Thursday, June 18, 2015

As to "promote the progress," note issues in scientific journals--Misconduct and poor laboratory practice in science threatens the scientific progress

In a post in The Scientist titled Widespread Data Duplication, Kerry Grens discusses work by
Morten P. Oksvold in the June 2015 issue of Science and Engineering Ethics :

Oksvold had collected 40 papers continuously as they were published in the three journals—reportedly, Cancer Cell, International Journal of Oncology, and Oncogene—beginning in late 2013. All suspicions of duplication were sent to a second scientist for confirmation, he noted.

This February, Oksvold posted his observations to the post-publication peer review site PubPeer, and two authors responded over the course of a month. Both explained that the mistakes were honest errors.

Oksvold pointed out in his paper that it’s impossible to tell from his analysis whether any of the duplications were due to accidental slip-ups, sloppiness, or intentional misconduct. Some commenters on PubPeer also stated that some duplications could be appropriate. “It is absolutely OK to show the same data on a different page in a larger context, for readability reasons or simply to make a related argument,” wrote one anonymous poster. Yet, without replies from authors or editors, the cases go unresolved.

“There is an obvious need for reforms in the peer reviewing and erratum/retraction system,” Oksvold wrote in his paper. “If no action is taken it seems clear that over time, the public confidence in science and research could entirely erode away.”

The abstract of the Oksvold paper states:

Since the solution to many public health problems depends on research, it is critical for the progress and well-being for the patients that we can trust the scientific literature. Misconduct and poor laboratory practice in science threatens the scientific progress, leads to loss of productivity and increased healthcare costs, and endangers lives of patients. Data duplication may represent one of challenges related to these problems. In order to estimate the frequency of data duplication in life science literature, a systematic screen through 120 original scientific articles published in three different cancer related journals [journal impact factor (IF) <5, 5–10 and >20] was completed. The study revealed a surprisingly high proportion of articles containing data duplication. For the IF < 5 and IF > 20 journals, 25 % of the articles were found to contain data duplications. The IF 5–10 journal showed a comparable proportion (22.5 %). The proportion of articles containing duplicated data was comparable between the three journals and no significant correlation to journal IF was found. The editorial offices representing the journals included in this study and the individual authors of the detected articles were contacted to clarify the individual cases. The editorial offices did not reply and only 1 out of 29 cases were apparently clarified by the authors, although no supporting data was supplied. This study questions the reliability of life science literature, it illustrates that data duplications are widespread and independent of journal impact factor and call for a reform of the current peer review and retraction process of scientific publishing.

LBE served on the "Ethics Task Force" of the American Chemical Society from 2000-2002. At the time, there was no procedure for third party correction of mistakes that appeared in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
LBE was victimized by this procedural failing, by a paper published in JACS, which made a false statement about LBE's work on (poly(carbon monofluoride)), also published in JACS. Of patent relevance was an inaccurate paper in JACS which played a significant role in the litigation of SKB's US '639 on nabumetone (Relafen).


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