Archive for the 'academic fraud' Category

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Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Thanks to Alex Chernavsky.

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Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014
  • A very common knee surgery ($14 billion per year spent on it in America) turns out to be no better than sham surgery in many cases. Plainly this supports critics of medicine who say there is overtreatment. To be fair there is good news: 1. At least this particular operation wasn’t contraindicated by high school biology.  2. The study was done and published. 3. And publicized widely enough to influence practice.
  • Heart guidelines based on fake research probably killed tens of thousands of people. Making useless knee surgery look good.
  • “The time you’re taking to help this girl, you could be …” A great talk by Jessica Alexander about ten years working for NGOs. Her book is Chasing Chaos: My Decade In and Out of Humanitarian Aid.
  • On EconTalk, Judith Curry, the climatologist, makes the excellent point that it is weird to call someone who believes climate questions are more complex than portrayed a “denier”. In every other use of the term, a denier is someone who avoids recognizing complexity, i.e., the opposite. On the other side of the ledger, Curry makes an elementary physics mistake when she says that as an ice cube floating in your drink melts, the water level of your drink rises. (It stays the same.)

Thanks to Allan Jackson.

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Monday, October 7th, 2013

Thanks to Aaron Blaisdell and Peter Lewis.

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Friday, September 27th, 2013
  • How little is known about tinnitus
  • Michael Lewis on Greg Smith’s book. Published months ago. “The dystopia often imagined in the world of artificial intelligence—in which computers somehow take on a life of their own and come to rule mankind—has actually happened in the world of finance. The giant Wall Street firms have taken on lives of their own, beyond human control. The people flow into and out of them but have only incidental effect on their direction and behavior.”
  • The price of admission to the Chinese Academy of Sciences. “Businessmen seeking ministry contracts learned of Zhang’s nomination and offered to help. . . . Zhang, using a slush fund provided by the businessmen, cloistered 30 experts from mostly ministry-affiliated universities and research institutes in a hotel for 2 months, during which time they churned out three books on high-speed rail technology that were credited to Zhang.”
  • Why was Matthew Shepard killed? I have not yet read this book (I will) but it sounds so good I am happy to publicize it before that. It is being ignored. It supports a theme of Ron Unz and this blog, that lots of what we are told is wrong.
  • Someone leaving graduate school at École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne explains why he is leaving only a few months before finishing his Ph.d. His complaints about professional (academic) science resemble mine — for example, the dominant role of will this help my career? in all decisions.

Thanks to Joyce Cohen and Allan Jackson.

Dutch University Fires Unnamed Researcher

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

If you google “Ranjit Chandra” (a famous Canadian nutrition researcher), the second result is this page, created by me, which lists many articles about a scandal that Saul Sternberg and I did a lot to to uncover. We pointed out that several details of one of Chandra’s papers were impossible. I did not create the page to harm Chandra, but it does: For the rest of his life, anyone curious about him will find out about the scandal. It is a scarlet letter with capital S and capital L.

I suspect this is why Leiden University recently fired a scientist without naming him/her.

Leiden University Medical Centre (LUMC) has fired an employee who has committed fraud in the collection of research data. An internal inquiry showed that the employee deliberately manipulated laboratory research. The employee has confessed and accepted the dismissal. Additionally, the LUMC withdraws two scientific publications by this employee. The fraud was discovered by immediate colleagues at the Rheumatology Department.

A deal was struck. The employee won’t contest the firing, the medical center won’t name the employee in the press release. The employee didn’t want the scandal to follow him/her for the rest of their life.

I disagree with this deal. As a result of the employee’s fabrication, a clinical trial was started in which sick people ingested or had injected a powerful drug. The university claims no one was hurt (“It is clear that at no time a dangerous situation has arisen for patients”). I have no idea if anyone was hurt, but the potential for damage was great. Last night a friend told me about a Traditional Chinese Medicine drug that a friend of hers took. It worked for years and then one day stopped working. It came from China. It turned out the Chinese manufacturer had run out of the crucial ingredient and had substituted an animal tranquilizer. Her friend was really damaged by this. Chandra’s data might have caused people to take too many vitamins.

The medical center employees who handled this case (presumably very high up in medical center administration) treated the rest of us — who deserve to be warned about the fabricator — not so differently than the fabricator did: as people who don’t matter. Who don’t deserve protection.

