How does the NAS suggest journals should foster research integrity? How should one critically evaluate a manuscript (plus more fake peer reviews)? One year of ORCID IDs, a Dear Journal letter from a biostatistician


National Academy of Sciences on how to improve research integrity

A U.S. National Academy of Sciences panel calls for formation of an independent group to address research misconduct and related issues, including [quoted from Retraction Watch, U.S. panel sounds alarm on “detrimental” research practices, calls for new body to help tackle misconduct ] “misleading statistical analysis that falls short of falsification, awarding authorship to researchers who don’t deserve it (and vice versa), not sharing data, and poorly supervising research – as ‘detrimental’ research practices.”

Fostering Integrity in Research“, from the National Academy of Sciences (free PDF download available):

The document includes 11 major recommendations; those most relevant to journal editors are pasted below (emphasis added):

“RECOMMENDATION ONE: To better align the realities of research with its values and ideals, all stakeholders in the research enterprise-researchers, research institutions, research sponsors, journals, and societies-should significantly improve and update their practices and policies to respond to the threats to research integrity identified in this report.

RECOMMENDATION FIVE: Societies and journals should develop clear disciplinary authorship standards. Standards should be based on the principle that those who have made a significant intellectual contribution are authors. Significant intellectual contributions can be made in the design or conceptualization of a study, the conduct of research, the analysis or interpretation of data, or the drafting or revising of a manuscript for intellectual content. Those who engage in these activities should be designated as authors of the reported work, and all authors should approve the final manuscript. In addition to specifying all authors, standards should (1) provide for the identification of one or more authors who assume responsibility for the entire work, (2) require disclosure of all author roles and contributions, and (3) specify that gift or honorary authorship, coercive authorship, ghost authorship, and omitting authors who have met the articulated standards are always unacceptable. Societies and journals should work expeditiously to develop such standards in disciplines that do not already have them.

RECOMMENDATION SIX: Through their policies and through the development of supporting infrastructure, research sponsors and science, engineering, technology, and medical journal and book publishers should ensure that information sufficient for a person knowledgeable about the field and its techniques to reproduce reported results is made available at the time of publication or as soon as possible after publication.

RECOMMENDATION EIGHT: To avoid unproductive duplication of research and to permit effective judgments on the statistical significance of findings, researchers should routinely disclose all statistical tests carried out, including negative findings. Research sponsors, research institutions, and journals should support and encourage this level of transparency.”



  • How to critically evaluate a manuscript

At How to critically evaluate a manuscript: 12 questions you should always ask yourself (Publons), a useful general approach to peer review, but it’s missing some important points (I’m sure you can find more–add your comments below):

-Can the study design answer the hypothesis posed? (e.g., is the hypothesis a question of causality but the study design is observational?)

-Do the conclusions follow from the results or do they exaggerate the importance and implications of the research?

-What are the funding source(s) and potential conflicts of interest of the authors?

  • Fall out from fake peer reviews continues with more than 100 retractions

A new record: Major publisher retracting more than 100 studies from cancer journal over fake peer review (Retraction Watch)



  • Results after one year of journals requiring ORCID IDs 

“Our 2015 community survey indicated that most researchers supported the idea of their organizations requiring the use of ORCID — 72% agreed or strongly agreed that these would benefit the global research community, 21% were neutral, and only 7% disagreed or strongly disagreed. Three quarters said specifically that it would be useful if their publisher mandated ORCID iDs.”

It Takes a Village: One Year of Journals Requiring ORCID IDs (Scholarly Kitchen)

  • Technical Image Editor wanted?

Journal of Biological Chemistry is hiring editors to manually screen images for potential manipulation or duplication, before publication.



“Dear Journal”, from a concerned biostatistician

“The safe-conducts given by the editorial system to articles that do not disclose exact sample sizes are shocking. Science must be based on the possibility to repeat comparable designs, which obviously encompasses the use of similar numbers of observations. Sample sizes given as intervals (e.g. “n=3- 18”), inequalities (e.g. “n>3”) or absurdly nebulous sentences (e.g. “n=4, data representative of 3 rats from 2 independent experiments”) are evident obstructions to reproducibility.

Similarly, it is perplexing to notice the proportion of publications that do not clearly reveal the statistical tests used. A clear attribution of tests must be given, including the post-hoc tests used after analysis of variance. It should not be sufficient to list all statistical procedures in the method section with no indication of which test was used in which figure or table.”

Dear journals: Clean up your act. Regards, Concerned Biostatistician (Retraction Watch)



Newsletter #7, originally circulated on April 24, 2017. Sources include Retraction Watch, Health Information for All listserve, and Open Science Initiative listserve. Providing the links does not imply WAME’s endorsement.



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