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Peer Review and the Scientific Process

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There's nothing especially new about it per se, except that it has been reported on by the BBC - infamous for promulgating their religio-political bias and for pushing pseudo-science (e.g., Rotherham, 28Gate, etc.). I suspect they produced the programme by mistake - it probably missed going through their usual internal censorship gate.
-IainB (August 30, 2014, 10:10 PM)
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Hahah! ;D

Yep. Probably.

My favourite BBC gaffe is them reporting WTC 7 collapsing well before it did with WTC 7 still standing in the background.

But, Russia and China have "state run media" and we over here in freedom-land have "public television". Let's all repeat that now...

My favourite BBC gaffe is them reporting WTC 7 collapsing well before it did with WTC 7 still standing in the background.
-Renegade (August 31, 2014, 08:06 AM)
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Yes, I never did understand how they did that. However, by definition, a gaffe is "an embarrassing blunder", so is is it correct to call accurately predicting a nearby future event a gaffe?   :tellme:
I would have thought that knowing the news before it happens would be a highly regarded/desirable skill in media circles.

This looks like a novel idea. It's an opinion article proposing the criminalising of "serious scientific misconduct" (awaiting legal definition...) in New Scientist. Not all a bad idea, I would have thought.
I am surprised that NS are publishing this though, as they have over the years arguably published their share of scientific garbage and some of it might have fitted into the awaited definition of SSM.
Hmm. Mind you, if SSM were criminalised, then NS would presumably be blameless...ahhh, I see now. Cunning plan. All care and no responsibility?
(Copied below sans embedded hyperlinks/images.)
It's time to criminalise serious scientific misconduct - opinion - 15 September 2014 - New Scientist
    15 September 2014 by Rachel Nuwer

Research misconduct degrades trust in science and causes real-world harm. As such, it should be a crime akin to fraud, argues Richard Smith

Why should research misconduct be illegal?
After 30 years of observing how science deals with the problem, I have sadly come to the conclusion that it should be a crime, for three main reasons. First, in a lot of cases, people have been given substantial grants to do honest research, so it really is no different from financial fraud or theft. Second, we have a whole criminal justice system that is in the business of gathering and weighing evidence – which universities and other employers of researchers are not very good at. And finally, science itself has failed to deal adequately with research misconduct.

How can we recognise honest mistakes?
It's quite difficult. Clearly not every minor misconduct should be regarded as a crime. And as with all laws, it will take time to establish what merits prosecution and what can be dealt with by a reprimand. But we know peer review doesn't detect all misconduct. If research seems wrong or impossible, we start with the assumption that it's just an honest mistake and then look into it. You can sometimes detect fraud statistically, because if you invent data you tend to come up with a recurrent pattern. But in most cases, it is detected because somebody blows a whistle.

Are there cases in which you think researchers should have been prosecuted?
There are cases where someone demonstrated intent, not simply made a horrible mistake. For example, I was involved in the case of a researcher named Malcolm Pearce, who published two papers in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. One was a case report of successfully re-implanting an ectopic pregnancy into a patient's womb and another was a randomised trial about treating recurrent miscarriage. It turned out the case study patient did not exist, and there was also no record that he had actually conducted this randomised trial. Those aren't honest errors. The facts speak for themselves.

Does scientific misconduct often cause real social harm?
To begin with, there is the loss of confidence in science. But another example of clear, obvious harm is the infamous MMR-vaccine paper by Andrew Wakefield that was published in The Lancet. It suggested that the vaccine was a cause of autism, and that idea absolutely took off, causing dramatic drops in childhood vaccinations. This in turn caused outbreaks of diseases such as measles. Eventually, when claims in the paper were proven to be false, The Lancet retracted it.

These types of things often ruin researchers' careers. Is that punishment enough?
There are many examples in which researchers have simply carried on with their careers. I believe scientists should be held to a higher standard. Those who commit research misconduct cannot be trusted. It's too easy to be tempted into ignoring or destroying data that undermines your work. It may seem an inhuman way to be, but a true scientist is delighted when his or her favourite hypothesis is destroyed by good data.

This article appeared in print under the headline "Lawless labs no more"

Richard Smith edited the BMJ from 1991 to 2004. He is a founding member of the Committee on Publication Ethics, a former trustee of the UK Research Integrity Office and author of The Trouble with Medical Journals (CRC Press, 2006)

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Here's a bit of an interesting bit on censored science:

Here's an excerpt:

Monsanto is not alone in trying to silence its critics. As Rachel Aviv of the New Yorker and Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! reported, after fifteen years of research, Tyrone Hayes, University of California–Berkeley professor of integrative biology, determined that Syngenta’s herbicide atrazine causes sexual abnormalities in frogs and could cause the same problems for humans. The company now known as Syngenta hired Hayes to research atrazine in 1997. But when his findings ran contrary to their interests, they refused to allow him to publish and instead worked to discredit him. He left Syngenta in 2001, but continued to research the harmful effects of atrazine on the endocrine system.

Court documents from a class action lawsuit against Syngenta show how the company sought to smear Hayes’s reputation and to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from banning the profitable chemical, which is already banned by the European Union. The company’s public relations team drafted a list of four goals. Reporter Rachel Aviv wrote, “The first was ‘discredit Hayes.’ In a spiral-bound notebook, Syngenta’s communications manager, Sherry Ford, who referred to Hayes by his initials, wrote that the company could ‘prevent citing of TH data by revealing him as noncredible.’ He was a frequent topic of conversation at company meetings. Syngenta looked for ways to ‘exploit Hayes’ faults/problems.’ ‘If TH involved in scandal, enviros will drop him,’ Ford wrote.”
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Yet again, science is often about religio-political positions (or profit - which is often the core of political positions) rather than actual evidence.

^^ Some people (not me, you understand) might say that if there was a devil, it could well look like Monsanto, but I couldn't possibly comment.
"By their fruits ye shall know them."


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