More A comment at Retraction Watch says the anonymity is Dutch tradition: “The names of the people are not published so that these people have a chance of rebuilding their lives in the future. In the Netherlands even people who have committed serious crimes do not have their full name or photo published in the press.”

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Friday, August 2nd, 2013

Thanks to Alex Chernavsky and dearime.

 

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Friday, July 26th, 2013

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Saturday, March 23rd, 2013

Thanks to Nandalal and Bryan Castañeda.

Why Alicia Juarrero Got Mad at Terry Deacon

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

In response to allegations that Terry Deacon, a Berkeley professor, plagiarized from Alicia Juarrero, a professor at a community college, UC Berkeley created a website that (among other things) tried to smear Michael Lissack, one of the accusers. Less obvious is that the committee that investigated the allegations ignored their core: The overlap with Juarrero is relentless. It goes on and on. Juarrero explained this to me when I asked her what she thought of the committee report:

I’m disappointed, but not surprised. Not sure what the difference is between “reckless” (which their definition of plagiarism includes) and “negligent” (which they critiqued as a “novel interpretation” of plagiarism). I’ll tell you how my cri de coeur spreadsheet came about: as I read Deacon [Incomplete Nature] I got angrier and angrier, so I decided to start the spreadsheet. The index in my own book [Dynamics in Action] is very bad (my fault, my inexperience) and so I was having a hard time finding the parallel material in my own work. I knew I had said something to that effect somewhere in the book but couldn’t remember where and couldn’t find the entry in my own index. But suddenly, a pattern emerged: All I had to do was read on a few pages or paragraphs further down from the previous “problem,” and there would be the next item. This happened over and over again in huge chunks of the work (which I highlighted to point out the big chunks of seriatim similarities) — it’s the seriatimness (!) that’s so damning and to me, clear evidence this wasn’t just someone who vaguely remembered what I had said in a talk and then reconstructed the ideas for himself. The sheer number and sequential nature of the similarities are just too improbable to be a coincidence, or two people working in the same field. He was quite clever about it. He hid it with neologisms, talking about whole-part instead of top-down causality, insisting that self-organization is not enough (and then turning around in advocating it), etc. And, of course, not discussing intentional action, which is the explicit subject of my book. (more…)

New Terry Deacon Website

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

Terry Deacon is a professor of anthropology at UC Berkeley. I have blogged about the accusation of plagiarism  (using Alicia Juarrero’s ideas without citing her) against him. In addition to the website accusing him of plagiarism, there is now a website at berkeley.edu (UC Berkeley) meant to restore his reputation. It contains the report of a UC Berkeley committee that concluded there was not enough evidence to be sure Deacon had gotten certain ideas from Juarerro, whom he had heard talk about them. Except in one instance, they could also not conclude the opposite — that he did not get certain ideas from Juarrero. There wasn’t enough evidence to be sure of that, either.

The new website attempts to discredit Michael Lissack, one of Deacon’s accusers. Here, in its entirety, is how the website describes Lissack:

(more…)

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Saturday, January 19th, 2013

 

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Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Thanks to Patrick Vlaskovits.

The First John Maddox Prize

Sunday, January 13th, 2013

The panel that chose the winners of the first John Maddox Prize — Colin Blakemore, a British psychologist, Tracey Brown (Sense About Science), Phil Campbell (Nature), and Brenda Maddox — deserve a prize for Most Contentious Award. The Maddox Prize is supposed to be awarded to people who have excelled at:

any kind of public activity, including all forms of writing, speaking and public engagement, in any of the following areas:

  • Addressing misleading information about scientific or medical issues in any forum.
  • Bringing sound evidence to bear in a public or policy debate.
  • Helping people to make sense of a complex scientific issue.

The first winners, announced in November, were Simon Wessely, a British psychiatrist, and Fang Shi-min, a Chinese journalist. Criticism of Fang is here. Criticism of Wessely is here (in the comments) and here. One of his papers is here. Wessely is best known for promoting the use of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to treat people with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). In particular, “he and his colleagues demonstrated substantial overlap in symptoms between chronic fatigue syndrome and clinical depression. . . . He subsequently developed a treatment approach using cognitive-behavioural therapy techniques, which in many cases brought about substantial improvement.”

