Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

A mega-correction, but no retraction, in the Journal of Cell Science

with 28 comments

In our 2011 year-end post, we promised to keep

…an eye on what may be an emerging trend: The mega-correction. We’ve seen errata notices that correct so many different errors, it’s hard to believe the paper shouldn’t have been retracted. It’s unclear what this means yet, but watch this space for coverage of more examples.

We’ve found another example in the Journal of Cell Science, “Immunobiology of naïve and genetically modified HLA-class-I-knockdown human embryonic stem cells,” originally published in September 2011. The correction begins with what turns out to be a bit of an understatement:

There were errors published in J. Cell Sci. 2011 124, 3029–3037.

The list of those errors starts with a sentence that reminds us of a Retraction Watch post we wrote about a paper that included six authors without their permission:

The names of the following people were listed but should have been omitted from the list of authors:

Neil Phillips, Andrew Fire, Dolly Tyan, Mark Kay

We then get to the mistakes in the presentation of data:

Fig. 2 contains the following errors:

a. An incorrect image of panel was published.

b. Instead of eight, a total of ten animals made up both control groups that lead to the data shown in the graph.

c. An incorrect image of panel c has been published.

d. Balb/c cellular immune activation on the same day was significantly weaker after hESCKD rather than hESC transplantation. Spot frequencies of IFN-γ and IL-4 (P=0.001 and P<0.001, respectively) were significantly lower after hESCKD transplantation (d) when compared with hESCs.

That’s followed by a correct version of figure 2, and then it’s on to figure 5:

Fig. 5 contains the following errors:

(a, b) After incubation with CD3+ CD56− lymphocytes, hESCs (P<0.001 and P=0.005) but not hESCKD (P=1.0 and P=0.708) significantly increased the spot frequencies for IFN-γ(a) and IL-4 (b), respectively, compared with resting responder lymphocytes.

The correct version of figure 5 then appears.

Another sentence refers to funding for senior author Sonja Schrepfer:

The funding section has been accidentally omitted and should read:

S.S. received funding from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; SCHR 992/3-1, SCHR 992/4-1).

Then there are the errors in the online extra:

In supplementary material Fig. S2, the BLI image of the hind limb (panel b) is incorrect. The published legend is correct.

In the final sentence, the notice refers to whom might be responsible for the mistakes:

The first author apologises for these errors.

We’ve contacted Schrepfer, as well as the first author, Tobias Deuse, for comment, and will update with anything we hear back.

We did hear from the journal’s acting executve editor, Petra Gross:

You might appreciate that I cannot share the confidential details underlying the publication of this correction and any investigations that we may have carried out, but I would like to reassure you that if we had determined that the errors in the original paper had affected its overall results and conclusion, we would have retracted it as per our published policies (http://jcs.biologists.org/site/journal/pub_ethics.xhtml).

I would also like to remind you that our publisher, the Company of Biologists, is a member of COPE and that we follow the COPE’s code of conduct.

So what to make of this mega-correction? On the one hand, it’s quite transparent about what was wrong with the paper when originally published. We appreciate detailed explanations like this one, no matter how the addendum is categorized. And some of the errors, if we’re reading them correctly, may have actually weakened the results, suggesting that the correction actually strengthens the conclusions.

Still, we can’t help but wonder, given the scope, if a correction was the best way to go. We look forward to Retraction Watch readers’ thoughts.

Written by Ivan Oransky

January 12th, 2012 at 9:30 am

Comments
  • Sierra Rayne January 12, 2012 at 9:36 am

    Unbelievable. The telling part is the authorship issue, as it really suggests something nefarious behind the other ‘errors’. How did that possibly occur? Many details needed here.

    • chirality January 12, 2012 at 10:23 am

      Rats abandon sinking ships, ‘honorary’ authors distance themselves from inconvenient papers. That’s my theory because I do not think that once you make ‘significant contribution’ you can opt out of being a co-author of the resulting paper.

      • Sierra Rayne January 12, 2012 at 10:36 am

        Excellent point.

