Category Archives: research ethics


Major Fraud Plea Has University Scientists Regretting Journal Article

Just days after federal prosecutors concluded one of the nation’s largest fraud settlements involving a single drug, at least some university researchers are retreating from a medical-journal article that helped sell the medicine to children.

Denis Daneman, a professor and chair of pediatrics at the University of Toronto, said he had asked the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, which published the 2003 article evaluating the schizophrenia medication Risperdal, to remove his name from it.

And one of…


As Brain Research Expands, It May Not Need Major Ethical Overhaul

Not long after he proposed giving researchers $100-million to improve fundamental understandings of brain function, President Obama was worried.

How, Mr. Obama asked his bioethics commission last month, might improved technologies for reading the brain affect society in areas that include personal privacy, moral and legal accountability, stigmatization, discrimination, and measures of intelligence?

On Tuesday the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues began tackling that ques…


The Magic Ratio That Wasn’t

Positivity-9780307393746 (1)The 2009 book Positivity: Top-Notch Research Reveals the 3 to 1 Ratio That Will Change Your Life, by Barbara Fredrickson, was praised by the heavyweights of psychology. Daniel Gilbert said it provided a “scientifically sound prescription for joy.” Daniel Goleman extolled its “surefire methods for transforming our lives.” Martin E.P. Seligman, often called the father of positive psychology, raved that “this book, like Barb, is the ‘real thing.’”

But the top-notchness of the research that underpin…


As Sharing of Clinical-Trial Data Gains Acceptance, Methods Get Scrutiny

In the quest to improve the scientific transparency of human medical trials, the first hurdle is getting researchers and companies to agree that they really want to do a better job of sharing with one another.

In that regard, after years of pressure from patients and their advocates, there are indications lately that attitudes may be slowly improving.

The next challenge is figuring out how best to share. And that could be just as daunting. Three articles published on Wednesday in The New England…


The ‘Secret’ Milgram Experiments

Stanley Milgram with his shock machine

Stanley Milgram with his shock machine

In the early 1960s, Stanley Milgram set out to see whether ordinary people would administer painful shocks to a stranger if told to do so by someone in a white lab coat. He found that most people (65 percent) would continue to administer the shocks even when the stranger protested, complained of a heart condition, and stopped responding. The shocks were fake, and the stranger was an actor, but what the findings seemed to say about human nature was real and …


Stanford Researcher Offers a Modest Proposal for Food Relief

A Congolese girl carried a box of food aid last December at a refugee camp in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. (Phil Moore/AFP/Getty Images)

About one in 10 children in sub-Saharan Africa under the age of 5 is starving, and nearly 40 percent are physically stunted because of chronic malnutrition. The situation in South Asia is even more dire. Yet global shipments of food aid have declined steadily since the late 1990s. In short, there’s not enough food to go around.

So i…


Adding Insult to Plagiary?

Colin Purrington

Colin Purrington

Colin Purrington wrote a funny, helpful guide about designing scientific posters. It has loads of practical tips (don’t make it too long, use a nonserif font for titles, etc.) and jokes about the mating habits of cute red pandas. The guide has been remarkably popular—he estimates it’s been viewed about two million times over the years—and he gets e-mails thanking him all the time. It has become a claim to minor fame.

Sometimes people, um, borrow his guide without giving him cred…


Daniel Kahneman Sees ‘Train-Wreck Looming’ for Social Psychology

Daniel Kahneman (Princeton U.)

Daniel Kahneman sent an e-mail last week to a dozen social psychologists, spelling out what he sees as a way to restore the credibility of priming research. The research, which has found that small cues can cause strong subconscious effects, have come under fire after attempts to replicate some high-profile studies failed. It hasn’t helped that some prominent social psychologists have committed flat-out fraud.

Kahneman, a Nobel Prize-winner and author of Thinking F…


Scientists Are Often Responsible for ‘Spin’ of Their Results, Research Finds

[Updated on 9/12/2012 at 10:35 a.m. with a response from Isabelle Boutron.]

In recent years, newspapers have been full of articles touting the health benefits of coffee: It cuts the risk of heart attack, stroke, and various kinds of cancers. Yet some studies have also raised warnings, saying coffee can encourage overeating and, yes, even increase heart-attack risks.

Similar uncertainties—at least as reflected in newspaper articles and TV news reports—surround red wine, aspirin, estrogen supp…


The Golden Rice Controversy

Golden Rice (on the right) could save millions of lives, its inventors say.

Vitamin A deficiency is the No. 1 cause of preventable blindness in children, and it has also contributed to the deaths of millions of children in the developing world. So when a published study finds that a certain type of rice can significantly increase Vitamin A levels, you’d think it would be greeted universally as terrific news.

Not in this case.

That’s because the rice in question is Golden Rice, a genetically modi…