Weekend reads: Scientific fraudster given royal honor; the Retraction Watch theme song!

booksAnother busy week at Retraction Watch, with Ivan speaking in Vienna, at a PhD student retreat in nearby Zwettl, and in London. The retreat gave rise to “We Will Retract You,” which may just become the Retraction Watch theme song. Watch here. Here’s what was happening elsewhere:

17 thoughts on “Weekend reads: Scientific fraudster given royal honor; the Retraction Watch theme song!”

    1. One of the important revelations this weekend, for me at least, was the factual confirmation of the predatory nature of big publishing, particularly Elsevier and Springer. The story came to my attention here (http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/40276/title/Journal-Price-Tags-Revealed/) and the actual paper in PNAS is here (http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2014/06/11/1403006111). I have often indicated to Jeffrey Beall that Elsevier and Springer deserve to be on his list of predatory open access publishers because several of their journals dabble in predatory practices, including suspect or fake peer review, irresponsible academic behaviour, lack of public accuntability, resistance to retract clearly academically corrupted papers, and now, this factually public revelation that these two publishers, among others, use the excuse of “trade secrets” to mask their predatory pricing policies. When publishers use dishonest marketing tools and over-exaggerated prices to seel products, and when papers in those products are actually scientifically faulty, then aren’t these companies actually guilty of seeling corrupted merchandise? I have often complained that Springer continues to charge 30-40 US$ per PDF even for retracted papers, which is a totally disgraceful policy. We should all join in unison to demand that Beall add these predatory publishers, Elsevier Ltd. and Springer Science + Business Media, to his list of “Potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers” (http://scholarlyoa.com/publishers/). Why is Beall so protective of these massive predators? That is the real question.

      1. Beall is an individual that I assume will have trouble enough already finding and applying objective criteria for his list. I think it is inevitable such a list is flawed when the publishers he is reporting on are obviously not willingly cooperating to be listed. While I recognise that, I applaud his efforts (similar to how I applaud authors that do honest attempts at research although I believe all papers in literature are flawed).
        So if you feel the list should be different, why don’t you start your own list so people can decide for themselves which they visit?
        Instead of making implicit allegations that he may have undeclared conflicts of interest (this is how I read your afterthought “Why is Beall so protective of these massive predators? That is the real question.”). Finally, assuming you didn’t inform Beall about this comment here, I find it poor style to write that here.

        With regard to the access fees to retracted papers and notices, I agree with you completely.

        (In summary, I don’t disagree on content, but I do disagree on style. For the record, I have no relationship with Beall.)

    1. “A tie in soccer is an acceptable outcome. Why not in science?” I couldn’t disagree more. A tie reflects a result. What these authors are suggesting is rigging the gae so that a tie results and both teams end up as a win-win situation. Rigging science is ethically wrong, and little discussions between powerful groups to co-ordinate publications should be considered as gaming the system. I am firmly opposed to this concept. Competition is healthy when all parties are in the dark about the progress made by other groups.

      1. Huh? JATds, I read that piece way different from you. I’m in agreement with the idea that two teams can do similar science and publish it (roughly) concordantly. Whoa, wait a minute…different interpretations? Sounds like like science!!!

        1. It’s quite simple actually. Let me stay on the football analogy. For this, you have to understand that I believe this is collusion. Imagine that the USA team and the German team collude so that they both come out tops in the World Cup. It would benefit Germany and the USA, surely, and both teams and their managers would be delighted (including most likely Merkel and Obama). However, collusion behind closed doors (aka airports, or any other private meeting room) aimed at beating out the competition and ensuring one’s success always has an opposite side of the coin: damage to the competitors. Collusion between the USA and Germany would ensure the downfall of Portugal and Ghana and their elimination from that group and from the World Cup. Similarly, if the heads of two laboratories get together in an airport and collude to co-publish their results simultaneously in the same journal, then they are not only benefitting themselves, they are damaging the success of any other competitor laboratories from around the world from being able to have a fair chance of publishing their own discoveries in the same field. Collusion is thus the complete antithesis of fair choice. Why do scientists continue to aim to publish in Science and Nature, or JBC? Because these are “brands”, and because their IFs can translate, depending on your niche on this planet, into a very profitable cheque at the end of the year. I maintain my position that this is a serious negative development, and has nothing to do about the “reading” or interpretation of the story.

  1. Dutch newspaper NRC reports that a new complaint with accusations of data manipulation in 15 papers has been filed against the Dutch economist Peter Nijkamp ( http://retractionwatch.com/2014/01/08/dutch-economist-nijkamp-embroiled-in-plagiarism-and-duplication-scandal/ ). The complaint concerns seven papers with Tüzin Baycan as co-author and eight papers with Karima Kourtit as co-author.
    Three of these eight papers with Karima Kourtit as co-author are part of her new thesis. Next Wednesday (25 June) Karima Kourtit will defend her thesis at VU University in Amsterdam.
    See http://dare.ubvu.vu.nl/handle/1871/51390 for the new thesis of Karima Kourtit. See http://nieuws.thepostonline.nl/2014/01/09/kourtit/ for a scan of the retracted version of the thesis of Karima Kourtit (4 parts).
    See http://harrieverbon-eco.blogspot.nl/2014/04/akrima-kourtit-en-peter-nijkamp-over_9697.html (part 4 part 1-3 also on his blog) for a post publication peer-review (in Dutch) by the economist Harrie Verbon, professor at Tilburg University, of chapter 4 of the new thesis of Karima Kourtit (this chapter is also published in the Journal of Regional Science, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jors.12087/abstract ).
    See http://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2014/06/20/vu-gaat-onderzoeken-of-er-fraude-is-gepleegd-bij-werk-karima-kourtit/ for more details.

