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Liz Wager

Liz Wager: Research integrity—how can institutions balance discipline and support?

11 Aug, 14 | by BMJ

lizwagerThe suicide of Yoshiki Sasai is both tragic and shocking. Sasai was deputy director of the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology, and a co-author of reports in Nature on the phenomenon of “stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency” (or STAP), which were retracted. Although Sasai was not accused of misconduct himself, he was criticised in an institutional investigation for failing to check the data produced by his more junior colleague, Haruko Obokata. more…

Liz Wager: The wrong sort of equality

11 Jul, 14 | by BMJ

lizwagerA few years ago, I mused on Frank Wells’ observation that he’d never come across a female research fraudster. But now the RIKEN Institute in Japan has found Haruko Obokata guilty of misconduct for manipulating stem cell images, and this isn’t an isolated case.

A quick look at the US Office of Research Integrity’s (ORI) website shows that two out of the three most recent misconduct findings are against women. Helen Freeman, of Harvard Medical School, is accused of falsifying figures in a Nature article about gene regulation in neurodegenerative diseases. While Melanie Cokonis, a laboratory technician at the Southern Research Institute, falsified data in a National Institutes of Health report on antiviral compounds. more…

Liz Wager: Why aren’t researchers told about reporting guidelines?

12 Jun, 14 | by BMJ

lizwagerI recently gave a talk about guidelines to a group of postgraduate students at a well known, well resourced, and ancient university. The purpose of my talk was to explain the guidelines governing professional medical writers, as this was a careers day for biomedical researchers, who were considering a move into the world of medical communications.

To get some interaction, I started by asking the audience how many of them had already published their research in a peer reviewed journal. All hands went up—these were mainly postdocs, not people just embarking on a PhD. My next question was: “Did you consult any reporting guidelines?” This generated blank looks, so I rephrased it and asked: “Have any of you heard of any reporting guidelines?” One brave soul said something that was an only slightly garbled version of CONSORT, and somebody else had heard of ICMJE (not exactly reporting guidelines, but close enough). So I told them about CONSORT, STROBE, PRISMA, and the EQUATOR Network. more…

Liz Wager: Show us the data (part 2)

12 Aug, 13 | by BMJ Group

Liz Wager My last blog started with the observation that it’s impossible to investigate research fraud unless you have the raw data. While that may seem obvious, it leads logically onto another, subtly different, point which often seems to be missed: that it’s impossible to spot many types of research fraud unless you have seen the raw data. Some problems, such as plagiarism, or blatant image manipulation, can be picked up by keen-eyed reviewers or editors, especially if they use screening tools such as CrossCheck. But fabricated or falsified data usually cannot be spotted from the aggregate data reported in journal articles. more…

Liz Wager: Show us the data

7 Aug, 13 | by BMJ

Liz WagerIt’s almost impossible to investigate suspected fraud unless you have access to the raw data. That may seem pretty obvious, but it raises the more interesting question of who should be responsible for looking after these data and making sure they are available, if needed.

Cases that frustrated journal editors brought to COPE (the Committee on Publication Ethics) in which authors claimed that their data had, rather conveniently, been destroyed by lab fires, floods, or catastrophic computer crashes, or more bizarrely, eaten by termites, have made me realise that this task cannot be left to researchers. And, while I’m sceptical about the disasters that sometimes appear to strike as soon as an author is confronted with suspicions, let’s not forget that disasters can occur, even to honest researchers, which makes it sensible to store data safely, even if there’s no whiff of misconduct. more…

Liz Wager: Trouble with retractions

1 Jul, 13 | by BMJ

Liz WagerRetracting unreliable publications can cause headaches for journal editors and a recent case illustrates why they can be so tricky. According to reports in the BMJ and Nature, the drug company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has requested the retraction of an article published in Nature Medicine in 2010 describing cell biology experiments funded by the company and carried out by employees. The company has stated that data were misrepresented and has fired one of the co-authors and suspended others. But the sacked author, while admitting mistakes in the figures, claims that these were honest errors which don’t affect the study’s conclusions (in which case, they would normally be handled by a correction rather than a retraction). more…

Liz Wager: What is the UK’s framework for research integrity?

4 Apr, 13 | by BMJ Group

Liz Wager An item in The Lancet last week (Godecharle et al. Lancet 2013;381:10097-8) bemoans the lack of a regulatory framework for research integrity in Europe. The confusion is neatly illustrated by a map categorising countries by how they handle misconduct. The UK falls into the second best category, along with Germany and Sweden, of countries that have a “national framework.” Only Denmark and Norway are in the top category of countries that have a framework established by law. more…

Liz Wager: Follow the rules—as soon as we’ve written them

15 Jan, 13 | by BMJ Group

Liz WagerOne of my most vivid schoolday memories is of being told off for doing something I didn’t know was forbidden. My crime was “running in the school corridors” which seemed perfectly reasonable behaviour to me (as I was late for a lesson), but which apparently was against the school rules. I can still remember my burning seven year old fury at such injustice. So I sympathise with authors who are accused by editors of breaking “rules” they didn’t know existed. more…

Liz Wager: You can call me 0000-0002-4202-7813

7 Jan, 13 | by BMJ

Liz WagerI just registered for an ORCID ID—I’m 0000-0002-4202-7813 in case you were wondering, but I still answer to Liz. I know I’ve written about ORCID before, but that was before it was launched, and I think it’s such a neat idea I’ve decided to blog about it again now it is up and running and I’ve tried it out for myself.

ORCID gives researchers a unique ID which will not only be useful to them, but also to publishers, funders, and institutions. I’m also convinced that it will make some investigations into suspected research and publication misconduct easier, because it will make it simpler to identify an individual researcher’s publications and easily distinguish them from others with similar names. more…

Liz Wager: Discussing research misconduct with Dr Hwang

17 Dec, 12 | by BMJ

Liz WagerIn a country where over half the population is called Kim, Park, or Lee, it probably shouldn’t have come as such a surprise to find myself talking about research misconduct with Dr Hwang in South Korea. Although he shares a name with a researcher notorious for fraud, this Dr Hwang is busy running courses on research integrity to make sure his namesake’s exploits don’t occur again.

Apparently, the South Korean government has put money behind several initiatives to reduce misconduct. There is a national website with links to resources including the COPE flowcharts, which have been translated into Korean. They are also working on making sure that every university has a committee or individual responsible for research ethics—I got a bit lost in the details, but I’m pretty sure these are different from the committees (or IRBs) that review research proposals, but these have also been reformed and strengthened in recent years. more…

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