Archive for the 'Ethics' category

More evidence that the NIH has no interest in curbing real COI

Jun 08 2010 Published by under Ethics, NIH, Scientific Misconduct

At all.
ScienceInsider overviewed a dismal story being reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education. It involves a tale I've discussed before with a new twist. ScienceInsider:

In 2008, a Senate investigation found that Nemeroff failed to report at least $1.2 million of more than $2.4 million that he had received for consulting for drug companies. NIH suspended one of Nemeroff's grants, and in December 2008, Emory announced that it would not allow Nemeroff to apply for NIH grants for 2 years.

As I was just saying, this is the scope of the real problem. Changing the reporting rules from $10K per year to $5K per year does absolutely nothing about a guy who fails to report some or all of his outside activity.
Still, a 2 year suspension sounds like something, doesn't it?

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11 responses so far

Why NIH tightening financial rules will do absolutely nothing about real COI

May 26 2010 Published by under Ethics, NIH, NIH Budgets and Economics

NIH has been touting their new and improved reporting rules which are intended to keep their grantee PIs on the straight and narrow. A news bit in Nature has the highlights.

The proposed rules state that a "significant financial interest" exists when the combined value of an investigator's equity holdings in, and payments from, a publicly traded company exceed US$5,000 in any given year. Under current rules, the reporting threshold is $10,000.

Got it. Somewhere between $5,000 and $9,999 per year in consulting or stock cashout or dividends or whatnot we have a big group of PIs out there doing bad things for the money. And we're going to fix that.
Please.

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6 responses so far

A ballsy play indeed

May 24 2010 Published by under #FWDAOTI, Ethics, Gender, Underrepresented Groups

From Female Science Professor we learn:

In an article on May 18 in The Globe & Mail, the results of the program are described, including the fact that Canada was able to "poach" leading researchers from other countries and lure them to Canada with the millions of research $$ associated with these Chairs. The article effuses about the aggressive program of luring top researchers:
For Ottawa, it was one of the biggest bets on scientific research in a generation. But for the man at the centre of Canada's worldwide drive to recruit top scientists, it was a "ballsy" play that at times resembled a bidding war for NHL free agents.
These CERC chairs are referred to by the following terms: star researchers, renowned scientists, foreign researchers, and, more generically, as "individuals", or simply "these people".
Two days later, The Globe & Mail realizes that it might want to mention that "these people" are all men.

Cripes. I was just drafting up something responding to Bob O'Hara on spousal hire policy and wrote an aside that fits much better here.
In discussing affirmative action hiring (a thing Bob called discrimination-and-therefore-unethical in a comment), he admits that he is okay with "discrimination" to deal with existing "disparity" which is a result of "past discrimination".
Nice framing.
I mean seriously dude, c'mon. Read how you framed that stinker. Try it this way- Affirmative action hiring policies exist to make current discriminatory hiring policies that favor white guys slightly more fair, equitable and ethical for candidates who are more meritorious but have lost out to undeserving white guys.
This CERC thing that FSP pointed to is totally past-tense, right?
Go read her post, especially those of you who frame this nonsense the way Bob O'Hara does in your own mind.

19 responses so far

Spousal Hiring is Unethical? Puhleeze.

May 20 2010 Published by under Ethics, Tribe of Science

I recently read over a bit in the Chronicle of Higher Ed that seemed to me to be a very thoughtful take on the practices of spousal hires in academia.
The author, David Bell, was a dean at Johns Hopkins University at one point and had gained some experiences of the advantages and disadvantages of policies which resulted in the hiring of the spouse of an academic that was the target of the primary recruitment.
Most of the issues are familiar to my readers. Academics who are married to another academic professional face special challenges on the job hunt. Our employment often requires a move to a geographically distant location. Frequently the hiring University or college is the only academic jobsite within reasonable commuting distance. Dual-academic-career couples are highly motivated to find two jobs at the same place.
Universities and colleges have long recognized this and have instantiated various ad hoc solutions. The goal, of course, is to be able to land their primary recruit who just happens to be part of a dual career couple. The recruitment cost to the University, in addition to the salary, labspace and other demands of the primary recruit, includes opening up another academic job, tenure track or otherwise. Big deal.
Personally I think this is a great solution to the modern reality of academic folks married to others in the business. [Discl: I'm in one such partnership]
But hoo-boy. The comments after that bit in the Chronicle just went nuts.

