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Posts Tagged ‘retraction

Science Policy Around the Web – August 18, 2017

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By: Nivedita Sengupta, PhD

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Source: pixabay

Climate Science

Effort backed by California’s flagship universities comes as US President Donald Trump shrugs off global warming

As US President Donald Trump announces to withdraw from Paris Agreement, renouncing climate science and policy, scientists in California are deciding to develop a home-grown climate research institute -‘California Climate Science and Solutions Institute’. California has always tried to protect the environment with different initiatives and this one is already getting endorsed by California’s flagship universities and being warmly received by Governor Jerry Brown. The initiative is still in the early stages of development and will also need clearance from the state legislature. The institute will aim to fund basic as well as applied research in all the topics related to climate change ranging from ocean acidification to tax policy. Priority will be given to projects and experiments that engage communities, businesses and policymakers. “The goal is to develop the research we need, and then put climate solutions into practice,” says Daniel Kammen, an energy researcher at the University of California, Berkeley. He also states that this work will have global impact. The climate research project being undertaken in California may have an ally too, as the science dean of Columbia University of New York city, Peter De Menocal, plans to build an alliance of major universities and philanthropists to support research for answering pressing questions about the impacts of climate change. De Menocal already tested the idea on a smaller scale by launching the Center for Climate and Life at Columbia University last year, which raised US$8 million of private funding. This is no the first time California has taken the initiative to support an area of science that fell out of favor in Washington DC. In 2004, President George W. Bush restricted federal support for research on human embryonic stem cells. This led to the approval of $3 billion by the state’s voters to create the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine in Oakland. Since then, the center has funded more than 750 projects. The proposal for a new climate institute also started along a similar path, as a reaction to White House policies, but its organizers say that the concept has evolved into a reflective exercise about academics’ responsibility to help create a better future. The panel members wish to put forward a complete plan to set up the institute to the California legislature this year, in the hope of persuading lawmakers to fund the effort by September 2018, before Governor Brown’s global climate summit in San Francisco.

(Jeff Tollefson, Nature News)

Retractions

Researchers pull study after several failed attempts by others to replicate findings describing a would-be alternative to CRISPR

The high-profile gene-editing paper on NgAgo was retracted by its authors on 2nd August, citing inability in replicating the main finding by different scientists around the globe. The paper was published in Nature Biotechnology in May 2016. It described an enzyme named NgAgo which could be used to knock out or replace genes in human cells by making incisions at precise regions on the DNA. The study also emphasized the findings as a better alternative to the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing system which revolutionized gene editing and has even been used to fix genes for a heritable heart condition in human embryos. Han Chunyu, molecular biologist at Hebei University of Science and Technology in Shijiazhuang is the inventor and immediately attracted a lot of applause for his findings. However, within months, news started emerging in social media about failures to replicate the results. These doubts were confirmed after a series of papers were published stating that the NgAgo could not edit genomes as stated in the Nature paper. Earlier, Han told Nature’s news team that he and his team had identified a contaminant that can explain other groups’ struggles to replicate the results and assured that the revised results would be published within 2 months. Yet on August 2, they retracted the paper stating that “We continue to investigate the reasons for this lack of reproducibility with the aim of providing an optimized protocol.”

The retraction of the paper, however, puts in question the future of the gene-editing center that Hebei University plans to build with 224 million yuan (US$32 million) as Han as the leader. Moreover, Novozymes, a Danish enzyme manufacturer, paid the university an undisclosed sum as part of a collaboration agreement. Dongyi Chen, Novozymes’ Beijing-based press manager, told Nature’s news team in January that the technology is being tested and shows some potential, but it is at a very early stage of development and hence it is difficult to determine its relevance. Following the news of retraction, he stated that the company has explored the efficiency of NgAgo, but so far has failed to track any obvious improvement. Yet they are not giving up hope as scientific researches takes time.

(David Cyranoski, Nature News)

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August 18, 2017 at 5:11 pm

Science Policy Around the Web – May 24, 2017

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By: Joel Adu-Brimpong, BS

Source: Flickr by Selena N. B. H. via Creative Commons

Scientific Publishing

Fake It Until You’re Caught?