The puzzle is that this is considered significant. Maybe people with CFS are depressed because they have CFS? Maybe this is why CBT helps them? A statement explaining the reward does not answer this objection. As for Fang, I have no idea if he deserves the prize. I would be surprised if members of the prize committee could judge for themselves the accuracy and value of his work.

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Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

Thanks to Hal Pashler.

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Thursday, December 27th, 2012

Thanks to Casey Manion.

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Monday, December 24th, 2012
  • Unusual fermented foods, such as shio koji (fermented salt, sort of)
  • David Healy talk about problems with evidence-based medicine. Example of Simpson’s paradox in suicide rates.
  • The ten worst mistakes of DSM-5. This is miserably argued. The author has two sorts of criticisms: 1. Narrow a diagnosis (e.g., autism): People who need treatment won’t get it! 2. Widen a diagnosis (e.g., depression) or add a new one (many examples): This will cause fads and over-medication! It isn’t clear how to balance the two goals (helping people get treatment, avoiding fads and over-medication) nor why the various changes being criticized will produce more bad than good. Allen Frances, the author, was chair of the committee in charge of DSM-4. He could have written: “When we wrote DSM-4, we made several mistakes . . . . The committee behind DSM-5 has not learned from our mistakes. . . .” That would have been more convincing. That the chair of the committee behind DSM-4, in spite of feeling strongly about it, cannot persuasively criticize DSM-5 speaks volumes.
  • The Lying Dutchman. “Very few social psychologists make stuff up, but he was working in a discipline where cavalier use of data was common. This is perhaps the main finding of the three Dutch academic committees which investigated his fraud. The committees found many bad practices: researchers who keep rerunning an experiment until they get the right result, who omit inconvenient data, misunderstand statistics, don’t share their data, and so on.”

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Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

Thanks to Dave Lull and Alex Chernavsky.

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Thursday, November 29th, 2012
  • Experiments suggest flu shots reduce heart attacks and death. Huge reduction: 50%. The new report (a conference talk, not a paper) is a reanalysis of four earlier experiments. I was surprised to learn that the CDC uses heart attack outbreaks to locate flu outbreaks, implying that the new finding is not a fluke — there really is a strong connection. I already knew heart attacks are more common in the winter, which also supports a connection with flu.
  • Une histoire des haines d’écrivains by Boquel Anne and Kern Etienne. Published 2009. About literary feuds. One of my students was reading a Chinese translation.
  • Correspondences between sounds and tastes.
  • Report on fraudulent Dutch research. “The 108-page report says colleagues who worked with Stapel had not been sufficiently critical. This was not deliberate fraud but ‘academic carelessness’, the report said.” I doubt it. Based on my experience with Chandra, I believe Stapel’s colleagues had doubts but did nothing from some combination of careerism (doing something would have cost too much, for example  a lot of time, and gained them nothing), ignorance (not their field), and decency (they saw no great value in ruining someone).  I wonder if the report considered these other possible explanations (careerism, ignorance, decency).

Thanks to Tim Beneke.

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Sunday, November 4th, 2012

Thanks to Dave Lull.

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Monday, October 22nd, 2012
  • You can major in Fermentation Science. No joke. When I was eight, I learned the concept of college major. I asked my mom, “What did you major in?” “Extracurricular activities,” she said. I failed to get the joke. She later explained she had spent more time working on the school paper than on her classes.
  • In a famous paper, the statistician Ronald Fisher accused Mendel of faking his data. Fisher wrote: “the data of most, if not all, of the experiments have been falsified so as to agree closely with Mendel’s expectations.” This is not terribly consistent with the fact that Mendel’s highly improbable conclusions were correct. It’s as if Fisher had said “Person X used false info to claim he is worth $10 billion” and (b) in fact Person X is worth $10 billion. You can see that (a) and (b) may both be literally correct but that the term “false info” (Fisher’s “falsified”) probably conveys the wrong impression. This paper (“A Statistical Model to Explain the Mendel–Fisher Controversy”) has a more plausible explanation of the pattern in the data that Fisher noticed.
  • Conflict of interest in the Nobel Prize in Literature. The conflicts of interest underlying the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine — which are given out for “pure” science, thus  justifying more funding — remain unnoticed by journalists.

Thanks to Bryan Castañeda.