Love the idea that you can give my job away because I don't have a spouse/partner you want. Isn't it terrific that the profession hires, according to David Bell's article here, more than a third--a third!--of its faculty because of whom they sleep with. Damn this is a prescription for the meritocratic society I had been told I was being raised in.

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90 responses so far

Eight retractions...so far.

May 19 2010 Published by under Ethics, Scientific Misconduct

I first saw the story break in a retraction notice published in PNAS.

The authors wish to note the following: "After a re-examination of key findings underlying the reported conclusions that B7-DCXAb is an immune modulatory reagent, we no longer believe this is the case. Using blinded protocols we re-examined experiments purported to demonstrate the activation of dendritic cells, activation of cytotoxic T cells, induction of tumor immunity, modulation of allergic responses, breaking tolerance in the RIP-OVA diabetes model, and the reprogramming of Th2 and T regulatory cells. Some of these repeated studies were direct attempts to reproduce key findings in the manuscript cited above. In no case did these repeat studies reveal any evidence that the B7-DCXAb reagent had the previously reported activity. In the course of this re-examination, we were able to study all the antibodies used in the various phases of our work spanning the last 10 years. None of these antibodies appears to be active in any of our repeat assays. We do not believe something has happened recently to the reagent changing its potency. Therefore, the authors seek to retract this work."

Although curious as to who was the bad apple, given that all authors signed the PNAS retraction, I have to admit that "10 years" thing really got my attention. I have been waiting for the other shoe to drop...turns out it was a closet full of shoes.

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28 responses so far

A Scientific Misconduct Oddity

May 10 2010 Published by under Conduct of Science, Ethics, Scientific Misconduct

A recent notice (NOT-OD-10-095) of scientific misconduct from ORI has a curious twist I've not seen before.

Scott J. Brodie, DVM, Ph.D., University of Washington: Based on the findings in an investigation report by the University of Washington (UW) and additional analysis conducted by ORI in its oversight review,
ORI found that Scott J. Brodie, DVM, Ph.D., former Research Assistant Professor, Department of Laboratory Medicine, and Director of the UW Retrovirology Pathogenesis Laboratory, UW, committed misconduct in science (scientific misconduct) in research supported by or reported in the following U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) grant applications:
1 P01 HD40540-01 (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development [NICHD], National Institutes of Health [NIH])
5 P01 HD40540-02 (NICHD, NIH)
1 P01 AI057005-01 (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases [NIAID], NIH)
1 R01 DE014149-01 (National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research [NIDCR], NIH)
2 U01 AI41535-05 (NIAID, NIH)
1 R01 HL072631-01 (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute [NHLBI], NIH)
1 R01 (U01) AI054334-01 (NIAID, NIH)
1 R01 DE014827-01 (NIDCR, NIH)
1 R01 AI051954-01 (NIAID, NIH).
Specifically, ORI made fifteen findings of misconduct in science based on evidence that Dr. Brodie knowingly and intentionally fabricated and falsified data reported in nine PHS grant applications and progress reports and several published papers, manuscripts, and PowerPoint presentations. The fifteen findings are as follows:
1. Respondent knowingly and intentionally falsified a figure that was presented in manuscripts submitted to the Journal of Experimental Medicine and the Journal of Virology and in several PowerPoint presentations that purported to represent rectal mucosal leukocytes in some instances and lymph nodes in other instances.
2. Respondent knowingly and intentionally falsified portions of a three-paneled figure included in several manuscript submissions, PowerPoint presentations, and grant applications.
3. Respondent knowingly and intentionally falsified a figure included as Figure 1N in American Journal of Pathology 54:1453-1464, 1999, three NIH grant applications, and several PowerPoint presentations.

