Science Policy For All

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Posts Tagged ‘scientific journals

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 – March 8, 2012

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By: Rebecca Cerio

Our weekly linkpost, bringing you interesting and informative links on science policy issues buzzing about the internet.

Gulf on Open Access to Federally Financed Research – An updated view of the legislation introduced and reasoning behind both sides of the open access debate.  Should federally-funded research be available to the public free of charge?  The final answer isn’t likely to come in an election year, says Guy Gugliotta in the New York Times.

Are the Kids Alright?  – Medicating children is becoming more common every year, yet it has historically been difficult to get drug makers to properly safety-test their products in children.  Bob Grant in The Scientist outlines two laws up for reauthorization before Congress which have encouraged safety studies in minors…and possibly saved lives.

The Work-Life Integration Overload – A recent survey by the Association for Women in Science found that both men and women reported a significant amount of work-life imbalance, particularly among married-with-children scientists.  Their survey was far from scientific but does capture a picture of a generation of scientists struggling to balance work with family demands.

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

March 8, 2012 at 8:33 pm

Science Policy Around the Web – February 7, 2012

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By: Science Policy For All contributors

Our weekly linkpost, bringing you interesting and informative links on science policy issues buzzing about the internet.

Thousands of Scientists Vow to Boycott Elsevier to Protest Journal Prices  – Their petition at is in response to Elsevier’s high journal cost (up to $20,000 a year, with a 36% 2010 profit margin) and to Elsevier’s support of the Research Works Act.  The RWA would restrict the open access policies of publicly funded institutions (see our post here). (by Jop de Vrieze via ScienceInsider)

NIH grant-funding success rate reaches all-time low in 2011 – “…overall success rates for research project grants … fell to an all-time low of only 18 percent in FY11, 3 percentage points lower than that for FY10.”  Sobering news for those in academia.  The decline is fueled by more grant applications, increased award amounts per grant, and (of course) a 1% cut in NIH funding.  (by Julie McClure via the ASBMB Policy Blotter)

Researchers feel pressure to cite superfluous papers – “One in five academics in a variety of social science and business fields say they have been asked to pad their papers with superfluous references in order to get published.  The figures, from a survey published … in Science, also suggest that journal editors strategically target junior faculty….”  Another piece of the tangled web woven by the peer review system.  (by Richard Van Noorden via the Nature website)

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

February 7, 2012 at 10:25 am