Gemma Milne writes about science integrity work

While I was in Scotland last month to give a talk, I had the pleasure to meet with the wonderful Gemma Milne. She is a Science and Technology Journalist and founder of Science: Disrupt.

She has the gift to turn lovely breakfast chatter about science misconduct into beautiful written words. Here are two recent articles Gemma wrote about the work that we science “sleuths” are doing.

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More troubles at Annamalai University

This blog post expresses my personal opinion. It is not an accusation of misconduct.

In my last post, I wrote about a large set of around 200 problematic papers, all from research groups at Annamalai University in Tamil Nadu, India.

There are two additional problem sets.

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Concerns about papers from Annamalai University

This blog post expresses my personal opinion. It is not an accusation of misconduct.

Annamalai University

Annamalai (often spelled “Annaamalai”) is the name of an Indian hit-movie from 1992. It is also the name of a state university in Tamil Nadu, a state in the South of India.

Annamalai University Logo with its motto “With Courage And Faith”

Annamalai University was founded in 1929 (celebrating its 90th Anniversary this year) by Rajah Sir S. R. M. Annamalai Chettiar, and is ranked in 801-1000 in the world by The Times Higher Education.

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Fatty acids, STAT3, and unexpected image similarities

This blog post expresses my personal opinion and is not an accusation of misconduct.

An exciting new paper about STAT3

The STAT (“signal transducer and activator of transcription“) protein family consists of proteins involved in many important aspects of cellular function, such as growth, differentiation, and apoptosis (programmed cell death). These transcription activators are activated themselves if other molecules bind to them, and they act as messengers that transfer changes outside of a cell to inside the nucleus, by binding to promoters and determining which genes are switched on or off. One of STAT proteins, STAT3, in particular has been the topic of many studies, because it might play a role in cancer. Simply put, the continuous activation of STAT3 might induce cancer, and STAT3 might be a target for new anti-cancer drugs.

A recent study, published on 28 August 2019 in Nature by authors from Harvard Medical School and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, therefore gained quite some attention. It reported on one of the ways by which STAT3 can be activated, through the binding of fatty acids in a process called palmitoylation.

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Face value: sunscreen, lack of control group, and conflict-of-interest

A reader pointed out a 2016 paper published in Dermatologic Surgery.

Daily Use of a Facial Broad Spectrum Sunscreen Over One-Year Significantly Improves Clinical Evaluation of Photoaging – M. Randhawa et al. – Dermatologic Surgery: December 2016 – doi: 10.1097/DSS.0000000000000879

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Duplications in Spectrum Plots

One of my recent investigations led me to expand my set of figure types to look at. For our 2016 mBio study, in which I scanned >20,000 papers for image duplication, I focused on real photos of Western blots, agarose gels, tissue sections, etc.

Some examples of photos from biomedical papers. Top left: Western blot. Top right: agarose gel. Bottom left: petridish with bacteria. Bottom right: immunostaining of tissue sections. None of these photos have image duplications. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
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Concerns about a paper on HPV vaccination and pregnancy rates

A short post based on a Twitter thread I wrote today about a paper I had seen a while ago. You can also read the ThreadReaderApp post, which many people find easier to read.

A couple of weesk ago, I saw a social media post claiming that the HPV vaccine would cause infertility in women, based on results in a peer-reviewed paper. It sounded hard to believe, because many other studies have found that the HPV vaccine is safe to use. There was no time that day to look up the details and I let it go.

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Weekly digest, July 23

Some interesting articles I came across in the past couple of weeks.

How a data detective exposed suspicious medical trials – David Adam – Nature
Anaesthetist John Carlisle has spotted problems in hundreds of research papers — and spurred a leading medical journal to change its practice.

‘Bad science’: Australian studies found to be unreliable, compromised – Liam Mannix – The Age
Hundreds of scientific research papers published by Australian scientists have been found to be unreliable or compromised, fuelling calls for a national science watchdog. For the first time, a team of science writers behind Retraction Watch has put together a database of compromised scientific research in Australia.

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How to report misconduct to a journal

This post is based on a Twitter thread from April 2019, with some additional information. I have added some of my own reports and some UnSplash stock photos for illustrations.

I got several questions from other scientists who were interested learning how to report suspected misconduct or other irregularities in scientific papers. In this post, I will discuss how to do that.

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