"Compromised science" news/opines (includes retractions, declining academic standards, pred-J, etc)

Scientific American proposes policing the language of astronomy to make it “beautiful and elegant”, as well as “inclusive” and non-triggering

INTRO (Jerry Coyne): Oops! Scientific American did it again, this time with an op-ed that could have been ripped from the pages of The Onion. As is so common these days, the piece proposes that we change the language of science (astronomy in this case), since some of its terms are bad in four ways:

  • a. They are violent, sexist, and triggering
  • b. They are not “beautiful and elegant” like astronomy is, but grating; and they are “not kind”
  • c. They are non-inclusive, presumably helping keep minorities out of astronomy.
  • d. They are untruthful and distort astronomy

In my view, none of these claims holds up, for the article is all Pecksniffian assertion with not a shred of evidence. Author Juan Madrid assumes the role of a bomb-sniffing dog, snuffling the field of astronomy for linguistic mines.

Click the headline below to read and weep, or find the piece archived here. The author is identified this way (my link)... (MORE - details)
Bayes’ Theorem and BS

EXCERPTS (John Horgan): . . . there’s nothing magical about Bayes’ theorem. [...] If you have good evidence, Bayes’ theorem can yield good results. If your evidence is flimsy, Bayes’ theorem won’t be of much use. Garbage in = garbage out.

[...] If you aren’t scrupulous in seeking alternative explanations for your evidence, the evidence will just confirm what you already believe. ... Bayesians claim their methods can help scientists overcome confirmation bias and produce more reliable results, but I have my doubts.

Physicists who espouse string and multiverse theories have embraced Bayesian analysis, which they apparently think can make up for lack of genuine evidence. The prominent Bayesian statistician Donald Rubin has served as a consultant for tobacco companies facing lawsuits for damages from smoking. As the science writer Faye Flam once put it, Bayesian statistics “can’t save us from bad science.”... (MORE - missing details)
Neri Oxman accused of lifting from article whose plagiarism led to downfall of concussion expert

Neri Oxman’s problems may be getting worse. The researcher, who has become embroiled in plagiarism accusations following her billionaire husband’s push to depose the president of Harvard for plagiarizing in her thesis, appears to have lifted about 100 words in her thesis from an article that has been plagiarized before.

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Exclusive: COPE threatens Elsevier journal with sanctions for ‘clear breakdown’ before seven retractions

An Elsevier journal has retracted seven articles by a prolific data fabricator – three and a half years after the publisher said it would retract 10 of his papers, and five months after the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) threatened the journal with sanctions for the delay.

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Studies claiming Islamic practices protect against disease and sexual harassment retracted

A researcher in Turkey has lost seven papers about Islamic practices that he managed to publish in journals typically dedicated to childhood diseases.

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Journals retract six Didier Raoult papers for ethics violations

Two journals of a leading microbiology society have retracted six articles by Didier Raoult after a university investigation found breaches of research ethics in his work.

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MDPI journal still publishing ‘cruel and unnecessary’ research despite extra checks, campaigners say

New editorial policies at an MDPI title accused of publishing “sadistic, cruel, and unnecessary” animal studies are missing the mark, according to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a U.S-based advocacy group.
A good journal breaks bad: AAP spreads misinformation about glyphosate

INTRO: On Dec 11, 2023, a clinical report titled, “Use of Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) – Containing Food Products in Children” was released from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). This was accompanied by an educational article meant for parents titled, “Are GMO Foods Safe for My Child? AAP Policy Explained” on the AAP’s healthychildren.org website.

As a pediatrician with an interest in this subject, I was excited to read these papers. I thought it would be great to see the AAP lay to rest concerns about food containing ingredients derived from genetic engineering (GE). Instead, what I found was a piece filled with misinformation and missing key articles that support the well-researched conclusion that there is no legitimate evidence of negative health effects after more than three decades of intense study and surveillance.

After I picked my jaw up off the ground and took some deep breaths to calm my fury, I dove into the concerns presented, trying to be open minded that maybe I had something to learn. After thorough review, though, I’m not convinced by the concerns presented in this report. In fact, I’m majorly concerned that this piece is going to spread like wildfire and spark unnecessary fear amongst healthcare workers and then onto patients. I can’t let this be. So, I’m going to use this article to help dispel inaccurate information and unfounded worries brought up by this report. Here goes! (MORE - details)
Young Spaniards trust science less than older people

EXCERPT: These results suggest a growing distrust in science among young people, which explains, for example, the lack of scientific vocations in this segment. "Young people don't want to go into careers in science, technology and mathematics, because they believe that science is not a method for the search for truth and even that it is dangerous for the future of human beings," says one of the study's authors, Carlos Elías, a Professor of Journalism in UC3M's Department of Communication.