        We need the details. There is no satisfactory explanation for the authorship issue that I can see. Either these four authors are admitting they approved honorary authorship at time of original submission (which means they should be formally sanctioned, along with the remaining authors that approved of such nonsense, in the science community and by their respective institutions), or the remaining authors on the paper are removing their names even though these four authors significantly contributed (which warrants sanctioning against the remaining authors on the paper, and remedying the situation so that all significantly contributing authors are listed on whatever final ‘version’ of this paper gets published and/or retracted).

        Clearly a mess that needs to be fully unraveled.

        Neil Phillips appears to be a post-doc (http://www.linkedin.com/pub/neil-phillips/b/792/329)
        Andrew Fire is a prof (http://firelab.stanford.edu/members.html)
        Dolly Tyan is a prof (http://med.stanford.edu/profiles/Dolly_Tyan/)
        Mark Kay is a prof (http://kaylab.stanford.edu/)

      • sfs January 12, 2012 at 9:09 pm

        I love the way people make a leap to malice here without considering that this could be the result of human error or simple neglect. A lot of PIs, especially in big labs, leave the submission process to the first author. If the first author has already left academics, then there may be less care in the process.

        One possible interpretation: an earlier draft was accidentally submitted. The authors had been volunteered by the first author in the earlier draft, and removed by the PI in later drafts. The mega-correction updates the text to what it should have been in the first place.

        Do I know this? No more than you know that these now-removed authors are “honorary rats” abandoning a sinking ship.

        JCS is a respected journal, and I think it’s worth taking the editors at their word, instead of jumping straight to thoughts of undisclosed fraud. It’s “Retraction Watch,” not a reality TV show about scandal in science.

      • Sierra Rayne January 12, 2012 at 9:27 pm

        ‘sfs’ states that “I love the way people make a leap to malice here without considering that this could be the result of human error or simple neglect. A lot of PIs, especially in big labs, leave the submission process to the first author. If the first author has already left academics, then there may be less care in the process.

        One possible interpretation: an earlier draft was accidentally submitted. The authors had been volunteered by the first author in the earlier draft, and removed by the PI in later drafts. The mega-correction updates the text to what it should have been in the first place.”

        Let’s assume your theory is correct. An early draft lists all the extra authors and, presumably, includes all the extra work these extra authors did (as there must have been a reason for the first author ‘volunteering’ the extra names, correct?). The first author submits the error laden paper without the corresponding author signing off on the final submission ‘proof’ (or else the corresponding author would have seen the errors in authorship, work, etc. – unless the corresponding author is incompetent), or apparently anyone else listed on the manuscript signing off on it either (who presumably also would have picked up on the errors – as wouldn’t all the individuals concerned have discussed which version with which authors to submit?).

        The manuscript presumably comes back for revisions (maybe even two rounds or more). Apparently, again, no one else – including the corresponding author (in whose e-mail inbox the revisions would have arrrived) – bothers to look at the paper and notice all the extra names, details, etc., that were apparently pre-agreed not to be in the final submitted paper. Then, upon acceptance, when the authors collectively need to go over the galley proofs, we – again – have the case where no one other than the misguided first author looks at the paper? If that is the case, these research groups should be shut down for incompetence. I don’t think your potential ‘interpretation’ holds any water, and maybe the authors should come on this site and clarify the exact situation for us?

        I don’t think we’re all wearing our tinfoil hats, but we didn’t all fall off the bus either. Scientists are often good at generating and analyzing data, but they are very bad at making up nonsense excuses.

      • sfs January 13, 2012 at 5:18 pm

        @Sierra Rayne:
        You realize that I am a scientist, too, right? The fact is that we don’t know what happened, and we’re making conjectures. Too many comments on this blog have a witch-hunt feel to them.

        What do we know? That the first author is responsible for a large number of textual mistakes, including omitting the funding acknowledgements and adding authors that shouldn’t have been there.

        I’ve been the first author who’s responsible for the submission process. While all of the authors were emailed about the submission, I don’t believe that any of them had to “sign off” on anything explicitly. They *trusted me* to submit the correct manuscript. I was the one who uploaded the text and figures. I pushed the “submit” button.

