Tag Archives: science

The slow abandonment of the academic mindset

Mittelman  on the  “The World-Class University and Repurposing Higher Education” 2018:

… the central academic purposes of the university are imperiled. While not universally adopted, they began to take root in the nineteenth century, developed gradually in the nineteenth and twentieth, and encounter novel tensions in the twenty-first. In this century, the triad of core educational missions in nonauthoritarian societies—cultivating democratic citizenship, fostering critical thinking, and protecting academic freedom — is losing footing. A new form of utilitarianism is gaining ground. It prioritizes useful knowledge and problem-solving skills at the expense of basic inquiry…

A few pages later Mittelman notices that universities

… have become preoccupied with strategic planning, benchmarking, branding, visibility, rankings, productivity indices, quality assurance systems, students as customers, and measurable outcomes. Before the 1980s, members of the higher education community rarely expressed themselves in these terms.

And it is true – we have been struggling even after 1980 with the mysteries of nature, by designing experiments and studies, trying to make new discoveries and teaching them to our students.

Fast rewind to the “idea of  a university” and the “cultivated intellect” by John Henry Newman (p15) and the usefulness of useless knowledge  of Abraham Flexner. In the last century clearly a need for unanticipated outcome was felt while today basically every research program starts with  a lengthy introduction that this is the most important research because disease D is so frequent or technology T is so important for the environment. Mittelman quotes Daniel Zajfman, 10th president of Israel’s Weizmann Institute, when talking about university rankings

When we look at the values of knowledge for the sake of knowledge, we realise 100 years later what we can do with this. If you look at the history of science, you will find that most of the discoveries were never made by trying to solve a problem, rather by trying to understand how nature works, so our focus is on understanding.

More humility needed

Hoekstra and Vazire on “Aspiring to greater intellectual humility in science

Although intellectual humility is presented as a widely accepted scientific norm, we argue that current research practice does not incentivize intellectual humility. We provide a set of recommendations on how to increase intellectual humility in research articles

Indeed – many recommendations are counterproductive for a science career…


and well, a divergent view at PubPeer.

So many asthma papers under fire

As an avid PubPeer reader, I found a  new  entry  by Elisabeth Bik recently about Andreas Pahl of Heidelberg Pharma who has already one retracted and several more papers under scrutiny.

Unfortunately there are now also many asthma trash papers from paper mills. Another example was identified by @gcabanac, distributed by @deevybee and published at Pubpeer.

In total there are 386 asthma entries at PubPeer. What is  really happening in this field? When I started the field there was just one misconduct case – Ranjit Kumar Chandra. That’s an increase from 1 to 386…

What makes it even more complicated that there is no border anymore to predatory journals if also respected scientists drop their names at predatory journals.  Only recently I received an email addressed to one of my former technical assistants as “professor” inviting her to send a paper…


Papers that should have been retracted, not corrected

It has been mentioned many times before  and has been even officially published by COPE

Science is either replicable or not. If not, it should be corrected. If faulty or fabricated, it should be retracted.

Continue reading Papers that should have been retracted, not corrected

The amyloid Western blot: Schrag vs Lesné

The amyloid analysis published in Nature has been commented at PubPeer and also earned a commentary  of Charles Piller in  Science. “Blots on a field” is leading now even to an expression of concern by Nature.

The editors of Nature have been alerted to concerns regarding some of the figures in this paper. Nature is investigating these concerns, and a further editorial response will follow as soon as possible.

IMHO there are many artifacts including horizontal lines in Fig 2 when converting it to false color display. I can not attribute the lines to any splice mark  and sorry – this is a 16 year old gel image, Basically an eternity has passed in terms of my Nikon history with 5 generations from D2x to Z9. So don’t expect any final conclusion here as afar as we cannot get the original images here.

false color display of Fig 2 a “the presence of 8 M urea did not alter the electrophoretic pattern of Aß oligomers in extracellular-enriched extracts from 12- to 20-month-oldbrains ofTg2576þ/2mice that were probed with 6E10 antibodies.”

Continue reading The amyloid Western blot: Schrag vs Lesné

The Lancet and scientific integrity

We have learned in the past that the Lancet published editorials that clearly separated the journal from the publisher Elsevier

Reed Elsevier’s response is that the sale of military equipment is legal, government supported, and tightly regulated. However, The Lancet‘s collaborations in child survival and health-systems strengthening, for example, risk being tainted by Reed Elsevier’s promotion of the “selling process” of arms.

Of course you can’t sell weapons and distance yourself from selling weapons at the same time…

How to Game Google Scholar H Index

https://arxiv.org/abs/1212.0638 explains an experiment leading to an increase of 774 citations in 129 papers basically as they

created a fake researcher (Marco Alberto Pantani-Contador — a reference to two infamous cyclists, Marco Pantani and Alberto Contador, each of whom was accused of blood doping). Copying and pasting text from a website, adding a few figures and graphs and lots and lots of self-citations … created six fake documents, translated them into English using Google Translate, and uploaded them to a new webpage under their university’s domain. It was a process, the authors explain, that took less than half a day’s work.

I rearrange facts so they resemble truth more than in reality

Take care – category joke here.

This article won’t change your mind

I remember looking at her and thinking, ‘She’s totally lying.’ At the same time, I remember something in my mind saying, ‘And that doesn’t matter.’

Don’t miss Werner Herzog…

Good scientists doing wrong

There is an interesting study “When Good People Break Bad: Moral Impression Violations in Everyday Life” by  the Canadian PhD student  Kate Guan and her advisor Steven Heine. It is a phenomenon that is annoying many people if we look at the reactions to Twitter posts und PubPeer entries accusing scientists of wrong doing. The paper provides some explanations Continue reading Good scientists doing wrong

What is needed is a confrontational approach

Google showed me today a long forgotten abstract. Although I am not an expert in schizophrenia we collaborated two decades ago on this particular chromosomal region.

What is even more remarkable is the challenging keynote of the Xth World Congress of Psychiatric Genetics in The Palais des Congre ́s Brussels, Belgium October 9 –13, 2002 by Irving Gottesman [+2016], the father of epigenetics in psychiatry. He wrote there

We cannot escape the history of our field and are constantly guided today by the accumulation of facts with either positive or negative valences from our past. But when did the clock start—with the domestication of animals, with Galton’s musings and amoral passion for data collection about individual differences in behavior, or with the initially objective scientizing of Mendelism applied to schizophrenia but ending with a Nazi-tainted albatross around the neck of psychiatric genetics. In regard to the long quest for the distal and genetic (partial) causes of mental diseases, the conclusion that both genetic and environmental factors, none yet known in detail, provide the distal causes of mental disorders—that statement is too general to be of use to making further progress. What is needed is a confrontational approach based on evidence collected from competing ‘schools of thought’, and then reconciliation before some kind of omniscient and impartial Science Court.

I couldn’t agree more. What is needed is a confrontational approach based on evidence collected from competing ‘schools of thought’, and then reconciliation before some kind of omniscient and impartial Science Court.