  2. The story of surgeon Anjan Kumar Banerjee being made a Member of the British Empire is extraordinary despite the archaic British honours system being widely recognised as corrupt.
    He has been guilty not only of scientific fraud but also of financial fraud. Presumably the bureaucrats who hand out the honours had no knowledge of his shady past despite it being relatively recent.
    Lots of honours go almost automatically with certain jobs, but there is an attempt to move away to rewarding people who do something genuinely meritorious. So you can propose people, which must have been what happened with Bannerjee. Unsurprisingly those who proposed him didn’t mention his unsavoury past.
    The system has been describes as “the most cost effective management control system known to man” as it allows the establishment to get people to do the most terrible things in exchange for an honour.
    The lowest honour, an OBE, is also known as “Other Bugger’s Efforts,” reflecting how the honours don’t always go the most deserving. But giving an honour to a man guilty of both scientific and financial fraud is a new low.

    1. Since the Independent article, Banerjee has also featured in the current issue of Private Eye (a UK satirical/investigative journalism magazine) in an article about whistleblowing in the nhs (Private Eye No.1369 27th June, p18). It features some more interesting points that were not made in the Independent article, however there is no link as they do not put most articles online (buy the magazine. ed. is the usual Private Eye response…).

      1. Since the previous articles about the MBE of Banerjee, it has been revealed in the next edition of Private Eye (No 1371, p9) that Banerjee has voluntarily returned his MBE. Banerjee seeks forgiveness and redemption after the past incident of research fraud and accepted the MBE believing it to be given in full knowledge of his background and that he was being offered a shot at redemption. However there was a clerical error at the General Medical Council which did not flag up the past problems when they were asked to vet the MBE. Banerjee on being told of this returned his MBE. (Paraphrasing the private eye article)

  3. Peter Medawar – legend.
    But times have changed – did he need to continually write grant applications to fund his research? Perhaps someone could comment?
    Still, once the =>10,000 or so articles with visible western blot manipulation have been passaged through PubPeer, then perhaps it will be time to give the negative psychology a rest in biomedical research.
    On the other hand, it is difficult not to fantasise about one day commissioning some software to exhaustively compare published microscopy images, particularly of tissue cultured cells. Because this activity generally requires comparison between images rather than within the image (as much of WB manipulation is found to be), this form of figure abuse might still be under-discovered. Anyway, after a systematic survey has flushed out the miscreants, then it will definitely be time to give the negative psychology a rest. Unless, of course…

  4. Huh?

    “The more the research community responds after the fact to incidents that diminish trust, the more it leaves to chance the public’s support for its work.” We couldn’t agree more that statement from a paper by Mark Yarborough about how to increase trust in science (paywalled).

    This makes no sense.

    First, regarding the quote: If there is an event that diminishes trust, and the research community then responds (after the fact) how does this leave to chance the public’s support for the research community’s work?

    Second. What does “We couldn’t agree more that statement from a paper by ” mean?

    I’m hoping this is just a weird editing snafu, and when you clarify I will understand.

    1. Thanks for the comment. The sentence was missing a “with,” which we’ve added. Yarborough’s point is that scientists are much more likely to act after the fact than to show the public what it is doing to prevent fraud in the first place. Here’s the whole paragraph:

      The more the research community responds after the fact to incidents that diminish trust, the more it leaves to chance the public’s support for its work. Given this reality, it is disconcerting that more effort is not being focused on transformative accountability practices that can eliminate lapses, large and small, that erode the trustworthiness of research. This lack of requisite effort stems at least in part, no doubt, from our tendency in the research community to conflate being trusted with being trustworthy. Thus, we may fail to appreciate that it is possible to enjoy trust without deserving it. The spate of efforts highlighted at the outset to promote the public’s trust in research suggests that we may be placing too much emphasis on being trusted, possibly at the expense of being trustworthy.

    2. From the Redman and Calan abstract: “Whistleblowers remain essential as complainants in allegations of research misconduct.” I got banned from an Elsevier journal because I complained about the editor board, which saw 11 members substituted within the space of 1 month after my public revelations here at RW. I am a whistle-blower, or to use the derogatory term employed above, a snitch. Because this is my duty to plant science. Those who stay silent are the real criminals, because their silence hides the truth and leaves the literature corrupted. Those who stay in silence are the ones who should be demonized, not those who reveal the truth and seek academic integrity and justice (even if their message is loud and irritating). As for the Springer journal where Redman and Calan published their paper, Science and Engineering Ethics, I have had a paper in peer review there for already 18 months. I have reminded the Editors in Chief, Stephanie J. Bird and Raymond Spier, who have promised to deal with the paper swiftly, 8 months ago, three times. My paper reveals what I claim are the contradictions of Elsevier’s authorship ethics. In July, my self-imposed deadline, I will make a public call for the removal of Bird and Spier from their editorial positions.

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