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

This article in today's Guardian is quite disturbing: https://www.theguardian.com/science...ers-push-research-credibility-to-crisis-point

It makes it clear there is now a deluge of fraudulent scientific papers, largely from China but also India, Russia and elsewhere, on a scale that threatens to contaminate even the better journals and publishers. And then there is another tranche of papers published in "open access" or pay-to-publish journals, which are not necessarily fraudulent but may be just crank or bad science. (We see quite a few of those on this forum, generally cited by cranks.)
Either way, concern about this might be contended to be irrelevant, since it's difficult to imagine addicted Zoomers and late-Millennials ever giving up or mitigating usage of their mobile devices, even if there was a genuine health threat. But this is purely commonsense theory. No doubt many back in the 1950s and 1960s once deemed it impossible to significantly reduce cigarette smoking, and casual alcohol consumption in business settings. (Re: Mad Men)
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The Hill Promotes A Cell Phone Conspiracy Theorist

INTRO: The Hill published a cell phone conspiracy theorist.

Sorry, "epidemiologist", which in the Clinton administration was the same thing. His presidency was sort of a Golden Age for anti-science Boomers. He wiped out real FDA oversight of supplements, so those are now a gigantic parasitic industry, he generously funded the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, so by now we've spent $2 billion to know acupuncture still doesn't work, and he told USDA to create a special section of government for an official "organic" seal - one whose label would be controlled by organic industry lobbyists, trade groups, and corporations, not scientists.

Devra Davis, PhD, laments that the the National Toxicology Program has given up trying to placate progressives who think that cell phones cause cancer, when Davis insists it does. But she has no science basis for her supernatural belief, she only has suspect epidemiology and other EXPLORATORY claims using animal models that cater to the 'My child is allergic to Red Dye 40' crowd.

There is a reason no drug gets approved based on animal models. Rats are not little people... (MORE- details)
Your phone is not listening to you

The myth that your phone’s microphone is constantly on, and is listening to your conversations and selling that data to advertisers, is one of the most pervasive myths about technology. It didn’t help when a local advertising company falsely claimed, “It’s true. Your devices are listening to you,” in December. It was a complete lie, that CMG Local Solutions took off their site after 404 Media caught them red-handed. However, this myth originated a long time ago...

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The weaponization of "scientific consensus"

The notion of consensus-as-truth has been operationalized in various forms: journalistic “fact checkers,” academic “misinformation” researchers, and content moderation on social media platforms. The practical effect is the creation of self-appointed arbiters of truth — journalists, academics, social media platforms, and even governments — who render judgments on acceptable and unacceptable speech according to conformance with an acceptable view. There are many problems with the notion of consensus-as-truth and the (self)appointment of misinformation police to regulate discourse, whether of the public or, as in the case of the California law, of experts themselves...
Placing all of this in red because it's a quicker way to highlight the gray links than having to put bold and underline tags around each one.
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Review mills identified as a new form of peer-review fraud

INTRO: A ‘review mill’ that appears to have produced at least 85 similar peer-review reports featuring coercive citation could be an indicator of a new organised form of academic malpractice. The review reports were discovered alongside articles published across several journals run by the open-access publisher, MDPI, and were brought to light by a volunteer-led investigation posted online by Predatory Reports – an organisation that aims to highlight unethical publishing practices.

The work was carried out by María de los Ángeles Oviedo García, a professor of business management and marketing at the University of Seville, Spain, who started investigating after reading a suspect review report published alongside an article in MDPI’s Journal of Clinical Medicine. The report stated that the authors ‘should cite recently published articles such as …’ and then provided two digital object identifiers (DOIs) corresponding to articles that the reviewer themselves had co-authored... (MORE - details)

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The menace of wellness influencers

INTRO: Some in the mainstream media are just waking up to a phenomenon we have been warning about for years – misinformation, pseudoscience, conspiracy theories, and lax regulations have negative impacts on society that go far beyond whatever the original topic at hand. We sometimes refer to this as “quack magnetism” – the tendency of people and institutions who buy into one conspiracy or pseudoscience to promote many, or even all, of them.