"It is paradoxical, and very worrying, that the generations with the greatest access to information and education, the best educated in the history of Spain, are the ones that consume the least information and are the most distrustful of science and journalism, two fields that share the search for truth. We must reflect deeply on what is happening," says Alberto Quian, a lecturer of Journalism at USC and co-author of the study.

The results of this work show that age and ideology are the factors that have the greatest effect on the use of different types of information sources. With regard to the consumption of traditional media, the people who consult them most are those at the political centre, while those on the left tend to rely more on official sources (such as health authorities); in contrast to those on the right, who prefer research organisations (such as the CSIC, the Carlos III Institute, etc.) or universities. On the other hand, "anti-vaxxers, however, prefer alternative sources (programmes such as Cuarto Milenio or La Estirpe de los Libres, for example). And this is because the traditional media support vaccines," the researchers point out... (MORE - missing details, no ads)
The New Climate Denial

Climate deniers can no longer pretend climate change isn’t happening - so they’ve changed their strategy. CCDH’s groundbreaking AI-powered research shows that New Climate Denial narratives that aim to undermine the climate movement, science and solutions, now constitute 70% of climate denial content on YouTube in 2023.
Gift authorship common in psychology, survey suggests

New findings from a survey of psychology researchers show nearly half of the respondents have encountered unethical authorship practices in studies they have been involved in.

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Exclusive: Paper-mill articles buoyed Spanish dean’s research output

Last year, a professor and dean at a university in Spain suddenly began publishing papers with a multitude of far-flung researchers. His coauthors, until then exclusively national, now came from places like India, China, Nepal, South Korea, Georgia, Austria, and the United States. How these unlikely collaborations began is not entirely clear...

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The Singapore Sting: Why an activist published a fake paper on ‘LGBTQ+ child acceptance’

Last spring, the Journal of Education, Society and Behavioural Science published a provocative paper stating that left-handed mothers in Singapore treat their LGBTQ+ children better than do right-handed moms. Except the paper, “Left-Handed Mothers and LGBTQ+ Child Acceptance in Singapore: Exploring the Link through Early Life Rejection,” was fake, a sting, designed to cast shade on anti-gay science proliferating in Singapore.[/i]

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A publisher makes an error in a publication about errors

Publishing a research paper is usually cause for celebration, after what is typically years of effort. Our recent paper in which we found that unexpectedly high proportions of papers in two journals described at least one wrongly identified reagent should have been no exception.

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Publisher parts ways with editor of five journals who published his own studies on Islamic practices

Ten days after retracting nine papers from several journals because they were “lacking scientific base,” a publisher says it has “parted company” with the editor of five of the titles – who had authored or co-authored the papers in question.

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‘Nonsensical content’: Springer Nature journal breaks up with a paper on a love story

You can love math, but can you math love? Scientific Reports has retracted a 2023 paper that tried to do just that by imposing a numerical model onto an ancient Persian love story that may have influenced Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
Science’s fake-paper problem: high-profile effort will tackle paper mills

INTRO: A high-profile group of funders, academic publishers and research organizations has launched an effort to tackle one of the thorniest problems in scientific integrity: paper mills, businesses that churn out fake or poor-quality journal papers and sell authorships. In a statement released on 19 January, the group outlines how it will address the problem through measures such as closely studying paper mills, including their regional and topic specialties, and improving author-verification methods... (MORE - details)
Just bribe everyone -- it's only scientific record

EXCERPTS: When we last visited the lively, ever-evolving world of shady scientific publishing, we saw publication brokers offering journal editors kickbacks to push their papers into print, and here's plenty more about it in a new article here at Science.

[...] It's to the point where every journal publisher and every editor will tell you, if they're being honest, that they have been and are continually being offered bribes. I would be very suspicious if someone tried to act shocked at the question, as if they'd never heard of such a thing. This is the state of scientific publishing in the 2020s, and we have to realize it. What we don't have to do is accept it... (MORE - missing details)
The below is obviously part of a long, ongoing feud between the two. But another snapshot specific in the wider dirty business picture in science publishing of personal emotions, grudges, bribery, intimidation, science activism (politics/ideology), and circles of fraternity-like cohorts -- in addition to the whole other layer of career pressures, predatory journals, and lax standards.
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Climate science gatekeeping

EXCERPT: . . . Mann’s email reveals that he had contacted the editor of the journal to which we were submitting our paper and had directed him to assign our paper to hostile reviewers. Mann writes that he fully expected Famiglietti to obey his directive...

