All posts by Paul Basken

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Major Fraud Plea Has University Scientists Regretting Journal Article

Just days after federal prosecutors concluded one of the nation’s largest fraud settlements involving a single drug, at least some university researchers are retreating from a medical-journal article that helped sell the medicine to children.

Denis Daneman, a professor and chair of pediatrics at the University of Toronto, said he had asked the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, which published the 2003 article evaluating the schizophrenia medication Risperdal, to remove his name from it.

And one of…

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Critics Say Sting on Open-Access Journals Misses Larger Point

Perhaps months from now, when the dust settles and academics really look back at it, they’ll find some hard lessons in the elaborate Science magazine exposé this week by the journalist John Bohannon.

After more than a year of work, in which Mr. Bohannon, who has a Ph.D. in biology, crafted a fraudulent cancer-research article and painstakingly tracked the responses to it from more than 300 journals, he gave his industry the embarrassing news that 157 of them had agreed to publish it.

“The data…

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As Brain Research Expands, It May Not Need Major Ethical Overhaul

Not long after he proposed giving researchers $100-million to improve fundamental understandings of brain function, President Obama was worried.

How, Mr. Obama asked his bioethics commission last month, might improved technologies for reading the brain affect society in areas that include personal privacy, moral and legal accountability, stigmatization, discrimination, and measures of intelligence?

On Tuesday the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues began tackling that ques…

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As Sharing of Clinical-Trial Data Gains Acceptance, Methods Get Scrutiny

In the quest to improve the scientific transparency of human medical trials, the first hurdle is getting researchers and companies to agree that they really want to do a better job of sharing with one another.

In that regard, after years of pressure from patients and their advocates, there are indications lately that attitudes may be slowly improving.

The next challenge is figuring out how best to share. And that could be just as daunting. Three articles published on Wednesday in The New England…

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Lab Equipment Made With 3-D Printers Could Cut Costs by 97%

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A commercial vendor would sell this parametric automated filter wheel changer for $2,500. But a 3-D printer could fabricate one for less than $100, says Joshua M. Pearce, a researcher at Michigan Tech and co-author of a new study of the technology. (Photo from PLOS One.)

Three-dimensional printers are one of society’s latest technological miracles to provoke both wide-eyed hopes and dark fears.

Somewhere in the middle, between ending low-wage labor and secretly arming felons, lies a host of prac…

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How Rude! Reader Comments May Undermine Scientists’ Authority

Boston — Scientists have a hard enough time getting people to understand what they’re talking about.

Their thoughts can be complicated. Their sentences can be laden with jargon. And their conclusions can offend political or religious sensibilities.

And now, to make things worse, readers have an immediate forum to talk back. And when some readers post uncivil comments at the bottom of online articles, that alone can raise doubts about the underlying science, a new study has found. Or at least rei…

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Flu Vaccine Gets a Passing Grade, Barely

The federal government reported on Friday that this year’s influenza vaccine appears to be cutting the risk of getting sick by about 62 percent.

That rate is about on par with vaccine-effectiveness rates in recent years, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a weekly report describing epidemic levels of flu across the entire country.

The vaccine may not be perfect, but overall numbers show that it is working, the CDC and other experts said.

“It’s not a great vaccine in …

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Top-Ranked Journals Are Losing Their Share of Top-Cited Articles

In one of Dr. Seuss’s better-known tales of jealousy and prejudice, the Sneetches with stars on their bellies are considered superior to those without.

Now there’s more evidence that journals’ impact factors are similarly misleading.

A study published by three Canadian researchers has identified a two-decade-long trend in which the world’s top-ranked scientific journals are slowly losing their share of the most-cited articles.

The study, published in the November issue of the Journal of the Amer…

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Misconduct, Not Error, Found Behind Most Journal Retractions

Research misconduct, rather than error, is the leading cause of retractions in scientific journals, with the problem especially pronounced in more prestigious publications, a comprehensive analysis has concluded.

The analysis, described on Monday in PNAS, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, challenges previous findings that attributed most retractions to mistakes or inadvertent failures in equipment or supplies.

The PNAS finding came from a comprehensive review of more than 2,00…

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Scientists Offer New Formula to Predict Career Success

First there was the “impact factor.” Then came the “h-index.” Now, for those who believe that scientific prowess can be measured by statistical metrics, comes the Acuna-Allesina-Kording formula.

The formula, outlined on Wednesday in the journal Nature, is intended to improve upon the h-index—a tally of a researcher’s publications and citations—by adding a few more numerical measures of a scientist’s publishing history to allow for predictions of future success.

The idea, said the paper’s senio…