Technology has made it easier to fake scientific results. Is a cultural shift required to fix the problem?
Paper retractions and image duplications are a symptom of a much larger problem
Cases of scientific misconduct are on the rise. For every 10,000 papers on PubMed, 2.5 are retracted, with more than half of these retractions attributed to scientific misconduct, which includes mismanagement of data and plagiarism.
“Papers from twenty or thirty years ago were fairly simple – they [had] maybe one or two photos,” says Elisabeth Bik, a microbiologist who now works as a scientific integrity consultant. “That’s around the time that I did my PhD. If we wanted to submit papers with photos, we had to make an actual appointment with a photographer! It was very hard to fake anything.”
Tasks like photographing results and constructing academic figures were once specialized, requiring designated experts who had nothing to do with the data collection process. That’s not the case in the 21st century. As technology has advanced, not only has the amount of data increased exponentially, but so has our ability to record and report this data. With more people competing for fewer academic jobs, scientists are constantly under pressure to acquire more data, publish in high impact journals, and secure more external funding.
Unfortunately, with such massive amounts of data, not only is it easier to make mistakes, but it is also easier to manipulate results
One study from Arizona State University found that the mounting professional pressure and the low chances of getting caught are some of the reasons that scientific misconduct is so prevalent. Coupled with availability of image editing tools and the ease of cutting-and-pasting phrases, it is also a lot less challenging to misrepresent findings.
In 2016, Bik and colleagues analyzed over 20,000 papers from 40 biomedical research journals, finding that one in 25 images had evidence of image duplication. 6.1% of papers from the Molecular and Cell Biology journal alone showed signs of inappropriate alterations.
Elisabeth Bik is a microbiologist who now works as a scientific integrity consultant.
By Michel & Co., San Jose, CA, USA
One of the organizations looking for solutions to this growing issue of scientific misconduct is the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI). Founded in 1978, the ILSI is an organization of scientists working in food safety and nutritional science. One of their major aims is to ensure scientific integrity in nutrition-related research, especially since research findings in this field often inform public health policy decisions. To find a solution, ILSI’s North American branch (ILSI North America) co-founded the Scientific Integrity Consortium to evaluate the extent of scientific misconduct, and to broaden the scope of this conversation beyond food science. In 2019, the consortium published their findings, which included guidelines on how to define research misconduct and detrimental research practices, in addition to a comprehensive list of recommendations to tackle the issue.
Scientists discover 1st animal that doesn't breathe oxygen
Scientists have discovered something they didn't think existed: an animal that can't breathe oxygen, and obviously doesn't need to.
That animal is a parasite called Henneguya salminocola, distantly related to jellyfish. It lives in the muscles of salmon and trout, causing unsightly little white nodules known as "tapioca disease."
The parasite has just 10 cells and is smaller than many of the cells in our bodies, but it has an extraordinary superpower — the ability to live without the machinery to turn oxygen into energy, researchers reported this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"In a way, it changes our view of animals," said senior author Dorothée Huchon, a zoology professor in the Faculty of Life Sciences and the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History at Tel Aviv University, who worked with collaborators in Israel, the U.S. and Canada.
While many microbes have evolved the ability to live without oxygen, animals tend to be much more complex, with many different kinds of cells and tissues combined in one organism.
As far as scientists knew until now, all animals were powered by organelles called mitochondria, which convert sugar and oxygen into energy through a process called respiration, and have their own "mitochondrial" genes.
Covid-19 Changed How the World Does Science, Together
Never before, scientists say, have so many of the world’s researchers focused so urgently on a single topic. Nearly all other research has ground to a halt.
Using flag-draped memes and military terminology, the Trump administration and its Chinese counterparts have cast coronavirus research as national imperatives, sparking talk of a biotech arms race.
The world’s scientists, for the most part, have responded with a collective eye roll.
“Absolutely ridiculous,” said Jonathan Heeney, a Cambridge University researcher working on a coronavirus vaccine.
“That isn’t how things happen,” said Adrian Hill, the head of the Jenner Institute at Oxford, one of the largest vaccine research centers at an academic institution.
While political leaders have locked their borders, scientists have been shattering theirs, creating a global collaboration unlike any in history. Never before, researchers say, have so many experts in so many countries focused simultaneously on a single topic and with such urgency. Nearly all other research has ground to a halt.