CNN, for example, has noticed that popular wellness influencers are engaging in climate change denial. This may seem puzzling at first, but for regular contributors and readers here the response is, of course they are. Mercola, for example, wrote about the Maui fires with the caption “What the media won’t tell you.” He speculates (he’s just asking questions, right) that the fires are part of a government conspiracy to grab land to create a smart city. Truth_crunchy_mama, meanwhile, told her followers, “stop blaming things on nature that were actually caused by the government.”

There are a couple of ways, I think, to best understand this phenomenon. One layer is the trap of conspiracy thinking. A conspiracy is the “get out of jail free” card for pseudoscience and sloppy thinking... (MORE - details)

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Aduhelm was a mess — and it could happen again

INTRO: Last week, Biogen announced it will cease both the study and sale of Aduhelm, its FDA-approved monoclonal antibody for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Its decision, the company explained, is not a response to new data about the drug’s safety or efficacy, but instead “a reprioritization of resources.” Simply put, it wasn’t about science or medicine. It was about money.

In the eight years between the drug’s spectacular 2016 debut on the cover of Nature and its ignominious end, Biogen made multiple, really bad decisions. I don’t condone the company’s behavior, but I do understand it. In America, corporations develop drugs, and corporations are made up of ambitious, competitive people. Their measure of success is a simple language: profit.

What I cannot understand is the Food and Drug Administration. It twisted the practice of regulatory science so as to allow Biogen to walk itself into a mess... (MORE - details)

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Indian paper mill disbands WhatsApp community following investigation

An Indian paper mill featuring prominently in our recent investigation in "Science" and a companion piece on our website shut down its WhatsApp community six days after the stories ran, Retraction Watch has learned...

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‘The sincerest form of flattery’: How a math professor discovered his work had been plagiarized

Not long ago, it came to my attention that a 2016 paper by my students and me, “Measuring Semantic Similarity Of Words Using Concept Networks,” had been plagiarized, verbatim. The offenders had added two words to the title, which now read: “A Novel Methodology For Measuring Semantic Similarity Of Words Using Concept Networks.” Their article was published in the journal "Webology", which has been delisted from Scopus, Elsevier’s abstract and citation database. My first impulse was to ignore the transgression, but I asked the question what to do on a closed mailing list read by former colleagues...

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Papers used by judge to justify abortion pill suspension retracted

A journal and publisher have retracted three papers about abortion, including one that has been used in court cases to support the suspension of FDA approval for mifepristone, aka an “abortion pill.”

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No data? No problem! Undisclosed tinkering in Excel behind economics paper

Last year, a new study on green innovations and patents in 27 countries left one reader slack-jawed. The findings were no surprise. What was baffling was how the authors, two professors of economics in Europe, had pulled off the research in the first place.

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Could ‘write once/read many’ discourage cheating?

In a recent Science editorial, Barbara Redman and our Ivan Oransky called for a boost to the budget and authority of the U.S. Office of Research Integrity (ORI). In this letter, a nephrologist and researcher suggests one potential way to fight fraud.
Yet another misguided attempt to revise evolution

EXCERPTS (Jerry Coyne): What we have below (click on headline for free access) is a review in Nature by Denis Noble of a new book by Philip Ball, How Life Works: A User’s Guide to the New Biology, which has garnered good reviews and is currently #1 in rankings of books on developmental biology.

[...] In some ways it’s unfortunate that Noble was chosen as a reviewer, as the man, while having a sterling reputation in physiology and systems biology, is largely ignorant of neo-Darwinism, and yet has spent a lot of the last decade trying to claim that neo-Darwinism is grossly inadequate to explain the features and evolutionary changes of organisms.

You can see all my critiques of Noble here, but I’ll just quote briefly from the latest to give you a flavor of how he attacks modern evolutionary theory. [...] I then assessed each claim in order... (MORE - missing details)
The lasting impacts of scientific fraud

EXCERPTS: Far too many scientific papers are being retracted from prestigious scientific journals because scientists fabricated or falsified data. Although no one defends scientific fraud, few recognize its long-lasting impacts on governmental policy and society.

