Can we solve research misconduct?

Just the other day I was reading a Nature opinion piece on deliberate research misconduct: how it affects the reproducibility science, and what we can do about it. The authors proposed a number of solutions, but most of them focused on punishing the perpetrators. Punishments should be more severe, they argued, the PIs should be held accountable for their trainees’ misconduct, and institutions should be forced to give back money gained by research dishonesty. I’m not sure I agree with this solution. Continue reading

Should open access be paid for by funding agencies?

Lenny Teytelman came out with a blog post arguing that closed-access scientific publishing is anti-science based on the premise that closed-access publishers refused to share protocols published in their journals with his open access (but for profit) protocol website protocols.io.

I don’t think we can call either publishing model anti-science – publishers have to make ends meet (or make a profit) and they accomplish it in several different ways. Continue reading

Psychopathy as adaptive strategy

Psychopaths are among us. No doubt about it. I’ve recently left a comment to that effect on @BioMickWatson’s blog which then lead a quick discussion on Twitter. Then a few days ago a friend of mine described her (luckily former) abusive boss who showed clear symptoms of the dark triad personality: psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism. So I started wondering why a species (Homo sapiens) would maintain traits that seemingly decrease its overall fitness by sabotaging cooperativity and causing massive psychological stress. Continue reading

What’s the cost of research misconduct? Not very high, it appears.

There’s a recent paper in eLife on how much retracted papers cost the funding agencies and, by extension, us – the taxpayers. The focus is on the NIH, but I would not be surprised if it applied equally well to other agencies. The authors estimate that data falsification is likely not a huge problem and no more than about 1-2% of total NIH funds (and probably less) is funneled towards efforts that later result in data falsification and, in rarer cases, in paper retractions. Their estimates, however, are based on self-reported rates of data falsification from surveys, which are probably heavily biased.

The authors also acknowledge a bigger problem – the costs of data falsification are not limited to the laboratory where the bogus paper was written. There are many labs that waste tons of resources on trying to reproduce the falsified findings. I, for one, have on more than one occasion unsuccessfully tried to follow up on a paper published in a very respectable journal. On other occasions I have found such glaring flaws in the paper that it made me wonder how the paper ever got through peer review. Needless to say, I have not seen those papers retracted.