        When the decision comes back to the corresponding author, the editor doesn’t resend the submitted manuscript. So, yes, the PI could very well have discussed the revisions with the first author, looking at the manuscript that was *supposed* to be submitted. The requested revisions may have been minor, or even primarily textual in nature. It’s JCS, not JCB or NCB. The first author could have made the corrections on the wrong manuscript and resubmitted. The first author could have made the corrections on the wrong manuscript and resubmitted. Maybe the revisions were extensive, and the first author botched the resubmission. We don’t know.

        Depending on the revisions, a PI who *trusted* the first author might not look at the uploaded manuscript before resubmitting; mine certainly trusted me to make textual corrections without oversight. At least one of my advisors entrusted the proof process to the first author. The lab produced solid work and was one of the best-managed labs I’ve ever encountered. My advisor reviewed the data regularly, and especially before publication, but delegated a lot of the routine paper process to the lab members. My advisor had a good feel for the people in the lab, trusted them, and trusted them to not make gross mistakes. The nature of trust is that it can be broken, either accidentally or on purpose. That doesn’t make the lab incompetent, unless it happens repeatedly.

        The fact is that we don’t know what happened. Only the authors involved can clarify. But, to jump to a conclusion of fraud seems grossly unfair to everyone involved, and prejudicial by definition.

        Moreover, do you have a reason to mistrust the editors at JCS? If not, why aren’t you taking their word at face value? Do you know anything about the first author or corresponding author? If not, why are you ascribing to malice what could very well be a mistake?

      • Sierra Rayne January 13, 2012 at 5:51 pm

        @sfs. How am I supposed to know if you are a scientist? I do not know your real name. Of course, the corresponding author on the article in question is Sonja Schrepfer. Perhaps her middle initial is ‘F’, resulting in the acronym ‘sfs’. Why not reveal your real identity so we can verify your statement that you really are a scientist?

        Your potential explanation seems bizarre to me. There are 10 remaining authors (down from the original 14) on the corrected manuscript. Are you telling me that not a single one of these 10 authors others than the non-corresponding first author took a look at the galley proofs? I must confess I’ve never seen four authors removed from authorship off a paper in any journal before as part of some “correction”. Have you?

        What’s the explanation as to why there were the extra four authors on the paper in the first place? In order for them to even be ‘suggested’ as authors by anyone, there must have been some significant contribution they made, correct? Or does this group just randomly pick names and put them on manuscript drafts?

        I also don’t see any removal of significant portions of the manuscript from the Correction, do you? So, we have removed author names, but apparently not removed any content. Does that make any sense to you? It seems like we are either with a situation that these were unwarranted honorary authors who made no significant contributions to the work, and whose names could be removed from the authorship list later at will, or we have a situation where they did originally contribute something (hence, why they were suggested as authors), but are now removed from the authorship list, which also seems to be an ethics violation. Please explain how we logically navigate through this situation?

        I’ve seen enough nonsense in science and in science publishing that I do not take someone’s vague words at face value. Evidence and full explanations must be produced. It is now 1.5 days later after this post first came out. Why don’t the authors respond publicly and explain what really happened with this paper, and let themselves be asked questions about it?

      • sfs January 14, 2012 at 2:52 am

        @Sierra Rayne:

        “@sfs. How am I supposed to know if you are a scientist? I do not know your real name. Of course, the corresponding author on the article in question is Sonja Schrepfer. Perhaps her middle initial is ‘F’, resulting in the acronym ‘sfs’. Why not reveal your real identity so we can verify your statement that you really are a scientist?”

        The reason that I use my initials and not my name is that I value my privacy. Not all of us are keen on having a large web presence. That said, I have no connection with the research, or even the field. The initials are coincidental. Your leap of logic seems a bit strange, as the probability of a scientist’s initials being “SS” isn’t really that small.

        “Are you telling me that not a single one of these 10 authors others than the non-corresponding first author took a look at the galley proofs?”

        Yes, yes I am. I’ve never heard of an Nth author vetting a galley proof. I don’t know why you would expect anyone other than the first and corresponding authors to receive or correct them. It’s tedious work, and those authors receive the vast majority of the credit for the manuscript. If, in the lab, the corresponding author delegates this to the first author, then you would have that exact situation.

        “I also don’t see any removal of significant portions of the manuscript from the Correction, do you?”

        Two figures were completely replaced. I’d say that constitutes a substantial portion of the manuscript being removed. Why you’re worked up about the authors but not the figures is a mystery to me.