[...] Almost immediately, epidemiologic studies were performed and published, showing no causal link between autism and the MMR vaccine. However, the Wakefield study received worldwide publicity, and MMR vaccination rates began to drop over parental concern about the link between autism and the vaccine.

[...] The impact of the LNT model guiding Federal Agencies is that every questionable molecule of a chemical or radiation must be eliminated, or public health is at risk. This has resulted in billions of dollars spent to eliminate chemicals to levels that have no impact on human health and the unnecessary removal of products, many of which are critical today... (MORE - details)
Highly cited scientist published dozens of papers after his death

One of the most highly cited authors in engineering has continued publishing after his death more than a year ago...

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Stanford prof who sued critics loses appeal against $500,000 in legal fees

Mark Jacobson, a Stanford professor who sued a journal and a critic for $10 million before dropping the case, has lost an appeal he filed in 2022 to avoid paying defendants more than 500,000 dollars in legal fees...

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Elsevier investigating papers after IEEE finds ‘self-plagiarism’

Following a complaint from a reader, editors at the U.S.-based publisher Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) determined the researchers behind two decade-old papers had committed “self-plagiarism,” charges the authors deny...

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Econ journal board quits en masse because Wiley ‘appeared to emphasize quantity over quality’

In what has become a familiar refrain, more than 30 editors and advisors of an economics journal have resigned because they felt the publisher’s need for growth would increase the “risks of proliferation of poor-quality science.”

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Engineering dean’s journal serves as a supply chain for ‘bizarre’ articles

Erick Jones, the dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Nevada in Reno, is under fire for publishing a journal filled with what one academic called “bizarre” and “incoherent” articles...
Scientists aghast at bizarre AI rat with huge genitals in peer-reviewed article

INTRO: Appall and scorn ripped through scientists' social media networks Thursday as several egregiously bad AI-generated figures circulated from a peer-reviewed article recently published in a reputable journal. Those figures—which the authors acknowledge in the article's text were made by Midjourney—are all uninterpretable. They contain gibberish text and, most strikingly, one includes an image of a rat with grotesquely large and bizarre genitals, as well as a text label of "dck." (MORE - details)
Who should you trust? Why appeals to scientific consensus are often uncompelling

EXCERPTS: The public is frequently told to “trust the science,” and then ridiculed for holding any views that differ from what is reported to be the scientific consensus. Should non-experts then naively accept the authorized narrative, or are there good reasons to be skeptical?

[...] All that said, avoid nihilism or worse. Consumers of scientific information should be skeptical of an apparent scientific consensus, and they should think about some of the factors discussed here when deciding how skeptical they should be. How politicized is this topic? What are the career incentives for the scientists? How easy would it be for scientists to selectively report only the favorable results? Would a study have been published if it had found the opposite result or a null result? The answers to these questions will not definitively tell us whether the scientific consensus is right or wrong, but they should help us decide the degree to which we should simply trust the consensus or investigate further.

Although skepticism is warranted, nihilism is not. Even when a topic is highly politicized and when there are good reasons to worry about biased studies, selective reporting, herding, and so on, the scientific community can still find the right answer...

[...] Science is a process, not a result. If we want to learn more about the universe ... science is our best hope. So don’t become a nihilist, and don’t replace science with something worse, such as random guessing or deference to authority, religious or political.

Remember that science is just the word we use to describe the process [...] It involves repeated iterations of hypothesizing, experimenting, analyzing, empirical testing, and arguing.

If a group of so-called scientists stop theorizing, testing, and challenging, then they’re no longer engaged in science. Perhaps they’re engaged in advocacy, which is a respectable thing to do, particularly if the theory, evidence, and arguments on their side are strong. Yet advocacy and science are distinctly different activities and shouldn’t be conflated.... (MORE - missing details)

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While one might sort of agree with bygone Freeman Dyson's opinion (below) that prevailing orthodoxies need to be intermittently challenged and critically evaluated, the latter "healthy epistemological routine" can sometimes branch off into an entrenched institution (of dogged contrarianism) in itself.

