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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

(US) Authors questioning papers at nearly two dozen journals in wake of spider paper retraction – Retraction Watch (Adam Marcus | January 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on June 5, 2020

This case provides us with an opportunity to share two reflections: 1) Be careful when it comes to the reuse of data without explanation; and 2 the need for junior academics to check data provided by more experienced colleagues.  In this reported case, the colleague who is suspected of data manipulation has moved on to collecting data on spiders in Northern Australia.

The retraction earlier this month of a 2016 paper in the American Naturalist by Kate Laskowski and Jonathan Pruitt turns out to be the tip of what is potentially a very large iceberg.

This week, the researchers have retracted a second paper, this one in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, for the same reasons — duplicated data without a reasonable explanation.

Dan Bolnick, the editor of the American Naturalist, tells us:

After learning about the problems in the [2016] data set, I asked an associate editor to look at data sets in other publications in the American Naturalist [on which Pruitt was a co-author] and we have indeed found what appears to be repeated data that don’t seem to have a biological explanation.

He isn’t alone. Bolnick added:

I am aware that there are concerns affecting a large number of papers at multiple other journals, and at this point I’m aware of co-authors of his who have contacted editors at 23 journals as of January 26. 


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Should We Purposely Infect Healthy Volunteers With Covid-19? – WIRED (Victoria Turk | May 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on June 4, 2020

Such studies could speed up the development of a vaccine—but would mean deliberately giving people a disease that could kill them.

IN LATE MARCH, Josh Morrison was sitting in his apartment in Brooklyn, New York, feeling miserable. Work had slowed down at the nonprofit he runs, which advocates for living organ donors, and he was worried about his parents and whether they were following the guidelines to stay safe during the coronavirus pandemic. He’d been planning to visit them in early April for their 40th anniversary in Florida, but had to cancel. “That was hard, and that was really sad,” he says. “I really want to be able to see my parents as soon as I can, and be back to a situation where you can do that.”

Ethical reflections when they are theoretical can be entertaining and engaging, but the stakes and consequences here are frightening and real.  In a world desperate for a cure, a vaccine or just an efficacious treatment, how far should we go?  Should we allow people to expose themselves to a risk of death or potentially longterm disability?

Morrison, who is 34, felt powerless. He wanted to be able to do something constructive. It was in this context that he came across a paper in The Journal of Infectious Diseases which put forward the case for human challenge studies of Covid-19 vaccine candidates. Challenge studies purposely infect healthy volunteers with a pathogen in order to study a disease or test a treatment or vaccine. This paper suggested that using human challenge studies could speed up the development of a Covid-19 vaccine by months, potentially saving thousands of lives. “The idea of speeding that all up and getting this stuff done with is pretty appealing,” Morrison says. “And also, I thought that I personally could participate in one of these.”

After contacting some friends, Morrison set up 1 Day Sooner, a group that advocates on behalf of volunteers for Covid-19 human challenge studies. No such studies are yet being conducted, but at the time of writing, more than 24,000 people from 102 countries have signed up on the 1 Day Sooner website to express an interest in taking part in one. Globally, there have now been more than five million reported cases of Covid-19, and 300,000 deaths. Should we let people volunteer to be purposely exposed to a virus we know can sometimes be fatal?

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Rock samples aren’t archived or shared. They need to be, geologists warn, pointing to a ‘reproducibility crisis.’ – The Washington Post (Erin Blakemore | May 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on June 3, 2020

Why did everything in the teeming oceans of the Late Devonian period (which ended about 358 million years ago) go extinct? Did Earth’s entire surface cool into a “snowball” at some point in prehistory?

Decisions about the retention of physical samples for research in fields such as geology, civil construction and materials can often feel as though it is a function of available space, rather than need.  In this piece, it is argued this approach needs to change.

Geologists could one day lay to rest these contentious debates about Earth’s environmental history, and others like them. But if they don’t have access to one another’s rock samples, argue an international group of geology researchers, they may never solve those riddles.

In an editorial in the journal Nature, a group of geologists from the United States, China and Australia make the case for storing and sharing ancient rocks.

“Too often,” they write, “rock samples are not archived or shared. It is common for samples to be held by researchers in private collections instead of in accessible, curated institutional archives or museums. That’s a problem, because different geoscience teams cannot check each other’s work to test whether published results are robust and can be replicated.”

Nature will publish peer review reports as a trial – Nature (Editorial | February 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on June 1, 2020

Research involves deep discussions between authors and reviewers. Starting this week, readers of some Nature Research journals will be able to see this up close.

Research communities are unanimous in acknowledging the value of peer review, but there’s a growing desire for more transparency in the process. As part of that, researchers want to see how publishing decisions are made, and they want greater assurance that referees and editors act with integrity and without bias.

As well as being great for open science – which we love – this may be an incredibly positive way to expose questionable publishers and junk science for what they are – trash.

For many journals, including Nature, peer review has typically been single-blind — that is, authors do not know who is reviewing their paper. At the same time, the contents of peer-review reports, and correspondence between authors, reviewers and editors, are kept confidential.

This prevents readers from seeing the often fascinating and important discussions between authors and reviewers, which are crucial in shaping and improving research and checking its integrity. Keeping these debates confidential also helps to reinforce perceptions that the research paper is the last word on a subject — when the latest finding is often simply a milestone along the scholarly journey.

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