[...] Whether our paper should have been published or not is not the issue. At the time I chalked it up to bad luck, assuming we just randomly were assigned some angry reviewers...

[...] We now know that it wasn’t just bad luck — A climate scientist intervened in the peer-reviewed publication process ... An interesting postscript — later in 2007 well after our paper had been rejected, a short commentary on hurricanes appeared in the AGU periodical EOS. That commentary included a claim remarkably similar to the main thesis of our paper... (MORE - missing details)
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Top Harvard cancer researchers accused of scientific fraud; 37 studies affected

The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, is seeking to retract six scientific studies and correct 31 others that were published by the institute’s top researchers, including its CEO. The researchers are accused of manipulating data images with simple methods, primarily with copy-and-paste in image editing software, such as Adobe Photoshop.
Educational testing and the war on reality & common sense

EXCERPTS: The practice of discussing educational testing in the same sentence with the term “war” is not necessarily new or original. What may be new to readers, however, is to characterize current debates involving educational testing as involving a war against: (1) accurate perceptions about the way things really are (reality), and (2) sound judgment in practical matters (common sense).

[...] Anti-testing hostility has found a powerful, organized voice in numerous movements whose prime directive is to diminish the influence—if not the outright banishing—of standardized testing in pre- and post-higher education.

The opt-out movement, for example, began in New York in 2014 among mostly White, highly-educated, and politically liberal parents who were united in their refusal to have their children sit for standardized testing in schools. They claimed that judging teacher performance by students’ test scores is unfair and that testing unduly narrows the school curricula by creating a “teaching-to-the-test” instructional ethos. Some stated they were in outright opposition to the implementation of Common Core State Standards.

It would not be an overstatement to say that certain criticisms have their origin in various neo-Marxist ideologies. There, standardized tests are portrayed as instruments of oppression designed by capitalistic test-construction companies to crush students’ dreams of a better life and trap them in the social classes in which they were born. One such critic writes:

Rather than providing for an objective and fair means of social mobility, the tests were a tracking mechanism limiting the odds of improving on one’s family’s economic and social position in America…. The SAT aptitude test in particular was designed from the beginning to facilitate social Darwinism, selecting for White Anglo-Saxon males; Jim Crow segregation, eugenics, and protecting the Ivy League’s racial stock provided the legal and cultural context in which the SAT was born.

These criticisms are feeble, shallow, and above all, dishonest. Rebuttals to these fallacies, patiently documented and dissected by recognized testing scholars, are readily available to anyone with a fair and open mind... (MORE - missing details)

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America's exploding vaccination crisis

The U.S. cannot afford widespread rejection of vaccines, but Dr. Califf's proposed remedy is weak, essentially shifting the responsibility for educating the public "to all those directly interacting with individuals in a health care setting, ranging from front office staff to retail pharmacists to primary care physicians." Healthcare providers cannot do it alone. Government officials, especially at the top of the food chain, need to be part of the solution.
Springer Nature journal pulls nearly three dozen papers from special issues

A Springer Nature journal retracted 34 papers earlier this month, including, ironically enough, one on how to detect fake news, which appeared in special guest-edited issues hacked by publication cheats...

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Journal pulls papers following Retraction Watch investigation

A journal quietly retracted two papers after a six-month Retraction Watch investigation linked them, and two of the journal’s editors, to the Indian paper mill iTrilon...

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Exclusive: Elsevier journal COPE threatened with sanctions will retract four more articles

The journal, a publication ethics watchdog threatened with sanctions for taking years to retract articles, will pull four more related papers...

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Exclusive: Mayo, Florida profs among authors of article tied to Indian paper mill

Two assistant professors at universities in the United States are coauthors of a review that appears to have been advertised for sale by the Indian paper mill iTrilon...

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Sociology journal’s entire editorial board resigns after Springer Nature appointed new leadership

The entire editorial board of a sociology journal has resigned after they say that the publisher, Springer Nature, installed new editors-in-chief without consulting the board — but Springer Nature says they tried unsuccessfully to engage the board on planning going back at least five years...

