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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

How Do You Publish the Work of a Scientific Villain? – WIRED (Megan Molteni | December 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on June 11, 2019

HOW DO YOU handle the data of a scientist who violates all the norms of his field? Who breaches the trust of a community that spans the entire globe? Who shows a casual disregard for the fate of the whole human species?

On the one hand, you might want to learn from such a person’s work; to have a full and open dissection of everything that went wrong. Because, spoiler, there was a lot that went wrong in the case in question. But rewarding such “abhorrent” behavior, as one scientist put it, with a publication—the currency of the scientific world—would send a message that ethical rules only exist to be broken.

This is the precarious situation in which we find ourselves today, as scientists hash out the next chapter of the human gene-editing scandal that erupted two weeks ago, when the Chinese scientist He Jiankui revealed that for the last two years he has been working in secret to produce the world’s first Crispr-edited babies. Scientists denounced the work with near-unanimous condemnation, citing its technical failures as well as its deep breaches of ethical (and possibly legal) lines. What’s much less certain is what should happen to the work, now that it’s been done.

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Plan U: Universal access to scientific and medical research via funder preprint mandates (Papers: Richard Sever, et al | June 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on June 10, 2019

Preprint servers such as arXiv and bioRxiv represent a highly successful and relatively low cost mechanism for providing free access to research findings. By decoupling the dissemination of manuscripts from the much slower process of evaluation and certification by journals, preprints also significantly accelerate the pace of research itself by allowing other researchers to begin building on new results immediately. If all funding agencies were to mandate posting of preprints by grantees—an approach we term Plan U (for “universal”)—free access to the world’s scientific output for everyone would be achieved with minimal effort. Moreover, the existence of all articles as preprints would create a fertile environment for experimentation with new peer review and research evaluation initiatives, which would benefit from a reduced barrier to entry because hosting and archiving costs were already covered.

Sever, R., Eisen, M., Inglis, J. (2019) Plan U: Universal access to scientific and medical research via funder preprint mandates. PLoS Biology 17(6): e3000273.
Publisher (Open Access):

Reviewer-coerced citation: Case report, update on journal policy, and suggestions for future prevention (Papers: Jonathan D Wren, et al | January 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on June 8, 2019

A case was recently brought to the journal’s attention regarding a reviewer who had requested a large number of citations to their own papers as part of their review. After investigation of their most recent reviews, we found that in every review this reviewer requested an average of 35 citations be added, ∼90% of which were to their own papers and the remainder to papers that both cited them extensively and mentioned them by name in the title. The reviewer’s phrasing strongly suggested that inclusion of these citations would influence their recommendation to the editor to accept or reject the paper. The reviewer was unable to provide a satisfactory justification for these requests and Bioinformatics has therefore banned them as a reviewer. Our investigation also suggests that the reviewer has behaved similarly in reviewing for other journals. This case has alerted us to how the peer-review system is vulnerable to unethical behavior, and prompted us to clarify the journal’s policy on when it is appropriate for reviewers to request citations to their own work, and to suggest how some of the current weak points in the peer-review system can be mitigated, so that this behavior can be detected more quickly and efficiently.

Wren, J.D., Valencia, A. & Kelso, J. Reviewer-coerced citation: case report, update on journal policy and suggestions for future prevention, Bioinformatics, , btz071,
Publisher (Open Access):

(US) ‘Banished’ blood, stool samples from San Diego veterans used in research article, despite federal probe – ienewsource (Brad Racino & Jill Castellano | May 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on June 6, 2019

Two prominent doctors associated with the University of California San Diego and the local VA used blood and stool samples taken from sick veterans to bolster a paper published this month in an academic research journal.

The specimens were not supposed to be used, according to the project’s lead researcher, because they were part of a study that unethically collected biological samples from living subjects without their consent, which investigators called “serious noncompliance.”

When people volunteer to be human research subjects, they accept potential health risks in order to contribute to a growing bank of scientific and medical knowledge.

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