Ethics

All aspects of doing research with integrity and honesty are being discussed in this section

When negative data fails patients by publication omission

Half of all clinical trials never see the light of day. There are regulations in Europe and the US; they are often ignored. But public pressure has begun to push the pharmaceutical industries to make trial data available. However, in a world where industry, clinicians and medical publishers are complicit in not having clinical trials published in full, it may be necessary to give ownership of clinical data back to patients to gain greater transparency and accountability. Read more [...]

Death in academia and the mis-measurement of science

Working in academia is not what it used to be. At least, when it comes to evaluation of work performance. Heightened and underhand pressure on academic performance, has led to the tragic death, last year, of an eminent professor from Imperial College, London, UK. Other academics across Europe have suffered the same fate, albeit these have only been documented anecdotally and did not receive the broader coverage English speaking publications affords. This raises questions concerning the pressures academics come under from academic institutions. These are run like businesses and are looking for unrealistic benchmarks, when it comes to research evaluation. Read more [...]

Forget citations for unbiased research evaluation

To what extent the success of scientific articles is due to social influence? A recent study analyses a data set of over 100,000 publications authored by more than 160,000 authors in the field of computer science. The authors provide the first large-scale study of the relation between the notion of centrality of authors in the co-authorship network and the future success of their publications. This leads the authors, who specialise in data driven modelling of complex systems at the Chair of Systems Design at ETH Zurich, in Switzerland, to predict with high precision whether an article will be highly cited five years after publication. Such insight into the social dimension of scientific publishing challenges the perception of citations being an objective, socially unbiased measure of scientific success. Read more [...]

Readers’ comments on special ethics issue

Comments from our readers on the special issue on ethics, culture and values driving research are summarised in this post. We would like to encourage our readers to submit their comments directly at the end of each individual article. This issue is designed to stimulate discussions among our readers. We value your opinion and we believe that it is worth sharing it with others, so that we establish a forum for the European science community, stimulated by the community. Read more [...]

Special Issue: Ethics – Print Edition

This post is designed to allow our readers to convert the full issue into a single PDF file, that can be read offline or in print. We are introducing such printer and tablet-ready version of the EuroScientist to respond to the expectations of our readers, who have expressed the need to access the magazine when they are not connected to the internet, so that they can read it at their leisure, while travelling for example. As a participatory magazine, we encourage you, our readers, to provide further feedback so that we can make the magazine more accessible and relevant to you. Read more [...]

Gaming the system: who is responsible?

Blaming increase in fraud and unethical behaviour observed in science on a lack of rigour among the emerging ranks of PhDs may appear blatantly reductionist and reactionary. In fact, some might argue that we have been looking and detecting misconduct more systematically than ever before. At the same time, there is a growing movement to raise awareness of scientists’ responsibilities and better equip them to face the pressures to publish more and seek extra funding. Yet, scientists do not exist in a vacuum. They are the product of an educational and research system with values that heavily influences their choices. Read more [...]

From fraudsters to fudgers: research integrity is on trial

Bad behaviour is omnipresent in science. It encompasses everything from outright scientific fraud, such as falsifying data, to other misconducts like cherry-picking data, favourable-looking images and graphs, and drawing conclusions that are not backed up by the actual facts. Overall, it matters more serious than keeping a sloppy lab notebook that no-one else can follow. This raises the deeper question: what drives scientists to behave in such a way? Read more [...]

Publish or perish: an incitement to fraudulence

More than 120 papers have been withdrawn from subscription databases of two high-profile publishers, IEEE and Springer, because they were computer generated thanks to the SCIgen software designed to generate random computer science research papers. The trouble is that they had no meaning at all. All of them were labelled as peer reviewed and all of them were published in proceedings of actual conferences. Read more [...]

Is the culture of research encouraging good science?

A quick look at the back catalogue of the EuroScientist provides an illustration of the wide range of issues that affect the working lives of scientists today. Previous articles have covered research evaluation, the open access movement, career structures and responsible innovation, among many others. These issues are often dealt with individually—and rightly so given their complexity. But considered as a whole, they help to make up a culture. And scientists must work within this culture to do what they set out to do: usually, to produce high quality, ethical research that is of benefit to society. Read more [...]

Does media coverage of research misconduct affect public confidence in science?

The SOM Institute at the University of Gothenburg conducts annual surveys of the Swedish public. It explores, among other things, media consumption, confidence in societal institutions and different professional groups. Since 2002, an independent and influential Swedish non-profit membership organisation that works to promote dialogue and openness between researchers and the public called Vetenskap & Allmänhet—which stands for Public and Science—has added a section to the SOM survey to study public confidence in science and scientists. The results of a study, which examines the hypothesis that media reports of research misconduct will have an impact on public confidence in science and scientists, are about to be uncovered at the ESOF 2014 conference, in June, in Copenhagen, Denmark. Read more [...]

Shrinking humans: an artist’s perspective on the sustainability challenge

The Incredible Shrinking Man is a speculative project that investigates the implications of downsizing the human species to better address the demands on the Earth. It has been a long established trend for people to grow taller. As a direct result we need more resources, more food, more energy and more space. At the dawn of agriculture about 10,000 years ago, an estimated 5 million people lived on Earth. Read more [...]

The abuse of Science

In the past few years, several scientists he have become a lightning-rod for the environmental and the anti-big business movements, while ignoring any scientific shortcomings others might highlight in their studies. Indeed, their popularity has grown outside scientific circles to the point that they are now paraded almost as scientific proof that science itself is wrong. Increasingly, there are more and more European instances where ideology triumphs over scientific rationale. Enters the new post-modern Sociology of Science, which soothingly offers cultural reasons for why some scientific proposals and conclusions are unacceptable to citizens. Read more [...]