        “We have a situation where they did originally contribute something (hence, why they were suggested as authors), but are now removed from the authorship list, which also seems to be an ethics violation”

        You’re right that this is concerning. There is a manuscript in Circulation that appears to be a sister manuscript, and has the same author list. We shall see what happens to that manuscript. Given the sheer number of mistakes corrected, this still feels like the first author did a poor job of managing the manuscript(s), on top of whatever else may have occurred.

        “I’ve seen enough nonsense in science and in science publishing that I do not take someone’s vague words at face value. Evidence and full explanations must be produced.”

        Regardless of how much nonsense you’ve seen, you’ve given no particular reason to distrust the editors at JCS. I’d bet that the editors of JCS have seen the evidence and full explanation. Why would they publish the correction otherwise? However, the authors don’t really owe you, or Retraction Watch, much of anything, do they?

        Which brings me to what bothered me enough to comment in the first place. The very first comment here was yours: “the telling part is the authorship issue, as it really suggests something nefarious behind the other ‘errors’.” With no actual evidence, you’ve already judged the group guilty of fraud. Maybe there is something fraudulent here, but I think these kind of accusations should have some actual evidence behind them. They run a little close to libel for my tastes.

        • Sierra Rayne January 14, 2012 at 11:30 am

          @sfs:

          You state that “I’ve never heard of an Nth author vetting a galley proof. I don’t know why you would expect anyone other than the first and corresponding authors to receive or correct them.” So don’t you think the corresponding author should have looked at the galley proof? That is my point exactly, which your statement appears to support. Same goes with any revisions along the way. Seeing the extra four authors would be trivial, no? Ergo, to place the blame solely and publicly on the first author (which is what appears to have been done with the Correction statement that “The first author apologises for these errors.”) seems ridiculous, does it not? Doesn’t the corresponding author have final responsibility for these types of errors? analogous to the captain of a ship, or the leader of any small through large organization?

          We’re back to your hypothesis: “One possible interpretation: an earlier draft was accidentally submitted. The authors had been volunteered by the first author in the earlier draft, and removed by the PI in later drafts.” So, this implies that the first author (and all authors) is fully aware there should only have been 10 authors on said paper, correct? And that the first author incorrectly submitted an earlier draft with 14 authors on it. Doesn’t the first author look at the ‘built pdf’ after submission? or after revision? or the galley proof? It seems quite trivial that the first author, fully knowing that there should only be 10 authors on the paper (indeed, this first author apparently – under your hypothesis – prepared some later draft with the correct number of authors), should open up the manuscript for revision, or any number of ‘proofs’ along the way between submission and publication, and realize there are 4 extra authors that shouldn’t be.

          You initially asked me “You realize that I am a scientist, too, right?”, and when I asked for your identity to validate this statement, you state “The reason that I use my initials and not my name is that I value my privacy.” So, how am I supposed to know you are a scientist (although that is irrelevant). Seems like a you posed a rather dumb question to me.

          As part of the JCS manuscript submission process, the submitting author appears to be required to enter the full contact details (including e-mail addresses) for all authors on the manuscript. Thus, in order not to be ‘red flagged’, would not the 14 names on the e-copy (i.e., word processor and/or .pdf version) of the submitted manuscript need to exactly match the 14 names individually and manually entered by the submitting author into the e-submission system? Thus, in order not to be ‘red flagged’, wouldn’t this submitting first author need to have entered the full contact details of all 14 authors? According to your hypothesis, perhaps the first author mistakenly uploaded an ‘older’ version of the manuscript where there were 14 authors, rather than the ‘newer’ version where there were only 10 authors, and then mistakenly submitted this ‘older’ manuscript. But in order for the names on the e-submission form to match the names on the manuscript, the submitting author would need to have entered all 14 names? and I thought, under your hypothesis, that the manuscript authors had already agreed only to put forward the manuscript version with only 10 names on it? And don’t all the 14 e-mails on the e-submission form get an e-mail indicating the manuscript has been submitted? Many other journals have this policy. If JCS has such a policy, then wouldn’t the authors receiving such submission e-mails realize a mistake had been made. And if they don’t have such a policy, clearly after this incident they should implement one.

