Weekend reads: Turning journal spam into a paper; embracing science’s flaws; ending bias

booksThis week at Retraction Watch featured the retraction of a Cell paper by Harvard researchers and the retraction of a JCI study by NIH scientists. Here’s what was happening elsewhere:

4 thoughts on “Weekend reads: Turning journal spam into a paper; embracing science’s flaws; ending bias”

  1. Who are supposed to edit a journal and who are supposed to write a review on a topic? Is there any need of prior experience in the field?

  2. “As many as half of PhD candidates in North America never complete their degrees. How can we change that? asks David Litalien.”

    And the ones that do compete aggressively for few faculty positions, or god forbid go adjunct, or do a post-doc. People just need to stop going to graduate school, and that will relieve PhD attrition rates /and/ PhD unemployment rates. And if we need PhD’s, we can just import them or outsource the positions to where the PhD’s are.

    Change graduate school applications to include a research proposal based on extensive background research. If you aren’t cut out to generate a research proposal independently by the end of ugrad, then this will cut through the chaff quite nicely. And if you are more particular, then require applicants to identify a funding source /and/ an advisor before admission. This would result in smaller pools of graduate students, but ensure that they are the best fit for actual academic research: identifying a problem and a funding source to support executing a well-designed scheme to remedy the problem.

    Pinch of prevention is cheaper than the ounce of cure (the cure being what to do about PhD attrition, though the student loans incurred as a consequence of failure are great for the university, since these loans cannot be absolved by bankruptcy).

    1. In essence, you want to put the cart before the horse. It would be nice if one had in mind what they wanted to do in graduate school before they entered graduate school and it would be even nicer if they had the proposal prepared and the funding all in the place. Then it would be a matter of the universities making a bid for this person.

      The problem is two-fold. First, there are any number of reasons why someone doesn’t finish their doctoral degree – finances in general; lack of good research; time runs out; flat out can’t write the dissertation (I bet that is the primary cause).

      But I don’t see how having an individual do all the work that comes at the end of the process before the process begins solves the problem. I think that too many individuals come out of undergraduate college with only an inkling of what they are to do in the field they have chosen to major in. I have said it before that many chemistry majors know a lot about chemistry when they graduate but they don’t know what a chemist does. And if they don’t know what a chemist does, they are going to have a very hard time identifying areas of research.

      Now, I think that the first year of graduate school focus on three areas:
      1) Making sure that one’s skills are up to snuff,
      2) finding out what the faculty are doing in terms of research, and
      3) working on the funding problem (especially how one gets it).

      I think that most universities do pretty well with the first two; I cannot speak to the third, though to say that in my case funding was limited and came as a surprise that I had to fund my own work. That may have been a result of the way that I was attending school.

      About all that can be done at the undergraduate level is make sure that by the time a student is a senior or just about to graduate they know what lies beyond the walls of their institution in terms of research ideas and research possibilities and how to match the ideas/possibilities with schools.

      This means that when an undergraduate picks a graduate school, he or she will hopefully finds a professor who will be a mentor and guide them or allow them to follow their own path (with the exception of the funding issues that were not clearly stated; I was able to do that for my own work).

      So we go back to the beginning and find out why they were not finishing their work and figure out what it is that needs to be done.

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