The beauty of the scientific enterprise is that it is, eventually, self-correcting. Thus, occasionally, a scientific paper may be retracted from a journal based on new revelations or due to reports of ethical breaches. Tumor Biology, a peer-reviewed, open access journal disseminating experimental and clinical cancer research, however, seems to have set a record for the number of retracted papers at once. In a single notice, in April, Tumor Biology retracted 107 articles; yes, one hundred and seven!

Springer, the former publisher of Tumor Biology, reported that the retracted papers were due to a compromised peer review process. Like other journals, Tumor Biology allows the submission of preferred reviewer information (name and email address) when submitting a manuscript. In the case of the retracted papers, “the reviewers were either made up, or had the names of real scientists but false email addresses.” Unsurprisingly, the manuscripts sent to the fake reviewers consistently received positive reviews, bolstering the likelihood of publication.

Springer, of course, is not the first and only major publisher to uncover issues in its peer-review process leading to mass retractions. A 2016 paper reveals similar issues from other major publishers including SAGE, BioMed Central and Elsevier. These breaches are particularly worrisome as some of the retracted manuscripts date back to the beginning of the decade. This means that studies floating around in other journals may have built on knowledge reported by the retracted studies. As if this was not enough, Springer has also come under scrutiny for individuals listed on Tumor Biology’s editorial board, several of whom appear to have no association with the journal and/or in at least one case, have been deceased for several years.

These discoveries are particularly disturbing and are percolating at a time when biomedical research spending is increasingly being scrutinized. Richard Harris, the award-winning NPR journalist, in his recent book Rigor Mortis: How Sloppy Science Creates Worthless Cures, Crushes Hope, and Wastes Billions (2017), highlights major areas in biomedical research that produce wastes, such as studies that may incite researchers, and even whole fields, to follow a phantom lead. In the meantime, it does appear that journals are taking measures to ensure that these breaches are minimized, if not prevented entirely. (Hinnerk Feldwisch-Drentrup, ScienceInsider)

Research Funding

Fighting On All Fronts: Republican Senators Advocate for DOE’s Research Funding

Republican senators are, again, urging President Trump to rethink potential budget cuts to research programs; this time to the Department of Energy (DOE). On Thursday, May 18, 2017, six top senate republicans, including well-known congresspersons Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), drafted a letter to the President reminding him of the importance of government-sponsored research. In the letter, they re-echo, “Government-sponsored research is one of the most important investments our country can make to encourage innovation, unleash our free enterprise system to create good-paying jobs, and ensure American competitiveness in a global economy.” They go on, “It’s hard to think of an important technological advancement since World War II that has not involved at least some form of government-sponsored research.”

If it seems like we’ve been down this road before, it’s because we have. Earlier this year, Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), on the House Appropriations and Budget Committee, and his colleagues signaled disagreement with proposed budget cuts to the NIH and CDC in President Trump’s fiscal blueprint. The Republican congressman reiterated the importance of agencies like the NIH and CDC in conducting crucial biomedical research and leading public health efforts that protect Americans from diseases. The strong commitment to advancing biomedical research and the health of the American people led to an omnibus agreement that repudiated President Trumps proposed cuts, increasing NIH funding by $2 billion for the 2017 cycle.

The letter by Senator Alexander and colleagues was drafted following reports suggesting that the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy could face a reduction in funding of up to 70 percent for the 2018 fiscal cycle.  In a separate follow-up analysis, Democrats on the Joint Economic Committee reported on the growth and importance of clean energy jobs and its contribution to the economy. Cuts to the DOE’s research programs could have profound impact on not only millions of jobs but also America’s ability to stay competitive in the global economy as it shifts towards renewable energy and resources. (Geof Koss, ScienceInsider)

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Science Policy Around the Web – August 14, 2015

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By: Patricia Kiesler, Ph.D.