          And let’s say the submitting author mistakenly submitted an older version of the manuscript at time of initial submission. When the revisions came back, for your argument to hold, it appears this same first author would have had to open this ‘older’ version of the manuscript (with the extra four authors, and all the work they must have done), and then perform the revisions on the ‘older’ version, and then re-submit this ‘revised older’ version. Would not this submitting author have noticed the extra names on the mistaken ‘older’ version being used for revisions at this time?

          The JCS author guidelines state that “Papers must be submitted with the agreement of all authors, and all authors must approve the version to be published.” As I read this statement, the version “to be published” is the galley proof (not some pre-submission version), and as such, is not the corresponding author required to get ‘sign off’ on the galley proof (plus any corrections to it) from absolutely all manuscript authors?

          We also appear to disagree on what is ‘owed’ to the science community by other scientists. Full explanations are/should be the standard. You mention issues like ‘taking the word’ of individuals. That is not how science works, or else manuscripts would be (could be) just a few sentences long stating the major findings – since there would, according to your reasoning, be no requirement by authors to prove their claims to the audience with such ‘superfluous’ information as experimental details, tables and figures, supporting information, and a full results and discussion section. The same burden of proof on the authors for the ‘science’ components of a manuscript also applies to the ‘administrative’ components of a manuscript.

      • sfs January 17, 2012 at 4:05 pm

        @Sierra Rayne:

        “We also appear to disagree on what is ‘owed’ to the science community by other scientists. Full explanations are/should be the standard. You mention issues like ‘taking the word’ of individuals. That is not how science works, or else manuscripts would be (could be) just a few sentences long stating the major findings – since there would, according to your reasoning, be no requirement by authors to prove their claims to the audience with such ‘superfluous’ information as experimental details, tables and figures, supporting information, and a full results and discussion section. The same burden of proof on the authors for the ‘science’ components of a manuscript also applies to the ‘administrative’ components of a manuscript.”

        There is an inherent difference between trusting individuals to be honest, and trusting that their conclusions are correct. I am quite willing to take the editors’ of JCS at their word; they say they didn’t find anything to undermine the results, and I’ll believe them.

        In contrast, in a paper, we trust the authors to be honest in documenting their work. Many papers have had very honest work whose conclusions turned out to be wrong or incomplete. So, yes, I want to see the data. But I don’t need to go visit the laboratory and watch the actual experiments.

        Ultimately, all I have been saying is this: I would like a better explanation, but I don’t feel entitled to it. The editors conducted their own review, and believe the correction is warranted. So, while I would be wary of citing the results, I don’t think we’re should jump to the conclusion of fraudulent behavior, especially if the editors at JCS say that they’ve found none.

      • Sierra Rayne January 17, 2012 at 4:08 pm

        @sfs. Again, agree to disagree.

  • tracymichellehall January 12, 2012 at 10:10 am

    Reblogged this on tracymichellehall.

  • Nick Harding (@nick_harding) January 12, 2012 at 10:16 am

    Very unusual to see authors removed. I wonder if they have asked for their names to be excluded?

  • Figure Sleuth January 12, 2012 at 10:27 am

    Nobelist abandons paper…. perhaps another case of ‘where there’s smoke there’s Fire’.

  • fed-up January 12, 2012 at 10:36 am

    This is a freaking joke and bordering on an epidemic in scientific research. I don’t know how honest scientists can compete with these types of rogue individuals when it comes to research dollars. These frauds are also the first people to reject your grants and papers when you submit data and/or ideas that counter their fraudulent findings. I just found a really funny blog (http://peerreviewvent.blogspot.com/) that puts some humor in the process of peer review.

    • Conrad T Seitz MD January 13, 2012 at 1:35 pm

      Thanks. Only one entry but it was very funny. Obviously a very frustrated person wrote that.

  • Charles Hoogstraten January 12, 2012 at 10:48 am

    The most likely reason to ask to be removed from a paper is if you didn’t know you had been listed as an author in the first place. I obviously don’t know if that is in fact the case here, but if it is, Fire and colleagues did exactly the right thing and exactly what I would have done. Criticizing them for “abandoning” a paper is premature at the very least.

