A journal retracted a paper about how conflicts of interest might be influencing research into the link between vaccines and autism because — wait for it — the authors failed to disclose conflicts of interest.
According to the retraction notice, the editors retracted the paper without the authors’ agreement, because the authors had a host of personal and professional interests in the field they didn’t declare, such as being associated with organizations involved in autism and vaccine safety. What’s more, the article also contained “a number of errors, and mistakes of various types that raise concerns about the validity of the conclusion.”
Chinese biomedical researchers estimate that 40% of research in their country has been affected in some way by misconduct, according to a new survey.
The authors are quick to caution against putting too much stock in this figure due to the subjective nature of the survey, published in Science and Engineering Ethics. The estimates also spanned a wide range, with a standard deviation of ±24%. But they say that the responses to this question and others on the survey suggest that scientists in the region feel academic misconduct remains a major problem that authorities have failed to adequately address. (Indeed, a recent analysis from Quartz using Retraction Watch data showed that researchers based in China publish more papers retracted for fake peer reviews than all other countries put together.)
The survey was designed by employees at Medjaden, a Hong Kong-based editing company that assists mainland Chinese biomedical researchers publishing in English-language journals. They invited all of their registered users by email to complete two surveys—roughly 10,000 users in 2010 and 15,000 in 2015. Like most online surveys, this one had a low response rate—around 5%, so caveats about sampling bias apply.
Study co-author Hua He, who is also Medjaden’s CEO, said:
When it comes to detecting image manipulation, the more tools you have at your disposal, the better. In a recent issue of Science and Engineering Ethics, Lars Koppers at TU Dortmund University in Germany and his colleagues present a new way to scan images. Specifically, they created an open-source software that compares pixels within or between images, looking for similarities, which can signify portions of an image has been duplicated or deleted. Koppers spoke with us about the program described in “Towards a Systematic Screening Tool for Quality Assurance and Semiautomatic Fraud Detection for Images in the Life Sciences,” and how it can be used by others to sleuth out fraud.
Retraction Watch: Can you briefly describe how your screening system works?
In many fields, first authors on scientific papers represent the person who’s performed the bulk of the research. Sometimes, that determination can be difficult to make, so we’ve seen many papers that list multiple first authors, noting that each contributed equally to the work. But is it possible — or ethical — to claim six authors all deserve top billing on a paper?
In Latin America, retractions for plagiarism and other issues have increased markedly — which may be a positive sign that editors and authors are paying closer attention to publishing ethics, according to a small study published in Science and Engineering Ethics.
The authors examined two major Latin American/Caribbean databases, which mostly include journals from Brazil, and have been indexing articles for more than 15 years. They found only 31 retractions, all of which appeared in 2008 or later. (Roughly half of the retractions were from journals indexed in the Thomas Reuters’ Journal of Citations Report® (JCR).)
A few unusual acknowledgements added by authors after finalizing the manuscripts have highlighted a common element in science publishing – right before going to press, authors can make minor changes to manuscripts that editors won’t necessarily review before publication.
We were reminded of this when reading two opinion papers published in August by Science and Engineering Ethics.
Take us at our word when we tell you this isn’t some exercise in meta-irony or meta-criticism or any other meta-bullshit, but a pair of researchers at Drexel University in Philadelphia have published a paper calling for an end to irony in science.
First, some background: In 2001, an Israeli researcher named Leonard Leibovici wrote a letter to the famously lighthearted Christmas issue of the British Medical Journal describing a randomized controlled trial in which intercessory prayer at a distance — in other words, people praying for other, sick people — was found to improve the health of patients with bloodstream infections. All the more remarkable was that this prayer was “retroactive,” as in, it purportedly occurred years after those sick patients had either left the hospital or died. Continue reading Does irony have a place in science?
A scientific publishing gadfly who was banned earlier this year from an Elsevier journal for “personal attacks and threats” has had a paper rejected by a Springer journal after he called for the editor’s resignation because of alleged incompetence.
As detailed in a comment left at Retraction Watch, Jaime A. Teixeira da Silva submitted a manuscript titled “One Conjunction, a World of Ethical Difference: How Elsevier, the ICMJE and Neurology Define Authorship” to Science and Engineering Ethics on November 11, 2012. As of last week, despite a number of messages sent to editors of the journal, he had not had a decision on the manuscript.