Normal imperatives like academic credit have been set aside. Online repositories make studies available months ahead of journals. Researchers have identified and shared hundreds of viral genome sequences. More than 200 clinical trials have been launched, bringing together hospitals and laboratories around the globe.
“I never hear scientists — true scientists, good quality scientists — speak in terms of nationality,” said Dr. Francesco Perrone, who is leading a coronavirus clinical trial in Italy. “My nation, your nation. My language, your language. My geographic location, your geographic location. This is something that is really distant from true top-level scientists.”
You Need Something New to Watch. What About the Universe?
Discover the boundaries of science — from your couch.
Video by Sarah Klein and Tom Mason
Ms. Klein and Mr. Mason are filmmakers.
In 1916, Albert Einstein made a prediction he thought could never be proved. He proposed that the acceleration or collision of stellar masses, such as black holes, would cause ripples that warp space and time. He called them gravitational waves. But he also supposed they would be far too small to detect. How do you measure something invisible? Nearly five decades later, Einstein’s unsolved mystery drove the physicist Rai Weiss to hunt for answers.
Weiss co-founded an observatory to prove the unprovable. Nergis Mavalvala, an astrophysicist on the team that built the observatory said, “We knew we were charting unknown territory.” Years passed. Then in 2015, the team found that Einstein was both right and wrong — gravitational waves exist and can be measured. The collaboration brought about one of the most important scientific breakthroughs in recent history. Their experience, portrayed in the short documentary above, shows that the limits of science are still untested. What else can we discover?
Moderna Coronavirus Vaccine Trial Shows Promising Early Results
The company said a test in 8 healthy volunteers found its experimental vaccine was safe and provoked a strong immune response. It is on an accelerated timetable to begin larger human trials soon.
The first coronavirus vaccine to be tested in people appears to be safe and able to stimulate an immune response against the infection, the manufacturer, Moderna, announced on Monday, offering a glint of hope to a world desperate for ways to stop the pandemic.
The preliminary findings, in the first eight people who each received two doses of the experimental vaccine, must now be repeated in far larger tests in hundreds and then thousands of people, to find out if the vaccine can work in the real world. Moderna’s technology, involving genetic material from the virus called mRNA, is relatively new and has yet to produce any approved vaccine.
The promising early news sent Moderna’s stock soaring by more than 25 percent on Monday afternoon and helped drive Wall Street to its best day in six weeks. Stocks were also lifted by statements from the Federal Reserve chair, Jerome H. Powell, that the central bank would continue to support the economy and markets.
SpaceX launches new era of spaceflight with company's first crewed mission
NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are flying a brand-new spacecraft to the world’s orbiting laboratory.
CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDAAgainst a backdrop of shifting clouds and patches of welcome blue sky, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket roared to life at 3:22 p.m. ET at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC), warming the already sweltering, sticky air with blindingly bright rocket fire and sending tremors through the Florida coast. Strapped into a spacecraft atop the 229-foot-tall rocket, veteran astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley soared into the sky, marking a triumphant return to orbit from U.S. shores.
“SpaceX, Dragon, we’re go for launch, let’s light this candle,” Hurley said to SpaceX mission control in Hawthorne, California, just before liftoff.
Behnken and Hurley—occasionally referred to by their colleagues as Dr. Bob and Chunky—are now cruising to the International Space Station, a journey that will take approximately 19 hours. This flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is only the fifth time in history that U.S. astronauts have piloted a brand-new spacecraft into orbit.
For the first time since NASA retired its space shuttles in 2011, the space agency can launch astronauts from its home shores rather than paying for seats aboard Russian spacecraft. Now, NASA will buy seats on Crew Dragon. In the new Commercial Crew model, SpaceX retains ownership and operational control of its spacecraft, meaning anyone with enough cash, at least in theory, could buy a ticket to orbit.
“We want to send all kinds of people to space,” says Benji Reed, director of crew mission management at SpaceX. “Everything we’re doing is to open that new chapter in the space age.”
Evolution: why it seems to have a direction and what to expect next
Matthew Wills, Professor of Evolutionary Palaeobiology at the Milner Centre for Evolution, University of Bath
The Conversation June 2, 2020, 3:04 AM CDT
The diversity and complexity of life on Earth is astonishing: 8 million or more living species – from algae to elephants – all evolved from a simple, single-celled common ancestor around 3.5 billion years ago. But does that mean that evolution always and inevitably generates greater diversity and complexity, having a predictable direction?