    The oddest thing here is the statement “The first author apologizes…” Deuse is first author but not corresponding author; that’s Schrepfer. One of the primary duties of a corresponding author is to arrange the author list and make sure everybody on it is kept in the loop. In the journals I submit to, I have to make a specific affirmation as corresponding author that all listed authors have agreed to the content of the final manuscript and approved its submission. Limiting the apology to Deuse is truly curious. Deuse and Schrepfer appear to be of at least roughly similar seniority, so it doesn’t seem to be a case of “throw the grad student under the bus,” but as corresponding author I would think (unless there are further facts we don’t know) that Schrepfer should be taking responsibility for the paper in general and especially for problems with the author list.

    • chirality January 12, 2012 at 11:55 am

      If you check the list of papers published by this group, you will see that the four names withdrawn from this paper appear as co-authors on a number of other papers. It just happens that the authorship problem concerns the only paper with ‘issues’. I think it is possible that either Deuse or Schrepfer (probably the latter) felt it was beneficial to keep on adding ‘honorary’ (or whatever the euphemism is) authors to their papers. This time it backfired, hence the attempt, as it turns out successful, to fix it. That is my $0.02.

  • QStel January 12, 2012 at 10:53 am

    Overeager grad student wanting to publish his work without checking properly with his supervisors first?

  • Ressci Integrity January 12, 2012 at 10:38 pm

    I almost missed this out due the Resveratrol story…this is something which needs more details as Sierra Rayne pointed out. Kids are reading the blogs and what would they think if they want to enter into scientific research. Not at all a good sign. Within this year, so many cases of misconduct…

  • MSN January 13, 2012 at 12:09 am

    I notice incompetence is a real and recurring issue with research medicine as it, unlike clinical medicine, has no real and consistent oversight mechanism.
    Perhaps it is time that research medicine too be licensed and regulated.
    A proper research methology/statistics/ethics/writing course should be made mandatory before applying for grants or accepting an article for publication- except in very rare circumstances.
    Older researches should me made to go for the course as well. It can easily be done online with a few webinars etc thrown in. Nothing that is too difficult to “pass”.
    The other thing that needs to be jettisoned is the “professorial” system in medicine. Many (I suspect more than many) people become professors based on inferior quality research, but by the time they realise it, it is too late to change and too embarassing to acknowledge, so they maintain the status quo or even defend the current system. We can’t change the system in bits and pieces- there has to be radical change.

    • Conrad T Seitz MD January 13, 2012 at 1:34 pm

      “Perhaps it is time that research medicine too be licensed and regulated.”
      Sounds good. I’ll support this. If it provides a better mechanism for education in ethics, methodology, and writing. How can we get the Brazilians and Asians on board?

    • sfs January 13, 2012 at 5:54 pm

      “Perhaps it is time that research medicine too be licensed and regulated.”

      I assume by research medicine that you’re painting a broad stroke that applies to basic, applied, and pre-clinical science. While science isn’t licensed, its results are publicly published, and effectively regulated by the grant-funding process.

      I don’t know what more licensing and regulation would yield. There are (usually) no lives at stake, and financial damages are mostly limited to the actual grant amounts. Licensing and regulation introduce an additional layer of political consideration that seems counterproductive. The subfields and sub-subfields of science are necessarily specialized, so who would form the “best-practices” committees?

      Moreover, a lot of frontier science involves developing new tools and practices. This happens a lot faster than in clinical medicine. Where would that fit in with licensing and regulation? How would licensing and regulation address the training process? I can already imagine the fights over what constitutes appropriate pre-research coursework.

      “Many (I suspect more than many) people become professors based on inferior quality research”

      This is doubtful. There are few positions available, which makes the faculty job market highly competitive. Look, trivial results don’t get you a faculty position, at least not in the United States, and substantive results are often replicated by other labs. Peer review is also pretty good; the percentage of articles corrected or retracted is quite low.

      • MSN January 14, 2012 at 12:17 am

        “There are (usually) no lives at stake”

        Really? In that case please tell these worrywarts to relax !!!!

