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Sometime last night this blog received its 50,000th page view. I write this blog because I like to. That others find the content worth reading at times is lovely, thank you.

What has been read the most and the least? (more…)

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Last year’s resolution was: I will only referee papers from Open Access or Learned Society journals. This I more or less stuck to, except in a couple of cases where it really had to be me.

In 2015 I will follow the resolution 100%, but will add two further resolutions:
1. Papers where I am PI will only be published in Open Access journals (something I achieved in 2014)
2. All the above papers and for as many of those where I am co-author as possible will also provide Open Data. This is something started in late 2014 and which will continue in 2015.
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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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The discussions on what constitutes plagiarism continue. One side, which I belong to, believes simply that the rules we establish for our students are the same rules we should be using in our professional life. In the specific context of the publications that claim evidence for ligands self-organising into stripes on the surface of nanoparticles, I have posted on this issue previously, due to the re-use of unattributed data in five of the papers from the Stellacci lab (here).
I used the University of Liverpool rules on plagiarism and collusion as the basis of my argument, and then made the broad claim that the same rules apply across all universities. Since the papers in which data are re-used were published whilst the group were at MIT, it is of interest to look specifically at the rules at that Institution. These are described in an excellent document entitled “Academic Integrity at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: A Handbook for Students“. To quote from page 6 of this document “If you use charts, graphs, data sets, or numerical information obtained from another person or from published material, you must also cite the source.”. Of course, if one is publishing, then there is also the legal issue of copyright and formal agreement has to be obtained from the publisher for the reproduction of the original data.
This seems pretty clear cut to me and it will be of interest to see what will be the response from the relevant institutions considering this matter. It is perhaps naive, but it would seem reasonable to expect that if there is no response, then a student violating these rules could simply hire a lawyer and get their full marks. This would be a bad day for higher education.
Update 3 November 2013 the re-used figures have been the subject of corrections, see here and here.

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There was an article on “Stripy Nanoparticles” in the Times Higher (THE) by Paul Jump on Jan 10. It was followed by a series of comments. Most of the comments (a substantial number from anonymous commentators) reckon that there is no evidence for stripes on nanoparticles.
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Title lifted from a posting today on Retraction Watch.
Legal threats have closed the Science Fraud website (link on the right), which now only has a single post, stating that they are looking at figuring out a way to keep posting. I made an extensive comment at Retraction Watch, reproduced with minor changes below. My only other thought is that the comments to the effect that calling Fraud opens you up to legal threats does not really hold water here. All they did at Science Fraud was to take what was already in the public domain and make explicit what has been done to data. The rules of science are clear, what was highlighted on Science Fraud (some 300 papers in 6 months) should not be done. If it is done innocently, then featuring there is a useful reminder of what data are and a wake up call to the community. For those who are frauds, the reaction is classic: denial, fightback and then either it is all conveniently swept under the carpet or on rare occasions, there is exposure. Few, however are dealt with correctly. A recent exception is Jan Hendrick Schoen, who had his PhD rescinded.
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One point made in , a posting by Raphael on the lack of evidence for stripes on nanoparticles is the duplication of data between
Figure 2 in Chem Comm 2008, 196 and Figure 1 in Nat Mater. 2008 (7):588-95

What is most surprising is how little comment such duplication has raised.
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