PowerPoint presentations?
What the hell are those doing in there?
Don't get me wrong, data faking is data faking. I'm not down with that at all. But given the length of the accusation findings in the Notice (there were 15 total listed) throwing in the extra bit about PowerPoint presentations is odd.
What's next?
"Respondent knowingly and intentionally falsified a figure included in several manuscript submissions, grant applications, PowerPoint presentations, and described in email exchanges with collaborators, conversations in the hallway at meetings and private conversations with his graduate students"

12 responses so far

Sneaking orphan data into a review article

I find that it is not uncommon for me to run across a paper that is nominally a "review" article but yet contains data that have not been published anywhere else.
Have you ever seen such a thing? How common is it in your reading?
The next question is how you view the ethics of such a practice.
Ethics?
Well, the first issue is whether the data have been truly peer reviewed; because you may assume it is the intent of the authors that the data be cited. As if they were peer reviewed data like any other.

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33 responses so far

Roosters and Lab Rats

Jan 27 2010 Published by under Animals in Research, Ethics

A recent post over at Casaubon's Book discusses the plight of the male farm animal and, in particular, the humble rooster.

What do I mean by "the problem of husbandry?" What I mean is that generally speaking, in the rearing of domesticated animals, one gender of the animals is more valuable than the other. Often, but not always, females are preferred, because they lay the eggs, give the milk, and can reproduce themselves perfectly well with only a very tiny number of male participants.

Now true, we have a highly similar problem in genetic research which involves breeding laboratory vertebrates (most typically mice) for a desired genotype. Frequently enough some fraction of the bred animals never make it into the papers. A desire to match group sizes means that in the simple Mendellian situation, you have twice as many heterozygous as homozygous offspring. A poorly-surviving genotype may further complicate the picture. As does the array of current multi-gene breeding techniques designed to target a controllable gene expression system to a specific tissue.
Nevertheless I wanted to address the broader points made by Sharon Astyk because they are critical for the well-intentioned, non-extremist person who only leans in the direction of Animal Rights wackaloonery.

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43 responses so far

I'll take "Sports Doping Analogies" for $300, Alex

Jan 13 2010 Published by under Doping, Ethics, Hockey, Tribe of Science

roids_mcgwire.jpg
Just milk? source
This week's sports doping kerfuffle relates to the recent confession of retired Major League Baseball player Mark McGwire that he indeed used performance-enhancing drugs during his career. This confession, from what can be deduced (one of many professional opinionating comments here), was sparked only by McGwire's desire to become a hitting coach for the St Louis Cardinal team and MLB head Bud Selig's insistence that he come clean first. McGwire had previously refused to confess to his performance-enhancing drug use at a Congressional inquiry which had a lot of positive-role-model impact upside but zero financial upside. (In case you were wanting to evaluate McGwire's motivational claims at present or anything, you know.)
This is by no means news to anyone with half a brain who followed the duel between McGwire and Sammy Sosa to raise the single-season home-run hitting record in 1998. So that part is not particularly interesting or instructive, although our good blog friends the BM and Anonymoustache have opined anyway (noted Yankees fan Comrade PhysioProf has been uncharacteristically silent on the issue). AM was in particularly fine form:

Here's the 'roid confession I'd like to hear one of these days:
Yeah, I did steroids and HGH. I'm not proud of it, but I did it.
And it pisses me off that all of you people are getting all freaking high and mighty over me because of this. The hell with you all. The writers knew something was going on. The managers knew something was going on. The owners knew something was going on. The fans knew something was going on. What....a record stands for 40 years without anyone getting close to it and suddenly it gets broken 5 times in 3 years, and you all seriously thought it was because of better [redacted] Ovaltine?

I'd like to hear that type of confession for a scientific paper retraction one of these days, wouldn't you?

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33 responses so far

How To Read A Retraction Fuckjillion

Oct 14 2009 Published by under Ethics, Science Publication, Scientific Misconduct

From the most recent issue of Current Biology:

Fletcher and Rorth have recently discovered that the phenotypes reported in this paper were due to loss of function of both stathmin and the adjacent gene arc-p20, encoding an Arp2/3 component. The mistake was due to use of an incorrect arc-p20 rescue construct as well as mistakes in the subsequent fly crosses. The true stathmin loss-of-function phenotype is quite mild. The authors have confirmed this new result by generating a clean stathmin knockout through homologous recombination. Because the authors cannot cleanly attribute the originally observed effects to Stathmin, they therefore retract the paper. The authors are very sorry for this mistake and apologize for any inconvenience it might have caused.

The retracted paper is here.
Honest mistake?

7 responses so far

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