        Research misconduct is widespread and harms patients
        http://www.bmj.com/content/344/bmj.e14?tab=full
        http://www.bmj.com/content/344/bmj.d8357

        “Financial damages are mostly limited to the actual grant amounts”

        This money belongs to the tax paying public to be used for THEIR benefit- not the researcher’s.
        Time and money is wasted in trying to replicate fabricated/fictitious results.

        “Moreover, a lot of frontier science involves developing new tools and practices. This happens a lot faster than in clinical medicine. Where would that fit in with licensing and regulation? How would licensing and regulation address the training process?”

        True, but lab techniques/ tools etc come and go-those are subject based skills.
        The underlying principles of good scientific practices remain the same-good ethics, honesty, meticulous recording of measurements/findings, good record keeping, appropriate statistical analysis, submitting original data for inspection when requested by regulatory authorities etc.
        These can sure be taught and regulated-at least you cannot claim ignorance anymore.

        “This is doubtful. There are few positions available, which makes the faculty job market highly competitive. Look, trivial results don’t get you a faculty position, at least not in the United States, and substantive results are often replicated by other labs. Peer review is also pretty good; the percentage of articles corrected or retracted is quite low”

        I am not from the US and hence cannot enter into discussions about the criteria required for promotions in the US.
        But, what I do notice is that quite a few of those who have been “showcased” in this blog carry the title “Professor” As for Peer review being “pretty good”, I suggest you look at the 2011 UK Commons Parliamentary Select Committee Report on Scientific peer review.

        Warm Rgds

      • sfs January 14, 2012 at 3:47 am

        @MSN:

        Just to clarify. I wrongly interpreted your term “research medicine” to include non-medical basic and applied science, where there is no human life at stake. In re-reading your post, you were referring specifically to medicine. Apologies, and thanks for the reference re. peer review.

        One question: is there a need for new licensing or regulation? In the US, medicine is largely funded through NIH, and I believe that NIH guidelines do most of what you propose. They require postdocs and (I think) medical fellows to attend a multi-week ethics class with each new appointment. Extending this to faculty would be a fight, but wouldn’t require a new licensing or regulation regime. I believe that continued funding, at least for postdocs, is contingent on attendance. How does this not satisfy what you propose?

  • MSN January 14, 2012 at 10:05 am

    sfs,

    As I said, I am not from the US. I understand that in the US the main funding body is NIH and you have something called ORI to make sure everyone behaves. Am I right?
    But as far as I know, there is no ORI-like agency with ORI-like powers in most Asian countries.
    I know the UK has a UKRIO (though I think it is only an advisory body).

    As you mentioned POSTDOCS/Fellows get some training in ethics (and perhaps other aspects of research?). That’s a bit late in their careers, don’t you think? By that time they have picked up a lot of bad habits.
    I was thinking along the lines of a comprehensive research methodology/ethics programme with certification linked to their PhD/Research Fellowship. That way they start out knowing all the rules. It is much harder to misbehave if you have been explicitly warned against it. I don’t know if this is already being done in the US.

    As for your remark “Extending this to faculty would be a fight”, I take it you mean that senior researchers/professors will balk at being made to go for these courses? That is one of the reasons why I object to the “professorial” system in medicine (though not to other fields). In medicine, everyone has to be prepared to be retrained.

    Rgds

    • sfs January 17, 2012 at 4:16 pm

      MSN,

      I now see what you mean. I am enmeshed in science in the United States, and admittedly have little concept of what systems exist outside of it.

      “I was thinking along the lines of a comprehensive research methodology/ethics programme with certification linked to their PhD/Research Fellowship.”

      I also believe that NIH requires all graduate students that are supported by training grants to go through the same kind of course. It may also be required all graduate students that are funded as research assistants on an NIH grant. I’m not sure these days.

      “It is much harder to misbehave if you have been explicitly warned against it.”

      I wish that this was true. I’m afraid that recent trends have made measurements like the impact factor of journals even more important for career placement and grant funding.

  • Joeri Aerts January 16, 2012 at 10:15 am

    What I find particularly objectionable is the fact that the first author is bearing the brunt for these corrections. Whether the senior author(s) were aware of the mistakes or not, in the end they are responsible for their students’/postdocs’ data. Without wanting to accuse any of the (present and former) authors of any wrongdoing, this whole episode certainly bears the signs of a lack of supervision and poor lab management.

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