Weekend reads: Google AI researcher fired after being asked to retract paper; journal accused of stonewalling on paper “used to justify human rights violations;” reflecting on a COVID-19 retraction

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The week at Retraction Watch featured:

Our list of retracted or withdrawn COVID-19 papers is up to 39.

Here’s what was happening elsewhere:

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9 thoughts on “Weekend reads: Google AI researcher fired after being asked to retract paper; journal accused of stonewalling on paper “used to justify human rights violations;” reflecting on a COVID-19 retraction”

  1. I predict that once eLife’s policy comes into effect that their metrics will slowly start to decline. They’re a prestige title being run by an editor who hates journals.

  2. “The British Journal of Sports Medicine should retract fatally flawed research used to justify human rights violations.” – unless there is a solution, this will end badly.

    I’m sure all the female athletes will not be happy when all the female records are broken by transgender athletes and the finals of all races at the Olympics are all transgender athletes as well.

  3. RE: eLIFE’s new mandatory pre-print policy

    In the interview conducted by SCIENCE’s Lila Guterman (link in the seventh entry under ‘Here’s what happened elsewhere’), Michael Eisen, Editor-in-Chief of eLIFE, stated:

    “ I imagine Francis Bacon and the other early scientists of the Royal Society involved in creating the first journals: If they came forward to 2020, everything in our world would shock and terrify them, but they’d find deep comfort in scientific journals. That’s a deep condemnation. We’ve been stuck in one model. I view what we’re doing here as a critical step in the unsticking of science publishing.”

    Ouch … Francis Bacon was dead for over 30 years when the Royal Society came into existence, and for almost 40 years when the Society published the first issue of what is considered the first scientific journal. More importantly, the idea that scientific journals of today are more or less indistinguishable from those of the 17th century, seems, with all due respect, well beyond the line that separates the merely naïve from the utterly grotesque (for starters, see e.g. DOI 10.1017/S0018246X17000334).

    Could it be that the editorial board of eLIFE have no clue what they’re talking about? I don’t think so. If the majority of customers able to put down 2.5 grand for one publication appears to find preprint servers sexy, then turning eLIFE into one probably is a good idea. And if a bunch of historical horsefeathers can help flattering these customers into believing that they are part of “unsticking science publishing”, they might even become willing to help closing the gap between the publication fees demanded by eLIFE and NATURE. It’s the economy, stupid …

  4. Sarcasm meets transphobia is how we should characterize this ^^^ comment. And also a strawman. The paper in question was NOT about transfolk, but about women with disorders of sexual development, most of them with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, meaning that their bodies can’t recognize testosterone. On the surface of it, it would seem silly to test for high levels of testosterone in an individual whose androgen receptors are non-functional. But the reason they do it is not because these women have any type of “unfair advantage”, but because of unreasoning hate and disgust of people with disorders of sexual development, that is to say… bigotry.

    The reasons for this disgust and hate warrant examination. And when they are, they allow us to see why commenters like the one above conflate the issues of women with disorders of sexual development with transsexual women:


    1. I guess you missed the fact that the author of the article complains about the sex-testing procedures of the World ATHLETICS, based on a paper published in the British Journal of SPORTS Medicine.

      Much of the concern in world sports IS about trans athletes. An athlete who goes through puberty sexually as a male – whether she decides her gender is female before or after puberty – has a huge advantage over other female athletes. How do YOU propose to ensure equity in women’s athletics and protect the rights of fair competition for all female athletes?

      But that’s alright. Ad hominem attacks are all good. Anyone with a different opinion to you is a sexist / racist / bigot, etc. These conflated insults have lost all meaning.

      Grow up.

      1. Once again, insults and transphobia replacing reason. The paper in no way was about transfolk. It was about women with disorders of sex development. But interestingly, bigots do conflate the two wishing to introduce an occasion where they can exibit their transphobic attitudes, opinions, and sarcasm. And yes, your comment was by definition snarky transphobia. Your gratious final statement proves it.

  5. “Two papers using the same data about the same topic were published in the same surgical journal one month apart. They came up with completely opposite conclusions.”

    I don’t think that’s quite correct. The effects seen were in the same direction but one was adjudged statistically significant, the other not. That would be of concern of they were the same effect, but they were not. One was for “intra-abdominal abscesses” and the other was for “postoperative surgical site (superficial, deep, and organ space) infections”. I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure that these are different things.

    So: two papers examine the same data comparing the same two variants of an operative procedure at looking at two different outcomes. The studies use different inclusion and exclusion criteria, outcome measures, sample sizes, and covariates. Each study finds that the same variant procedure leads to better outcomes, one outcome being better by an amount which is statistically significant, the other not significant.

    That does not sound so exciting.

  6. Thank you for commenting. A difference that is not statistically significant is not a difference. The words “better” and “trend” are not scientifically valid.

    Yes, I know the studies were retrospective. The point is that neither study was done correctly and caution should be used when interpreting studies of databases.

    1. If that’s in response to my comment, it’s a little wide of the mark. I didn’t use the word “trend”, for example. But more to the point, are you suggesting that there is in fact no difference between “intra-abdominal abscesses” and “postoperative surgical site infections”? I mat add that speaking as a mere patient, “better” seems a useful word to describe the absence of an infection and/or abscess as opposed to their presence.

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