Stapel got ahold of the hammer again (but not for long) and other stories

Wednesday, October 15, 2014.

Diedrick Stapel hits the nail on the head: seems that Diedrick Stapel, the kitchen table data creator, cannot lose for winning. It was reported on the Retraction Watch recently (remember he has racked up 54 retractions – not a record though) that he had a new job teaching psychology at a college in the Netherlands. There are more detailed posts about this on the K2P blog and Retraction Watch. Fortunately for his young students, he had to resign, but true to form, the truth is still a problem for him: at least for a while, as he used a fake name “Paul” in comments on RW defending himself. Once uncovered, he was not above excusing himself for this additional bit of fakery.

In a recent article in the Annals of Internal Medicine, AG Dunn, D Arachi, et al. conclude that reviewers of scientific articles who have financial conflicts of interest are more likely to recommend the pharmaceuticals in question in a favorable manner compared to reviewers who have no conflict of interest. It’s all about the money. Are we surprised? (At least they must have admitted to the conflicts.)

Tom Siegfried comments in www.sciencenews.org/blog/context that reproducing experiments is more complicated than it seems, pointing out that it is rarely possible to duplicate a complicated experiment perfectly. “No two laboratories are identical”. He notes that Ruth Heller has tried to devise a statistic he calls the R-value as a way of approaching the problem of replication. We can add the R-value to the Impact Factor and the Interest Index (see my earlier blog), perhaps just another way of increasing our conclusions and/or our confusions?

An article in The Scientist on October 1 by Daniel Cossins discusses the increasing use of social media to critique scientific publications. The article focuses on the extremely hot STAP (stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency) papers that led to retractions and a suicide in Japan. He quotes one scientist as saying “without social media…the STAP papers wouldn’t have been retracted” and notes that “many scientist bloggers first engaged in the activity specifically to counter misleading information being peddled by the media”. At last, almost everyone has or can have a voice! And there is also PubPeer.

Probably a backlash in Japan to the STAP scandal has led to tighter research integrity guidelines. Scientists found guilty of research misconduct will have their institutions’ budgets cut if they have not taken appropriate measures against the miscreant(s), as reported in Nature, 2 October. An editorial in the same issue points out the difficulties of cleaning up the literature: fear of lawsuits, threats to reputations, but winds up saying “whatever the obstacles, the duty to retract a demonstrably false paper remains paramount”!

The NewScientist on 11 October reported on the global fight against fake malaria medications noting that 30% of anti-malarials failed quality tests and of these, 39% were actually fakes produced by criminals aiming to deceive healthcare workers and patients. A serious effect is the development of resistance if the doctored drugs contain a small amount of an effective drug. Steps to counteract these deceptive practices by WHO have been woefully inadequate.

The K2P blog is one of my favorites because it is full of interesting and timely information. However, I take issue with the blogger on the topic of climate change which I believe is happening and is the result, at least in part, of human activity. As a subscriber to Science I was the recipient of a treatise entitled “What We Know the reality, risks, and response to climate change” written by a panel of 13 experts. The document is available for download at www.whatweknow.aaas.org. It claims that 97% of climate scientists agree.

Posted in ethical concerns, fraud, news item, retractions
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