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Wiley reopens plagiarism case about dead researcher’s work

Zulfiqar Habib, dean of computer science at COMSATS University Islamabad, in Pakistan, was appalled when he discovered part of a former PhD student’s dissertation had been published in a scientific journal. After all, the former student, Kurshid Asghar, had been dead for more than a year by the time the manuscript was submitted to Security and Communication Networks, a Hindawi title. And Habib knew none of Asghar’s coauthors had contributed to the research, which Habib had supervised...
A counter to the American Academy of Pediatrics hit piece on genetically modified organisms

INTRO: In today’s world, due to the lopsided impact of the bullshit asymmetry principle, the internet is overflowing with misinformation. However, amidst this deluge of falsehoods, there are organisations that steadfastly promote scientific facts rather than succumbing to the influence of interest groups or fashion.

These organisations and the individuals within them are beacons of rationality serve a crucial role and it’s truly disheartening and frustrating when they deviate from scientific principles, potentially undoing years of collective effort. For instance, the recent promotion of pseudoscience by the World Health Organization (WHO) was a significant blow to those who hold such institutions in high regard.

Now the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has seemingly outdone the WHO by publishing an article which parrots the same anti-GMO rhetoric spouted by the synthetic “organic movement”. Contrary to legacy media, what the AAP published was not a scholarly review but a cherry-picked opinion piece, by authors and editors intent on misinforming the public and physicians.

Moreover, the organisation doubled down, continuing to propagate the false claims through additional media channels, even after physicians and scientists reached out to discuss the inaccuracies their article contained. In this blog post, I plan to counter what I consider to be the most egregious examples of sleight of hand and flat-out lies in the AAP’s publication... (MORE - details)

RELATED: A good journal breaks bad: AAP spreads misinformation about glyphosate
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The American reactor that was closed by fake news

Underhand tactics by environmental activists led to the closure of a famous physics facility 25 years ago. There is much we can still learn from the incident, says Robert P Crease.

INTRO: Fake facts, conspiracy theories, nuclear fear, science denial, baseless charges of corruption, and the shouting down of reputable health officials. All these things happened 25 years ago, long before the days of social media, in a bipartisan, celebrity-driven episode of science denial. Yet the story offers valuable lessons for what works and what does not (mostly the latter) for anyone wanting to head off such incidents... (MORE - details)

RELATED: Canary in the Coal Mine: The 1997 Leak at Brookhaven National Laboratory

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The science journals that will publish anything

EXCERPT: We often don’t think of academic publishing as an industry, but it is. I have seen it described in the literature as a “highly profitable oligopoly,” with a few major publishers, like Elsevier and Thomson Reuters, owning a large number of journals. Traditionally, academic journals would sustain themselves financially mainly by running ads and charging libraries subscription fees...

[...] Over the past few decades, a new movement gained devotees: open access. The idea was that open access publications should be free to be read by anyone, and these journals should make money in some other way, often by charging the scientists themselves a fee for publishing, not for reading.

Predatory journals predate the rise of open access, but they benefitted from the acceptability of charging authors money for publication. Predation was also facilitated by the Internet. To set up a predatory journal, you no longer had to print a magazine and ship it; you could simply set up a website. And given the recent surge in academics from countries in the Global South, more and more scientists need to publish than ever before. The demand is massive. Predatory journals are happy to lend a hand.

An important step in solving a problem is to properly define it, and there is unfortunately no agreed-upon definition of what constitutes a predatory journal... (MORE - details)
High time to rethink how we define scientific expertise and authority, argue psychologists

PRESS RELEASE (intro): A shift away from the individual expert as a source of scientific knowledge and authority is proposed by researchers in a recent scholarly paper, published in the open-access peer-reviewed journal Social Psychological Bulletin.

In their paper, the team of Dr Duygu Uygun Tunç (currently with University of Chicago, USA) and PhD candidate Mehmet Necip Tunç (Tilburg University, the Netherlands) propose an “extended virtue model”, where scientific expertise is rather associated with being a “reliable source of information” on certain scientific questions, instead of credentials, such as education, affiliations, scholarly publications, awards, and grants.

This perspective allows two things: we can identify groups (rather than individuals) as the true experts, where the scientific questions can be addressed only by a collective effort; and we can evaluate expertise on the basis of actual performance rather than accolades earned in the past.

This reform, they argue, would be the key to not only appropriately credit the scientific contribution of everyone involved in a big-team discovery, but also improve self-correction, replicability, and thereby overall integrity in science... (MORE - details)
Part I — Viewpoint: Why is trust in scientific research at an all time low?

INTRO: The validity of much published scientific research is questionable – so how much trust should we place in it?

An aphorism called the “Einstein Effect” holds that, “People find nonsense credible if they think a scientist said it.” We agree, and it’s a major concern as trust in science is near an all-time low.

