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Archive for February, 2013


An article in the Times Higher Education indicates that research misconduct in the UK will attract sanctions to both the investigator and to institutions, should the latter engage in any form of cover up or not investigate claims of misconduct properly. This follows criticism by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee regarding the complete absence of any action on research misconduct (I prefer the word “fraud”, it is basic Anglo Saxon and is in my mind the perfect descriptor) by government funding agencies. That is, there has never been in the UK any action by a funding agency following proven claims of misconduct.
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Around two weeks ago, Retraction Watch suffered a false Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice for their posts on Anil Potti retractions. As I pointed out in an earlier post, the DMCA was somewhat surreal. The DMCA has now been rescinded, because it was entirely false. The catalogue of Anil Potti retractions is once again open to all and whoever made the original false DMCA has only increased, rather than reduce awareness of Anil Potti’s retractions.
A lesson here, I think: attempts at censorship in science should be met with increased discussions, comments and postings, to prevent issues being buried or lost.
Hats off to Automattic for dealing with the DMCA smartly in all senses of the word: they only took down the relevant posts, rather than taking down the entire Retraction Watch blog and they worked fast to get the false DMCA rescinded.

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The last sentence of an excellent article in Chemistry World entitled “Safeguarding science against falsehood demands debate” by my colleague Mathias Brust is “What are we afraid of”. Indeed.

Mathias poses this question after highlighting the virtual absence of debate following publication. Science publication has changed in this respect over the past decades. With the notable exception of Gordon Research Conferences, there is also virtually no discussion at many meetings and certainly challenge is unusual, though thankfully my proteoglycan and FGF colleagues are more energetic in this respect than many.

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This post is a summary of the responses I have received from journals after they were provided with the evidence for five cases of the re-use of data (self-plagiarism) in seven of Francesco Stellacci’s papers on “stripy nanoparticles”. First, it is important to establish what are the rules of the game.
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Retraction Watch has been subject to a legal attack, which has removed from public view all posts on the retractions of publications by Anil Potti. The legal move is surreal, since it is in essence a claim that the text of the posts is in breach of copyright… …of a web site that only existed after most of the posts appeared on Retraction Watch. Fans of Douglas Adams will remember this particular legal move well, an editor sending a copy of the Hitch Hikers Guide back in time to allow the originators of text plagiarised in the guide to be sued for break of copyright. This points to someone trying to remove the fact of these retractions from the visible public record. I certainly hope that Retraction Watch’s counter move succeeds.
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