Weekend reads: Reading Nature and Science “very unpleasant,” how to spot fake journals

booksThe week at Retraction Watch featured revelations about the backstory of an expression of concern, and Office of Research Integrity findings in a case that had its beginnings in Retraction Watch comments. Here’s what was happening elsewhere:

16 thoughts on “Weekend reads: Reading Nature and Science “very unpleasant,” how to spot fake journals”

  1. Schekman confirms the problem he describes, by saying he’s got a “louder voice” because he’s won the Nobel. This shouldn’t make sense (the Nobel awards achievement not wisdom) but in the vanity distorted science-media world we live in. Rather worrying.

  2. Re: “There aren’t enough university jobs for US scientists”.

    This reality (and the rise of the adjunct positions in so many fields) should be driven home as often and loudly as possible. As an undergraduate, I received encouragement and advice from my professors – nobody _ever_ mentioned the wisdom (or lack thereof) of pursuing a doctorate. While I understand faculty members don’t want to dissuade young people from studying further, young students with stars in their eyes don’t always realize what they’re getting themselves into until halfway through an advanced degree when it’s “too late” to go back. In my field there are plenty of industry positions (not really “pure” research, but interesting work), but other fields don’t have this advantage.
    The more cautionary stories about making sure you understand the advantages _and_ pitfalls of advanced degrees, the better.

    1. in life sciences, you take a risk if you do not go for a PhD these days. Grad schools give every participant PhD title after 3 years, some people go straight to industry to do a PhD there, which makes the whole concept of a Phd more and more to a mere formalia.

      1. interesting – i guess if it takes “only” 3 years to get a Ph.D and everyone has one, that’s a different situation. seems to make the situation worse later actually, once folks go from one post-doc to the next in perpetuity ..

        1. yes, I meant life sciences and EU, so all grad school participants already have a MSc degree. The issue is, graduate schools are more like PhD factories, after 3 years everyone gets theirs, then the young doctors go and flood the market. Now go figure which of of them is a better scientist or if grad school fast-track PhD titles, which are supposed to be “elite”, are superior to the “pedestrian” ones, which take as long as it takes to have enough data for a strong thesis.

          1. I’ve met a lot of German PhD students. I have to say– I *like* this whole Diplom thing. It seems a bit like what I did at Reed College (year long full blown lab research project and thesis + defense in front of a committee)- only merging undergrad lab work into a 2 to 3 year Master’s-type degree. Also the German PhD students with Diploms were hell on wheels in the lab, compared to many American MS students I have seen.

      2. This wasn’t my experience at all. It took me 6 years to earn my PhD in the US. Occasionally, a student would time out of our program at 7 years (the limit that we had) and be awarded a PhD without finishing much, but that was rare and usually caused by funding problems with a PI so the student couldn’t really be punished. I’ve never heard of anyone being awarded a PhD in 3 years. Unfortunately, a few unmotivated students do get dragged through to finishing by their mentors even when they don’t deserve it, but none in as little as 3 years and those students are still Iin the minority.

        1. hi Mitch, as explained above, I meant continental Europe (e.g., Germany), where you need MSc to apply for a PhD project, which then takes 4 years or more (3 years is the new “elite” grad school fad, as I said). In US and UK you can start with a BSc, which explains your 6-7 years. Yet I heard this is changing, a MSc becomes more and more a necessity everywhere.

          1. Hi Leonid. I noticed my mistake after hitting post. Sorry. Personally, I think requiring a masters could be a good idea. It might weed out a few people before they move to the PhD. We would just have to be careful not to end up with the situation that you are describing in Europe.

  3. Reblogged this on Chaos Theory and Human Pharmacology and commented:
    “It’s actually a very unpleasant experience to read a Nature paper, or
    to read a Science paper,” — Randy Schekman.

    1. Agreed.
    2. I would add papers published in other Journals (e.g., N Engl J Med) and the vast majority of clinical practice guidelines (CPG) describing erroneous recommendations for the treatment of several human diseases (e.g., ATP III, JNC7-8, ESC guidelines, etc). Many recommendations in these CPG are not supported by real data (i.e., evidence) because competing interests of the author’s or – probably worst – the phenomenon of ghostwriting.

  4. I deplore research misconduct as much as anyone, but making it a crime is not practical. We all know how long it takes to close a misconduct case, and doing so requires a lower standard of evidence (preponderance) than criminal cases. We’d also have the FBI investigating misconduct, and they are less prepared to do so than are ORI, NSF, and universities. By all means when scientists commit crimes, they should be treated accordingly, and sometimes misconduct is, itself, criminal or associated with criminal behavior; I believe that misuse of grant money can be criminal.

    There may be many ways to improve the investigation of misconduct, and it may be proper to create more serious or effective punishments, but I do not think criminalization would be at all helpful.

    1. Ken, as much of Science-Fraud ultimately mis-uses public/charity money, it is inevitable that it will become a criminal offence as any misuse of such money would be a crime in any other walk of life, and therefore many scientists who have doctored data to secure funding will be prosecuted.

      It is only a matter of time.

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