There is a lot of nonsense masquerading as science circulating these days. Unfortunately, as a PEW study released last November indicates, it’s getting worse.

Almost five years ago, we wrote about the unreliability of much of the peer-reviewed scientific literature, especially in biomedicine and agriculture. Since then, according to a recent news article in the journal Nature that quantified the problem, the problem is far bigger than even the pessimists had posited.

Corruption is rife. Just last week, the journal Science related that even publishers of prominent scientific journals feel they are “under siege.”: “A spokesperson for Elsevier said every week its editors are offered cash in return for accepting manuscripts. Sabina Alam, director of publishing ethics and integrity at Taylor & Francis, said bribery attempts have also been directed at journal editors there and are ‘a very real area of concern.’”

In 2022, the co-chair of the editorial board of the Wiley publication Chemistry–A European Journal received an email from someone claiming to be working with “young scholars” in China and offering to pay him $3000 for each paper he helped publish in his journal. Such dealings have become big business.

This article, and a Part II to follow, address several ways unreliability can occur, either purposefully or unintentionally... (MORE - details)
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Science won't stop Rhode Island from resuming mask mandate on kids: proposed regulation

INTRO: Rhode Island convinced parents last month to drop their 2021 lawsuit against its gone-but-not-forgotten COVID-19 mask mandates in schools by pledging to hold public hearings should it seek to reimpose them. Now the Ocean State is proposing a health regulation under which it could force kids to mask up again without justifying it through scientific evidence, allegedly violating the dismissal stipulation that ended the case Dec. 13... (MORE - details)

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How four obstructionist journals and their academic enablers are corrupting reporting on the science of chemicals and crop biotechnology

INTRO: This is a story about how a small but dogged group of ‘environmental’ scientists and university professors have perfected the art of manipulating journalists into misreporting the sustainable benefits of agricultural biotechnology. It’s about the corruption by academic journals that help perpetuate misinformation.

It’s about how government officials, who should be acting in the public’s interest, often align themselves with tort lawyers who funnel ‘dark money’ to environmental groups to spread disinformation about genetically engineered crops and agricultural chemicals. And it exposes new evidence of the willingness of government officials to mislead the public and sell out conventional science—and the public they are supposed to be representing and protecting.

Let’s call this story: Whitewash—with self-proclaimed environmentalists wearing the black hats... (MORE - details)
Celebrity status almost ruined ancient DNA research

EXCERPTS: . . . DNA is a building block of every living creature. Hence, it would be hard to authenticate whether molecules came from the ancient being or any encounters with modern organisms after its death—from microbes in the soil to scientists in the lab. The group also fretted that speculating about aDNA’s future potential could kill their reputations—and the field itself.

It almost did.

[...] Apparently, the desire of researchers and journals to capitalize on Jurassic Park hype was so strong, Nature may have delayed Poinar’s publication to coincide with the release of the film based on the novel. That same summer, the National Science Foundation awarded four grants to researchers explicitly attempting to capture “dino”-DNA. Divorced from evolutionary questions and authenticity checks, was there any science behind reports of multimillion-year-old critters?

[...] The arc of aDNA from science fiction to Nobel winner highlights the tricky relationship between the media, pop culture, and science. Yes, the press—and Hollywood blockbusters like Jurassic Park—play a vital role in raising public understanding and enthusiasm for science. But science should still be funded, conducted, and reported for what it is—not what onlookers dream it to be... (MORE - missing details)
Book retraction surfaces long-standing feud between South African academics

In October, a South African political scientist published a book on how scholars in Africa can improve their standing in the larger academic world. Three months later, after heated emails from several sources alleging ethics breaches, the publisher retracted the book...

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Paper about clergy sexual abuses in South Korean churches retracted over ‘citation irregularities’

A year after writing an article about a movement in South Korea to hold clergymembers accountable for sexual abuse, a theology professor has asked for the paper to be retracted after acknowledging “citation irregularities” in the work. The specific problems remain unclear.

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Journal retracts 80 papers ID’d as paper mill products following sleuth’s report, Undark-Retraction Watch investigation

Nearly two years after being warned one of its journals appeared to be the target of a paper mill operation, Taylor & Francis has retracted 80 articles that appeared in that journal.

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Journal takes 3 years to pull papers by researcher who committed misconduct

Nearly three years after a university investigation committee recommended retracting several papers by a cancer researcher found guilty of research misconduct, the journal Cancer Research has pulled three of the offending articles.