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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

The Rise of Junk Science – The Walrus (Alex Gillis | July 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on July 23, 2019
 

Fake publications are corrupting the world of research—and influencing real news

In early 2017, Eduardo Franco, a professor in the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University, sent an email to his colleagues, warning them of a global “epidemic” of scams by academic journals that was corrupting research and, in effect, endangering the public. As head of the oncology department, where he oversees approximately 230 people, Franco promised to comb through every CV and annual evaluation in the department to flag any colleagues’ resumés that listed journals and conferences that weren’t reputable or, in some cases, even real. He didn’t spell out the consequences, but the implication was clear: the faculty members would be held accountable.

The AHRECS team have started to observe this worrying trend in our other roles.  It is essential research institutions direct researchers (via policy, guidance material and professional development strategies) away from junk science.  Funding bodies also need to play a key role in this regard.

A scholar for forty years, Franco has followed the rise of junk publishers for about a decade. He has seen them go from anomalous blights on academics’ credentials to widespread additions on scholarly resumés, nearly indistinguishable from legitimate work. Now, he says, “there’s never been a worse time to be a scientist.” Typically, when a scholar completes work they want to see published, they submit a paper to a reputable journal. If the paper is accepted, it undergoes a rigorous editing process—including peer review, in which experts in the field evaluate the work and provide feedback. Once the paper is published, it can be cited by others and inspire further research or media attention. The process can take years. Traditionally, five publishers have dominated this $25 billion industry: Wiley-Blackwell, Springer, Taylor & Francis, RELX Group (formerly Reed Elsevier), and Sage. But, before the turn of the century, a new model of online publishing, “open access,” began opening doors for countless academics—and for thousands of scams in the process.
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The new online model created an opportunity for profits: the more papers publishers accepted, the more money they generated from authors who paid to be included—$150 to $2,000 per paper, if not more, and often with the support of government grants. Researchers also saw substantial benefits: the more studies they posted, the more positions, promotions, job security, and grant money they received from universities and agencies. Junk publishers—companies that masquerade as real publishers but accept almost every submission and skip quality editing—elbowed their way in.
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Read the rest of this discussion piece

Journal Publishes Concern About Study Using Forced Organ Donation – Medscape (Diana Swift | June 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on July 21, 2019
 

The Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (CJASN) recently issued an “Expression of Concern” regarding a 2008 article on renal allograft recipients written by Chinese researchers.

The Expression of Concern stems from an Australian report published online in February in BMJ Open, which urged the repudiation by English-language journals of more than 445 studies involving 85,477 organ transplants done in China. The reason? Many of the organs used were likely forcibly harvested from Chinese prisoners of conscience, such as practitioners of Falun Gong, Uyghurs, Tibetans, and underground Christians.

“We reached out for clarification of the organ source to the senior authors, but one was deceased and the other had left the institution where the research was done,” said CJASN Editor-in-Chief Rajnish Mehrotra, MD, MBBS, a professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California Los Angeles.

Read the rest of this discussion piece

On the use of blockchain-based mechanisms to tackle academic misconduct (Vijay Mohan | June 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on July 18, 2019
 

Highlights

  • There exists a Prisoners’ Dilemma in academia, where researchers engage in misconduct in equilibrium.
  • Conventional “centralized” solutions under the current system may not work.
  • New advances in distributed ledger technology, like blockchain, provide a decentralized alternative.
  • The incentive structures in academia may necessitate a solution involving a permissioned blockchain.
  • Open Science is necessary to fight misconduct.

Abstract
Current incentives for publishing in academic journals result in a “winner-take-all” contest-like situation, with significant benefits for publishing research in quality journals. At the same time, empirically, we observe a greater incidence of research misconduct. The purpose of this paper is to summarize the nature and extent of the misconduct problem, to show why it may persist in the absence of conscious remedial action, and to discuss solutions that help lower the likelihood of spurious research escaping undetected. A simple model is constructed to emphasize that there exists the potential for a Prisoners’ Dilemma in academia, where scholars engage in misconduct at equilibrium (the Academic Dilemma). The paper then examines why conventional “centralized” regulatory solutions under the current system are not likely to succeed in resolving the problem, analyzes the properties of a decentralized solution utilizing blockchains, and argues that once incentive structures in academia are factored in, a permissioned blockchain may emerge as an effective middle-ground solution for mitigating scientific misconduct. In doing so, the paper highlights the importance of new technologies and recent advancements in Open Science for battling misconduct, and takes stock of the evolving nature of academic publishing.

Keywords
Academic misconduct, Prisoners’ dilemma, Blockchain, Open science, Decentralized cooperation

Mohan, V. (2019) On the use of blockchain-based mechanisms to tackle academic misconduct. Research Policy. 48(9), November 2019, 103805
Publisher: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0048733319301258

Knowledge and attitudes among life scientists towards reproducibility within journal articles (Papers: Evanthia Kaimaklioti Samota and Robert P. Davey | June 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on July 16, 2019
 

Abstract

We constructed a survey to understand how authors and scientists view the issues around reproducibility, and how solutions such as interactive figures could enable the reproducibility of experiments from within a research article. This manuscript reports the results of this survey on the views of 251 researchers, including authors who have published in eLIFE Sciences, and those who work at the Norwich Biosciences Institutes (NBI). The survey also outlines to what extent researchers are occupied with reproducing experiments themselves and what are their desirable features of an interactive figure. Respondents considered various features for an interactive figure within a research article that would allow for them to better understand and reproduce in situ the experiment presented in the figure. Respondents said that the most important element that would enable the better reproducibility of published research would be that authors describe methods and analyses in detail. The respondents believe that having interactive figures in published papers is a beneficial element. Whilst interactive figures are potential solutions for demonstrating technical reproducibility, we find that there are equally pressing cultural demands on researchers that need to be addressed to achieve greater success in reproducibility in the life sciences.

Samota, E. K. and R. P. Davey (2019). Knowledge and attitudes among life scientists towards reproducibility within journal articles. bioRxiv: 581033. doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/581033
Publisher: https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/581033v2
This article is a preprint and has not been peer-reviewed

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