Charles Darwin identified three ingredients necessary for natural selection to occur. Individuals must be different, so there is variation in the population. They must also be able to pass this variation on to offspring. Finally, individuals must compete for resources that limit the number of offspring they can produce. Individuals with variations that allow them to obtain more resources are likely to produce more offspring like themselves.
Evolution also depends on context and environment, which notoriously change constantly in unpredictable ways. For example, fishes who start living and evolving in unlit caves often lose their eyes, because the costs of developing them outweigh their advantages.
So natural selection operates from one generation to the next. It cannot plan ahead or have a goal. In addition, not all evolutionary change is a response to selection, but can be neutral or random. It is not even guaranteed to produce more species, since evolution can occur in a single lineage and this can go extinct at any time. How can we reconcile such an aimless process with the bewildering diversity and complexity we see?
Ecology and evolution are two sides of the same coin. The environment is not just the physical surroundings of an organism, but also the other biological species with which it interacts.
We can see this environmental interaction deep in the history of life. For billions of years, organisms were “stuck” as single cells within the seas. Several groups independently evolved multi-cellularity (perhaps 25 times). But the first animals, plants and fungi with complex development, different tissues and organs only appeared around 540 million years ago, with the Cambrian “explosion” of diversity.
This may have been triggered by increased levels of oxygen in the oceans, which was, in turn, the result of photosynthesis – the process by which plants and other organisms convert sunlight into energy while releasing oxygen – in much simpler forms of life over millions of years.
Once animals had attained greater size and evolved guts, hard parts, jaws, teeth, eyes and legs, complex food webs became possible – along with “arms races” between predators and prey. Groups with adaptations that enabled them to live on land opened up even more opportunities. Once out of the bag, these innovations were difficult to “uninvent” – promoting diversity.
The only diagram in Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” shows species splitting through time. If more species originate than go extinct, then species richness increases. Darwin wondered whether ecological space might simply “fill up” one day.
But so far as we can tell, the species count has been increasing for most of the last 250 million years. Even past natural mass extinctions were only temporary setbacks that may have created even more opportunities for diversity in the long run.
Variation is not random
As organisms evolve more complicated systems of development, they may, however, become less able to modify certain aspects of their anatomy. This is partly because genes, tissues and organs often have several different functions, so it may become difficult to change one for the better without accidentally “breaking” something elsewhere.
For example, nearly all mammals – from giraffes to humans – are stuck with just seven neck bones. Whenever different numbers develop or evolve, they bring other anatomical problems. Birds are entirely different, and seem to evolve new numbers of neck vertebrae with remarkable ease: Swans alone have between 22 and 25. But in general, while evolution produces new species, the flexibility of the body plans of those species may decrease with rising complexity.
Take mammals. They come from a common ancestor, and have taken strikingly similar forms even though they have evolved on different continents. This is another example of the fact that evolution isn’t entirely unpredictable – there are only so many solutions to the same physical and biological problems, like seeing, digging or flying.
The future of evolution
Clearly, there is an apparent contradiction at the heart of evolutionary biology. On one hand, the mechanisms of evolution have no predisposition for change in any particular direction. On the other hand, let those mechanisms get going, and beyond some threshold, the interwoven ecological and developmental systems they generate tend to yield more and more species with greater maximum complexity.
So can we expect more diversity and complexity going forward? We are now at the beginning of a sixth mass extinction, caused by humans and showing no signs of stopping – wiping out the results of millions of years of evolution. Despite this, humans themselves are too numerous, widespread and adaptable to be at serious risk of extinction any time soon. It is far more likely that we will extend our distribution yet further by engineering habitable biospheres on other planets.
On other planets, we may one day find alien life. Would that follow the same evolutionary trajectory as life on Earth? From one cell, the transition to multi-cellularity may be an easy hurdle to jump. Although it came quite late on Earth, it nevertheless happened many times. More complicated development with different tissue types evolved in only a few groups on Earth, so may represent a higher bar.
If alien biology makes it over some hurdles, its development is indeed likely to favour patterns of increasing diversity and maximum complexity. But perhaps a dominant, intelligent species like humans will always be bad news for many of the other species on the planets where they evolve.
The astronomer Frank Drake proposed an equation to estimate how many intelligent civilisations we might expect in our galaxy. This contained a term for how long such civilisations might exist before destroying themselves. Drake was pessimistic about this: let’s hope he was wrong.