Freeman Dyson: The politicians and the public expect science to provide answers to the problems. Scientific experts are paid and encouraged to provide answers. The public does not have much use for a scientist who says, “Sorry, but we don’t know”. The public prefers to listen to scientists who give confident answers to questions and make confident predictions of what will happen as a result of human activities.

So it happens that the experts who talk publicly about politically contentious questions tend to speak more clearly than they think. They make confident predictions about the future, and end up believing their own predictions. Their predictions become dogmas which they do not question. The public is led to believe that the fashionable scientific dogmas are true, and it may sometimes happen that they are wrong. That is why heretics who question the dogmas are needed.

[...] I am proud to be a heretic. The world always needs heretics to challenge the prevailing orthodoxies. Since I am heretic, I am accustomed to being in the minority. If I could persuade everyone to agree with me, I would not be a heretic.

We are lucky that we can be heretics today without any danger of being burned at the stake. But unfortunately I am an old heretic. Old heretics do not cut much ice. When you hear an old heretic talking, you can always say, “Too bad he has lost his marbles”, and pass on. What the world needs is young heretics. I am hoping that one or two of the people who read this piece may fill that role. --Heretical thoughts about science and society
On Biology and Politics: Why the Left must take human evolution seriously.

EXCERPTS: Broad political factors are also at play here, with both the Left and the Right largely dismissive of the application of evolutionary theory to human affairs.

On the Right, the distrust of Darwinism is strongly influenced by religious doctrine. In addition, many conservatives typically regard human nature (whether evolved or God-given) as inherently flawed, thus requiring constant constraint by custom or tradition.

The standard leftist reaction is to reject this vision of a fixed and flawed human psyche entirely in favour of a mouldable and perfectable vision of human nature. [--> antinaturalism]

[...] Moral philosopher Peter Singer begins A Darwinian Left: Politics, Evolution and Cooperation with what he sees as the major cause of the Left’s rejection of Darwin: the lingering influence of Darwin’s fellow 19th-century thinker, Karl Marx. Trailblazing intellect that he was, Marx got quite a few things wrong... (MORE - details)
Scientists aghast at bizarre AI rat with huge genitals in peer-reviewed article

INTRO: Appall and scorn ripped through scientists' social media networks Thursday as several egregiously bad AI-generated figures circulated from a peer-reviewed article recently published in a reputable journal. Those figures—which the authors acknowledge in the article's text were made by Midjourney—are all uninterpretable. They contain gibberish text and, most strikingly, one includes an image of a rat with grotesquely large and bizarre genitals, as well as a text label of "dck." (MORE - details)
Just read about this one
Political correctness now a bullying tactic aimed at stifling legitimate debate

Science is based only on evidence and logic. No genuine scientific conclusion can be “good”, “bad”, “sexist”, “racist” etc – only true or false. The PC a priori rejection of scientific investigations on moral grounds is anti-scientific. Science describes the world as it is; PC describes the world as PC thinks it ought to be.
Science ‘Majorana’ particle paper earns another editor’s note as expert committee finds no misconduct

A paper that led to hopes that Microsoft might one day build a quantum computer has “shortcomings” that do not rise to the level of misconduct, according to an expert panel convened by the University of Copenhagen.

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Exclusive: Elsevier to retract paper by economist who failed to disclose data tinkering

A paper on green innovation that drew sharp rebuke for using questionable and undisclosed methods to replace missing data will be retracted...

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How (not) to deal with missing data: An economist’s take on a controversial study

Ingenious, yes. Sensible, no. If this procedure were legitimate, every researcher could multiply their data by whatever number is necessary to get a P-value below 0.05. The only valid way to get more data is, well, to get more data. This student should have surveyed more people instead of fabricating data.

