Weekly Digest, June 1, 2019

Here is a weekly digest of science integrity related articles. Also, check out Retraction Watch‘s Weekend Reads!

Rock Paper CSIR-IITR

In an article at Science Chronicle, Prasad Ravindranath, Science Editor at The Hindu, writes about extensive image problems in papers authored by scientists at the Indian Institute of Toxicology Research (CSIR-IITR), in Lucknow, India. In his post “With 73 problematic papers listed on Pubpeer, Indian Institute of Toxicology Research has a serious problem” Prasad points out that 40 of these Pubpeer-flagged papers have Yogeshwer Shukla’s name on them.

In addition to the Science Chronicle post, Smut Clyde has written a guest post on Leonid Schneider’s blog For Better Science about Yogeshwer Shukla’s oevre, which appears to contain a lot of repetitive features.

In chemistry, misconduct more often reason for retraction than honest errors

Emma Stoye at Chemistry World writes about a recent study by François-Xavier Coudert, who analyzed 331 retracted papers in chemistry or material science journals. Over 40% of the retraction notices listed plagiarism (including self-plagiarism) as the cause. Assuming most of those are actually referring to textual similarities to other papers, this is surprising, because textual similarities are one of the easiest types of problems to screen for, and so could be caught before publishing a manuscript.

The threshold for plagiarism

At RetractionWatch, Adam Marcus reports on a researcher who received an invitation to submit papers to the Punjab University Journal of Mathematics, which stated that “plagiarism must be less than or equal to 19%“.

Peer review? No way, Huawei.

Jeffrey Mervis reports for Science that the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has banned Huawei employees from peer review. IEEE publishes about 200 journals, such as IEEE Spectrum, and Computer. Huawei is a large Chinese company that makes cell phones and data networks. It is unclear why IEEE has specifically ruled Huawei employees out as peer reviewers.

Reagent Reproducibility

Angela Abitua and Joanne Kamens from Addgene wrote a blog post at PLOS.org about the advances of reagent repositories, such as for cell lines, plasmids, or plant materials. Ensuring that reagents and materials are well documented and available for others is a big step towards reproducibility of research.

Academics in trouble for undisclosed foreign funding

Several outlets (Endpoint, Science, The Scientist) reported on senior scientists at US universities funded by US money, who were fired or even arrested, because they failed to disclose they also received money from Chinese funds. Neuroscientists Li Xiao-Jiang and Li Shihua were dismissed from Emory University, and four post-docs in their lab were told to leave the US within 30 days. In an article at the South China Morning Post website, the couple disputed that decision, stating that they disclosed their research activities in China yearly to Emory University. The president of Jinan University in China was quick to offer the complete research team jobs, according to this article in University World News.

Source: Science Magazine

India scraps publication requirement to get PhD

At Nature, Gayathri Vaidyanathan writes about new regulations in India, where graduate students no longer need to publish scientific papers to get their Phs. India is one of the few countries where PhD requirements are not regulated on the institutional level but country-wide. The new rule’s purpose is to speed up the PhD process, have candidates find jobs quicker, and to decrease the amount of low-quality publications. Others disagree.

VA doctors studied patient samples without consent

An internal report by the Veterans Administration (VA) found violations of research practices. Yet, as inewsource reports, a study using blood, stool, and liver biopsy samples obtained without patients’ consent was published a couple of weeks ago in Digestive Diseases and Sciences. Samples were obtained for a study by UC San Diego / San Diego VA Hospital researchers Bernd Schnabl and Samuel Ho. Although the VA report came out in November 2018, the paper using the un-consented samples was published on May 18, 2019. The journal is now looking into these concerns.

A genetic test for PTSD – with a potential conflict of interest

Neuroskeptic has some critical words about a paper that suggests that a genetic test should be offered to military recruits to test for their risk of PTSD. The main author did not disclose his patents on this test nor his board position on the company that sells the test.

Antibody company publishes paper with allegations

Authors working at Adimab, an antibody discovery company, have published a paper last week in which they claim that antibodies described by a MIT research group are very similar to those developed by other researchers. STAT reported about this story on May 21, followed by The Scientist, The Wall Street Journal, and others.

6th World Conference on Research Integrity

The 6th World Conference on Research Integrity will take place this coming week (June 2-5) in Hong Kong. The conference theme this year is “New Challenges for Research Integrity”. I wish I could be there! (waiting for an invitation hahaha). Follow the conference on Twitter with #WCRI2019.

Large number of ethics violations in Japanese research center

The Japanese National Cerebral and Cardiovascular Center has found 158 violations of research conduct, JapanTimes reports. Patient information was used without proper consent. The institution will retract the papers involved. It was not clear from the article if the 158 number referred to the number of patients or papers involved.

Misconduct among police officers might be contagious

Not really science misconduct, but some lessons to be learned: Nova Next reporter Katherine J. Wu writes about a new study in Nature Human Behavior that describes that misbehavior by police officers might actually make other people on their team misbehave too. Misconduct appeared to spread to their peers, even if officers were reassigned to new teems.

Published in a predatory journal? You might lose grant money #InSouthAfrica

The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) in South Africa has been withholding subsidies money to researchers who published in predatory journals, according to a report on University World News. DHET currently defines predatory journals as those not included in 6 indices, such as Web of Science and Scopus.

Half of international students in New Zealand pay others to write their essays

An 1NEWS investigation earlier this month revealed that about half of international students at Auckland University do not write their own essays, but rather pay others to write them for them. This practice is called “ghostwriting”.

