20 years or so, an increasing number of cases of breaches of good research practice worldwide have been reported and have reached public attention. Most well known cases involve practices considered to be serious misconduct, which are generally identified as fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism (FFP). However, many other less sensational practices often referred to as questionable research practices (QRP) also threaten the quality of research outputs. Evidence from surveys of researchers’ practices, and statistics related to problematic images found in scientific papers, shows that the incidence of QRP is high (e.g. Fanelli, 2009; Pulverer, 2015; Bik et al., 2016). To protect the quality, validity and reliability of research results, and public trust in scientific research, all breaches of good research practice must be addressed appropriately.

Table of contents

Summary i

1. Introduction 1

2. Methodology 4

3. Advantages and disadvantages of existing systems 5

4. An international body: Potential advantages and disadvantages 12
4.1. Structural options: Intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations 13
4.2. Potential role: Investigatory, oversight, advisory, platform for information exchange 14
4.3. Potential domain: Scientific organizations, law enforcement organizations, labour organizations 18
4.4. Options for funding 19

5. Options for implementing specific mechanisms 20
5.1. An international body established by a European scientific organization 20
5.2 An international body established by a European funder or a group of funders 22
5.3 An international body established by an international NGO 23
5.4 An international body established by a private entity 25

6. Other mechanisms: coordination of procedures 26

7. Conclusions 2

8 Acronyms 31

References 32

Appendices 36
Appendix 1 Biographies and institute information 36
Appendix 2 Workshop and interview information 37

Participant list 40 Interviewees 41

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Research ethics courses as a vaccination against a toxic research environment or culture (Papers: Nicole Ling Yeo-Teh & Bor Tang | June 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on June 25, 2020


We have included 17 links to other items about promoting a positive research culture through HDR professional development and mentoring.

Hofmann and Holm’s (2019) recent survey on issues of research misconduct with PhD graduates culminated with a notable conclusion by the authors: ‘Scientific misconduct seems to be an environmental issue as much as a matter of personal integrity’. Here, we re-emphasise the usefulness of an education-based countermeasure against toxic research environments or cultures that promote unethical practices amongst the younger researchers. We posit that an adequately conducted course in research ethics and integrity, with a good dose of case studies and analyses, can function in a manner that is metaphorically akin to vaccination. The training would cultivate the ability to analyse and build confidence in young researchers in making decisions with sound moral reasoning as well as in speaking up or arguing against pressure and coercions into unacceptable behaviour. A sufficiently large number of young researchers exposed to research ethics trainings would essentially provide a research community some degree of lasting herd immunity at its broadest base. Beyond passive immunity, a crop of research ethics-savvy young researchers could also play active and influential roles as role models for others at their level and perhaps even help correct the wayward attitudes of some senior researchers and initiate prompt action from institutional policy makers in a bottom-up manner.

Authorship, research environment, research ethics, research misconduct, responsible conduct of research courses

Yeo-Teh, N. S. L., & Tang, B. L. (2020). Research ethics courses as a vaccination against a toxic research environment or culture. Research Ethics.
Publisher (Open Access):

(US) Universities Step Up the Fight for Open-Access Research – WIRED (Gregory Barber | June 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on June 20, 2020

Today’s deal between the University of California and publisher Springer Nature is a big milestone on the path to dismantling paywalls around academic journals.

FIVE YEARS AGO, when Jeffrey MacKie-Mason first joined the University of California team that negotiates with academic publishers, he asked a colleague what would happen if he failed to strike a deal. What if, instead, he simply canceled their subscription? “I was told I would be fired the next day,” the UC Berkeley librarian says. Last year, he tested out the theory. The university system had been trying to negotiate a deal to make all of its research open-access—outside of a paywall—with Elsevier, the world’s largest academic publisher. But they were too far apart on what that would cost. So MacKie-Mason’s team walked away.

An update on efforts towards making the results of quality research publicly accessible to all.  We have included links to fifteen related items.

To his surprise, the army of UC researchers who depended on that subscription were willing to go along with it. They’d lose the ability to read new articles in thousands of Elsevier journals, sure, but there were ways to get by without a subscription. They could email researchers directly for copies. The university would pay for individual articles. And yes, unofficially, some would just probably download from Sci-Hub, the illicit repository where virtually every scientific article can be found. To MacKie-Mason, it was clarifying: The conventional wisdom that had weakened his negotiating hand was thoroughly dispelled.

Since then, progress towards open access has crept along. More deals of the kind UC wants have been struck, especially in Europe. But in the United States, progress has been especially halting. Then, last week, MIT officials announced that they too had stepped away from the table with Elsevier, saying they couldn’t agree to a deal. And now, University of California officials have announced their intention to make a deal with Springer Nature, the world’s second-largest publisher, to begin publishing the university system’s research as open-access by default. The deal starts in 2021 for a large number of the company’s journals—and puts UC on the path, at least, to do so for all its journals within two years, including its most prestigious ones, like Nature.

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