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.
COVID-19 Survivor Saved by This Mind-Blowing, First-Ever Procedure
A young woman in her mid-20s was so suffering from the ill-effects of COVID-19 that she underwent a 10-hour double lung transplant procedure, and is now convalescing in recovery. According to a report by The New York Times, this is the first known lung transplant for a COVID-19 patient in the United States and, if her healing continues, the surgery gives great hope for more coronavirus patients in the future.
The inflammation in the 26-year-old patient's lungs had left hem "completely plastered to tissue around them, the heart, the chest wall and diaphragm," Ankit Bharat, MD, the chief of thoracic surgery and surgical director of the lung transplant program at Northwestern Medicine, told The Times. That's the primary reason why the surgery took 10 hours, much longer than most transplants.
Bharat noted that the damage to the patient's lungs was so severe that the double transplant was her only chance for survival. His team wanted "other transplant centers to know that the operation could save some desperately ill COVID-19 patients," The Times reports.
But, Bharat added, "I want to emphasize that this is not for every COVID patient. We are talking about patients who are relatively young, very functional, with minimal to no comorbid conditions, with permanent lung damage who can't get off the ventilator."
RELATED: For more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.
There is still much research to be done on the lasting effects of the COVID-19 contagion. As therapeutic treatments and vaccines go through trial testing for confirmed safety and efficacy, surgical treatment for the those with the most severe lung damage could be another option, providing of course this history-making patient continues to make a full recovery. She is currently on a ventilator and reportedly improving. "She's awake, she's smiling, she FaceTimed with her family," Bharat said. And for more ways COVID-19 could take a toll for years to come, check out 7 Long-Term Health Risks of Coronavirus You Need to Know. https://bestlifeonline.com/long-term-coronavirus-health-risks/?utm_source=msn&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=msn-feed
Can a Vaccine for Covid-19 Be Developed in Record Time?
A discussion moderated by Siddhartha Mukherjee.
In the history of medicine, rarely has a vaccine been developed in less than five years. Among the fastest to be developed was the current mumps vaccine, which was isolated from the throat washings of a child named Jeryl Lynn in 1963. Over the next months, the virus was systematically “weakened” in the lab by her father, a biomedical scientist named Maurice Hilleman. Such a weakened or attenuated virus stimulates an immune response but does not cause the disease; the immune response protects against future infections with the actual virus. Human trials were carried out over the next two years, and the vaccine was licensed by Merck in December 1967.
Antiviral drugs, too, have generally taken decades to develop; effective combinations of them take even longer. The first cases of AIDS were described in the early 1980s; it took more than a decade to develop and validate the highly effective triple drug cocktails that are now the mainstay of therapy. We are still continuing to develop new classes of medicines against H.I.V., and notably, there is no vaccine for that disease. And yet the oft-cited target for creating a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, is 12 months, 18 at the outside.
Pulling that off is arguably the most important scientific undertaking in generations. The Times assembled (virtually, of course) a round table to help us understand the maddening complexity of the challenge and the extraordinary collaboration it has already inspired. The group included a virologist; a vaccine scientist; an immunologist and oncologist; a biotech scientist and inventor; and a former head of the Food and Drug Administration.
NASA is about to take to the air on another planet.
As part of its next mission to Mars, leaving Earth this summer, the space agency will attempt to do something that has never been done before: fly a helicopter through the rarefied atmosphere of Mars.
If it works, the small helicopter, named Ingenuity, will open a new way for future robotic explorers to get a bird’s-eye view of Mars and other worlds in the solar system.
“This is very analogous to the Wright brothers moment, but on another planet,” said MiMi Aung, the project manager of the Mars helicopter at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory over the past six years.
Flying on Mars is not a trivial endeavor. There is not much air there to push against to generate lift. At the surface of Mars, the atmosphere is just 1/100th as dense as Earth’s. The lesser gravity — one-third of what you feel here — helps with getting airborne. But taking off from the surface of Mars is the equivalent of flying at an altitude of 100,000 feet on Earth. No terrestrial helicopter has ever flown that high, and that’s more than twice the altitude that jetliners typically fly at.
You cannot post new topics in this forum You cannot reply to topics in this forum You cannot edit your posts in this forum You cannot delete your posts in this forum You cannot vote in polls in this forum