Upcoming events

3 thoughts on “Weekly Digest, June 1, 2019”

  1. I am being informed that our long-term efforts to retract a fraudulent study on the Endangered Basra Reed Warbler in a Taylor & Francis journal, backgrounds at https://osf.io/5pnk7/ (reports at https://osf.io/j69ue/
    and at https://osf.io/ajsvw/ ), will be discussed during one of the symposia at the 6th World Conference on Research Integrity ( http://www.wcri2019.org/index/programme/symposia ). I did not get an invitation to attend this conference and to join the debate.

    See also https://pubpeer.com/publications/CBDA623DED06FB48B659B631BA69E7


    1. I am sorry to hear that. The invitations appear to be very limited for people who actually find misconduct. Not sure if this helps you feel better, but I reported ~1000 papers in the past 4 years and also did not receive an invitation. It would be nice if whistleblowers could also have a seat at the table.


  2. Thanks for the friendly response. I have in the meanwhile experienced already several times that quite a few of the people who are attending the WRCI, and others who are involved as a professional in this type of work / research, are not very much interested in (tough) debates with people who devote alot of energy in reporting cases of reseach misconduct and/or who try to correct the academic record.

    An example is the subject of my paper at https://riviste.unimi.it/index.php/roars/article/view/9073 It is not allowed for Elizabeth Moylan to communicate with me about this paper. That’s of course very sad. An attendee at the WCRI has stated in an e-mail to others that this article contains ‘bizarre claims’. This statement is not substantiated. Also this attendee does not communicate with me. It is unknown why this attendee to the WCRI is arguing that my article contains ‘bizarre claims’. It is not excluded that also this issue will be discussed during the WCRI.

    I received last year a formal invitation from VSNU to join a free symposium of KNAW in Amsterdam about the new VSNU Research Integrity Code ( https://www.vsnu.nl/en_GB/research-integrity ). I received this invitation because I had responded on a public consultation of the new version of this Code. A few days before the date of the symposium, I received an e-mail from KNAW that I was not anymore allowed to join this conference and that they would call the police in case I would try to enter the conference. That’s how it works in The Netherlands when you are a mr nobody.

    The new version of the Australian Code of Conduct will also be discussed at the WRCI. See
    https://consultations.nhmrc.gov.au/public_consultations/submissions/AC/6534 for my comments on this new draft. I am being informed that X and Y and Z were not amused when they became aware that I had submitted my comments (the list with comments is also deposited as a PDF at https://osf.io/u73bc/ ).

    Our efforts to retract the fraudulent study on the Endangered Basra Reed Warbler is of course focused on getting a response on the whereabouts of the raw research data (and not about the language we use to get a response on this query and/or about the methods we use to get a response on this key question and/or about our backgrounds / [lack of] affiliations / level of education / age, etc. etc. etc.). See below for an example of a query to COPE which has until now not been responded.

    “From: Richard Porter; To: Iratxe Puebla (COPE); Cc: Klaas van Dijk; Sent: Wednesday, July 15, 2015 3:54 PM; Subject: Taylor & Francis and the COPE Code of Conduct for journal publishers

    Dear Iratxe

    I thought it would be helpful to those members of COPE examining this matter to have this further input from me.

    I would personally be satisfied if Taylor & Francis were able to:

    Provide convincing evidence that the study in Al-Sheikhly (2013) was actually undertaken. In this respect the detailed background material I have provided about his ‘movements,’ the quoted first draft (the ‘Susie Alwash’ paper)and evidence of his previous ‘form’ are important exhibits. It would also be useful, I feel, to consult Eden Again: Hope in the Marshes of Iraq (2013) by Suzanne Alwash. In this Al-Sheikhly (Omar) is extensively quoted, including on Basra Reed Warbler, but surprisingly makes no mention of the study: Al-Sheikhly et al (2013).

    Make available a copy of the research data that was collected in the field for such a monumental and ground-breaking study. That is a very reasonable request that hitherto has been refused by the authors of the paper and the editor of Zoology in the Middle East.

    Demonstrate that it is possible to undertake such a highly detailed study of polygyny – essentially in two years – of a mobile and secretive organism without any method of marking individual birds or identifying males and females in the field. In this respect please draw their attention to the following that was published in Zoology in the Middle East by Porter et al ( https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09397140.2015.1023424 ):

    “Al-Sheikhly et al. (2013) reported figures and drew conclusions that, in our opinion, are impossible to achieve without undertaking a long-term trapping and colour-ringing programme to allow identification of individual male and female birds. They claim inter alia that ‘971 nests of Basra Reed Warbler were studied’, most over the two-year period 2006 to 2007, and that ‘males are often polygynous (42.9%, n= 317 observed males).’ There is however almost no mention in the paper of the methods and resources employed to gather such data. Furthermore, Al-Sheikhly et al. claimed that “the identification of male and female Basra Reed Warblers was unmistakable in the field,” which we contest is impossible, given that the species like all other Western Palearctic Acrocephalus cannot be sexed visually, only through in-hand examination and perhaps biometric data, which the authors of the study did not attempt. Neither is there any explanation of how counts were carried out and extrapolated to population figures given for Iraq’s major marshland areas. Following questioning, the authors admit ‘that the occurrence of polygyny needs to be confirmed by a more comprehensive study.’ If their precise figures as originally presented lack credibility, then it draws into question any of the paper’s other results.”

    Finally, may I put this call for COPE’s intervention into context? This is a ground-breaking paper and one of the most important to be published on bird ecology and populations in the Middle East – and probably the most important ever in Iraq. It involves a globally Endangered species – and a threatened wetland complex – the most important in the Middle East.

    Poor or fraudulent science will help neither the species, its habitat nor Middle East ornithology and conservation. That is why we wish this complaint to be taken very seriously.

    I hope this helps / Kindest regards / Richard Porter”

    See https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09397140.2016.1172405 for a public response from TF (and related to the above listed query from Richard Porter).


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