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Paper claiming ‘extensive’ harms of COVID-19 vaccines to be retracted

A journal is retracting a paper on the purported harms of vaccines against COVID-19 written in part by authors who have had similar work retracted before.
We’re not curing cancer here, guys

INTRO: A top cancer surgeon at Columbia University is under scrutiny after one of his research papers was retracted for containing suspect data. Twenty-six other studies by Dr. Sam S. Yoon, who conducted his research at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, have been flagged as suspicious by a British scientific sleuth called Sholto David. David raised the alarm after spotting the same images across different articles that described wholly different experiments. He has also found duplications and manipulated data in papers published by researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston that have since been retracted.

This news shocked me: leading scientists at some of the most respected research centers in the world, working on the very important and well-funded fight against cancer are. . . making stuff up. That seems bad. Really bad. And it poses a lot of unsettling questions, like whether we can really trust medical research at all. But maybe I am missing something. In search of reassurance, I called up an expert: oncologist, UCSF professor, the author of more than 500 academic papers, and Free Press contributor Vinay Prasad.

Here’s an edited version of our conversation. (Spoiler alert: I was not reassured.) ..... MORE - details
Defending science against social justice dogmatism and identitarianism

EXCERPTS: [...] there was one particularly galling and noxious objection that had nothing to do with whether golden rice lived up to its billing: the idea that GMOs are inherently racist and colonialist because they are the product of “Western science.”

A piece in Scientific American magazine about biotech crops stated bluntly: “At its base, GM [genetically modified] crops are rooted in a colonial-capitalist model of agriculture based on theft of Indigenous land and on exploiting farmers’ and food workers’ labor, women’s bodies, Indigenous knowledge and the web of life itself.”

[...] Perhaps the worst example is happening in New Zealand, where the government decided that public school students in science classes should be taught ... the Maori “ways of knowing,” are equivalent to Western science. These indigenous traditions and beliefs are steeped in mythology, god-beliefs, and superstition. It’s as if the United States started requiring that creationism be taught alongside the theory of evolution as equivalent explanations for life’s diversity...

[...] This capture of science by the ideology of the moment is a dangerous trend. It is not only bad for science, it is bad for society: divisive, anti-meritocratic, and causing scientists to self-censor and conform their findings to predetermined social justice demands... (MORE - missing details)
Florida surgeon general defies science amid measles outbreak

As a Florida elementary school tries to contain a growing measles outbreak, the state’s top health official is giving advice that runs counter to science and may leave unvaccinated children at risk of contracting one of the most contagious pathogens on Earth, clinicians and public health experts said.
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Concerning the issue of non-Western (non-WEIRD) standards and practices being allowed in via a political backdoor that revolves around grievances about Western oppression and atrocities (both today and during the colonial past).
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Science creep is a menace

According to Thorp’s definition [of a scientist], even anti-science groups and outright quacks who promulgate dangerous disinformation could also be said to be participating in “science communication” and therefore be “scientists.”

What is a scientist?

Anyone who thinks the Lakota authors are not scientists just because they don’t have a bunch of credentials doesn’t really understand how science works. [..] Following the success of Braiding Sweetgrass, indigenous science is starting to get the attention it deserves.
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RELATED: Indigenous science ..... Decolonization of knowledge ..... Defending science against social justice dogmatism and identitarianism ..... Political correctness now a bullying tactic aimed at stifling legitimate debate
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Exclusive: Physician in India who coauthored review with US profs is running a paper mill

A recent review article whose authors included two assistant professors at universities in the United States was written by a physician in India who is running a paper mill...

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Exclusive: Embattled dean accused of plagiarism in NSF report

Erick Jones, the dean of engineering at the University of Nevada in Reno, appears to have engaged in extensive plagiarism in the final report he submitted to the National Science Foundation for a grant...

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Saudi university dean has 20 retractions in two years

A prolific Saudi pharmacy professor published over 200 papers in the last four years, but in recent months the quality of these papers has come into question...

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A cardiac surgeon’s tortuous efforts – including three lawsuits – to get the scientific record corrected

For the past 14 years, a cardiac surgeon in Italy has been trying to blow the whistle on a study written by his former colleagues that has been the subject of several investigations – with two of them finding problems with the data. And despite defeating three defamation lawsuits, two which were brought by authors of the paper, he’s not giving up yet...