Photo credit: via pixabay.com

Laboratory Animal Rights

Animal advocacy group targets cat and dog research using novel crowdsourcing campaign

The Los Angeles–based Beagle Freedom Project (BFP) animal advocacy group filed a complaint on Monday with Ohio State University (OSU) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) alleging that a NIH-funded OSU laboratory has violated NIH rules concerning the use of dogs in biomedical research. In the past, U.S. research facilities would procure dogs from Class B dealers, who would sell animals that they obtained from pounds, breeders and “random sources”. The latter are associated with stolen and abused pets. In 2013, the NIH announced that researchers using the agency’s funds could not procure dogs from Class B dealers, as of October 1, 2014, and could not use such dogs in projects funded in 2015 and beyond. According to BFP, OSU has violated both guidelines. In their complaint, BFP provided records suggesting that the university obtained four class B dogs on October 6, 2014, and that one of the class B dogs was still alive as late as July of 2015. OSU has disputed both accusations and provided evidence to ScienceInsider indicating that the dogs were purchased before the NIH rule went into effect, on September 11, 2014, and said that no class B dogs are currently involved in laboratory research.

BFP has gathered this evidence against OSU through a unique crowdsourcing technique. Public supporters browse the BFP’s website and its list of more than 1200 cats and dogs kept at 17 public research universities in the U.S. and “adopt” one of these animals. BFP then sends supporters a Freedom of Information Act request form, which they fill out and send to the university housing the animal. Any information collected (health records, protocols, necropsy reports, etc.) is forwarded to BFP. Through this strategy, the animal advocacy group has generated hundreds of public records requests to engage the public and pressure universities to release animals and/or end their research. (David Grimm, ScienceInsider)

Scientific publishing policy

Courts refuse scientists’ bids to prevent retractions

Two scientists have sought to prevent journals from retracting or expressing concern about their papers this year. But U.S courts have dismissed their legal bids. Guangwen Tang from Tufts University in Boston, MA had hoped to stop the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition from retracting her 2012 paper on the value of providing Golden Rice to children. This rice is a genetically engineered form of rice that is rich in b-carotene for use as a source of vitamin A. Following Tufts University ‘s discovery that parents had not been informed that the rice provided to their children was genetically modified, the journal decided to retract her paper and did so after the court’s ruling. Mario Saad from the University of Campinas in Sao Paulo, Brazil had also hoped to prevent the journal of Diabetes from publishing expressions of concern about four of his papers. The journal said online that it had been alerted to potentially manipulated images in his studies and that was concerned about the reliability of some of his data. The first investigation launched by the University of Campinas found mistakes, but no dishonesty, in Saad’s work and the conclusions of a second investigation have yet to be released. The court, however, swiftly denied his injunction bid and a request to reconsider thereafter. As a result, Diabetes published print concerns regarding all four of his papers.

“In both cases, the courts decided that the scientists’ requests would deny journals their right to free speech. The decisions do not prevent the scientists from suing for damages from defamation, however, and legal action is ongoing in both instances”. But a scientist suing a journal to stop retractions is unheard of and researchers may find it difficult to win defamation cases against publishers in the U.S. as defamation charges have a high burden of proof in this country; “plaintiffs [would] have to show that publishers acted with malice or reckless disregard”. (Monya Baker, Nature News)

International – Children’s health

Mexico bans giveaways of baby formula at hospitals in an effort to encourage breastfeeding

Mexico has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in Latin America with only one in seven mothers breastfeeding exclusively during their babies’ first six months. This poor record is amplified in a country where millions live in extreme poverty and drinking water is often unhealthy. In an effort to increase breastfeeding rates, the Mexican government has banned free baby formula at hospitals. But Mexican health authorities said that baby formula could still be supplied at a doctor’s request and would be available for purchase. Mexico’s measure follows the World Health Organization’s recommendations that exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and continued breastfeeding for up to two years or beyond supplemented with complementary foods provide health benefits to babies that translate into adulthood. These recommendations have recently been supported by a long-term study in Brazil that involved nearly 3,500 babies who were followed up 30 years later. The research, published in The Lancet Global Health last April, found that those who had been breastfed the longer scored higher on intelligence tests as adults. They were also more likely to reach higher educational attainment and to earn greater incomes. Although breastfeeding was evenly distributed across social class and the researchers tried to rule out main confounders including mother’s education, family income and birth weight, experts agreed that further research was needed to explore any possible link between breastfeeding and intelligence. The large sample size and number of factors monitored, however, made this a powerful study. (BBC News)

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

August 14, 2015 at 10:00 am