Arthur Caplan, one of America’s top medical ethicists, is worried about pollution. Not the kind that ruins our oceans or makes it hard for us to breathe, but the kind that poses a threat to the “trustworthiness, utility, and value of science and medicine.”
Caplan, who directs the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center, wrote a blistering essay in last week’s Mayo Clinic Proceedings, saying, "The pollution of science and medicine by plagiarism, fraud, and predatory publishing is corroding the reliability of research. Yet neither the leadership nor those who rely on the truth of science and medicine are sounding the alarm loudly or moving to fix the problem with appropriate energy."
He goes on to cite three causes of publication pollution, which can undermine these areas of “hard science” that should be sacrosanct.
- The proliferation of journals that recruit authors who pay to get their articles published. Despite having substandard or no peer view, these "predatory publishers" now comprise an estimated 25 percent of all open-access journals. "Not only do they provide opportunities for the unscrupulous in academia and industry to pad their curriculum vitaes and bibliographies with bogus articles and editorial appointments, they also make it difficult for those involved in the assessment and promotion of scholars to discern value from junk," writes Dr. Caplan.
- Research misconduct, like falsifying or fabricating data or concealing serious violations. Fourteen percent of scientists report that their colleagues falsify data, and 72 percent report other questionable practices, according to one 2009 study published in PLoS One.
- Plagiarism, which, according to a 2010 Nature article was "staggering," requiring editors to spend "inordinate amounts of time" checking submissions they receive.
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The White House on Friday unveiled plans for a new effort to ramp up testing for Covid-19, which experts say is an essential part of limiting the spread of the virus. This chart from Vox gives a sense of just how far the U.S. has to go to catch up to other countries that are dealing with the pandemic, including South Korea, the leading virus screener with 3,692 tests per million people. The U.S., by comparison, has done about 23 tests per million people as of March 12.
The Air Force has scrapped a planned upgrade of its B-2 stealth bomber fleet — even after spending $2 billion on the effort — because defense contractor Northrup Grumman didn’t have the necessary software expertise to complete the project on time and on budget, Bloomberg’s Anthony Capaccio reports, citing the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer.
Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, told reporters that the nearly $2 billion that had already been spent on the program wasn’t wasted because “we are still going to get upgraded electronic displays.”
Bernie Sanders wants to eliminate $1.6 trillion in student debt, to be paid for by a tax on financial transactions, but doing so won’t be easy, says Josh Mitchell of The Wall Street Journal.
The main problem for Sanders is that most Americans don’t support the plan, with 57% of respondents in a poll last fall saying they oppose the idea of canceling all student debt. And the politics are particularly thorny for Sanders as he prepares for a likely general election run, Mitchell says: “Among the strongest opponents are groups Democrats hope to peel away from President Trump: Rust Belt voters, independents, whites, men and voters in rural areas.”
That’s how much Michael Bloomberg is spending per day in his pursuit of the Democratic presidential nomination, according to new monthly filings with the Federal Election Commission. “In January alone, Bloomberg dropped more than $220 million on his free-spending presidential campaign,” The Hill says. “That breaks down to about $7.1 million a day, $300,000 an hour or $5,000 per minute.”