To be trustworthy and rigorous, science must be correctable. If scientific claims are not adequately validated or confirmed, time and money are misspent, true or chance findings are difficult to separate, and public trust in expertise is eroded. However, the ability to correct the scientific record is not always possible because the act of correction is pitted against inappropriate cultural norms or vested interests.
Science is an activity that is dependent on economic demands. In academia, there is a highly competitive job market, with scarce opportunities for research funding. Hiring and promotion criteria rely on publication and grant-funding track records, which means verifying evidence can come second to the next publishable and lucrative ‘groundbreaking’ research. Inevitably, criticism can make career prospects even more precarious, with significant costs to those who attempt to criticise and – in particular – whistleblow.
However, is the status quo fixed? Is the environment, in fact, conducive to rigorous science? Is there no room for improvement? To explore these and many more questions, an esteemed panel has been brought together to discuss the issues at the heart of why we struggle to correct bad science.
Our panellists discuss the barriers to correcting bad science and the costs borne by those who have tried to. The aim is to raise awareness and to instigate a discussion on how to substantiate the ability to correct science when necessary.
Recordings of all talks can be viewed below.
The Wellcome Trust
Diego Baptista, PhD
Head of Research and Funding Equity | Wellcome Trust, UK
Diego works across the Policy + Advocacy and Diversity + Inclusion teams at Wellcome on Research Culture. He also held a role in Wellcome’s Open Research team. Prior to this, he trained as a biochemist and obtained his PhD from Harvard University.
About the talk
The Wellcome Trust wants to help build a better research culture – one that is creative, inclusive and honest. Current practices prioritise outputs at almost any cost. This is damaging people’s wellbeing and undermining the quality of research. We can all help to reimagine how research is conducted. Diego will cover what he and his colleagues at The Wellcome Trust have done so far with the Reimagine Research programme and where they are headed in the future.
The Hidden REF
Patricia Herterich, PhD
Research Data Specialist | University of Edinburgh, UK
Patricia is a Research Data Specialist at the Digital Curation Centre based at the University of Edinburgh. Before joining DCC in 2019, she worked as a data librarian at CERN’s Scientific Information Service and a Research Repository Advisor at the University of Birmingham. She is a Software Sustainability Institute Fellow, contributor to the Turing Way handbook, Open Life Science programme mentor and HiddenREF committee member.
About the talk
Research is dependent on a wide variety of research outputs and professional support roles that facilitate the conduct of research. Currently, these outputs and people often do not get the recognition deserved. This talk will introduce the Hidden REF, a competition that recognises all research outputs and every role that makes research possible. It will cover the motivation for creating the initiative and provide an overview of its timeline and approach.
Research integrity from culture
Tanita Casci, PhD
Head of Research Policy | University of Glasgow, UK
Tanita Casci is the Head of Research Policy at the University of Glasgow. She develops institutional policies and projects that support research staff and students to succeed, which includes aligning activities to promote a positive culture.
About the talk
Better science depends on making sustained improvements to our day-to-day research practices. But our habits are shaped by the broader culture in which we do research: how we evaluate quality, how we support careers, how we recognise the varied contributions made to research and, most importantly of all, how well aligned all these values are across institutions, funders, publishers, and the wider sector. A sustainable positive culture isn’t built on picking out the bad apples but by acting on a small number of levers that will help change behaviours across the sector.
(Don’t be) Bullied into Bad Science
Stephen Eglen, PhD
Reader in Computational Neuroscience | University of Cambridge, UK
Stephen Eglen is a Reader in Computational Neuroscience, in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, University of Cambridge. He has a long-standing interest in open science and reproducible research. He is a member of the Bullied into Bad Science campaign, an associate editor for BiorXiv and senior editor at the journal Scientific Data.
About the talk
I will argue that many of the reasons we see “bad science” is because of the current “publish or perish” incentive structures. These won’t disappear overnight, but we can try to embed better practices in our work to find better ways of working. I will briefly highlight some recent initiatives including preprints, preregistered reports and open science activities, including our newly developed CODECHECK system.
Bad Science & image manipulation
Elisabeth Bik, PhD
After receiving her PhD in Microbiology at Utrecht University in The Netherlands, Elisabeth Bik worked 15 years in the lab of David Relman in the School of Medicine at Stanford on the microbiomes of humans and marine mammals. In May 2014, she founded Microbiome Digest, an almost daily compilation of scientific papers in the rapidly growing microbiome field. From 2016-2019, she worked at two microbiome startup companies, uBiome and Astarte Medical. In March 2019, she left her job to become a science integrity volunteer and occasional consultant. She can often be found discussing science papers on Twitter at @MicrobiomDigest, writing for her blog ScienceIntegrityDigest or searching the biomedical literature for inappropriately duplicated or manipulated photographic images and plagiarized text. Her work has been recently featured in Nature.
About the talk
Science builds upon science. Even after peer-review and publication, science papers could still contain images or other data of concern. If not addressed post-publication, papers containing incorrect or even falsified data could lead to wasted time and money spent by other researchers trying to reproduce those results. Elisabeth Bik is an image forensics detective who left her paid job in industry to search for and report duplicated and manipulated images in biomedical articles. She has done a systematic scan of 20,000 papers in 40 journals and found that about 4% of these contained inappropriately duplicated images. In her talk, she will present her work and show several types of inappropriately duplicated images.
The Cost of Correcting Bad Science event finished with a roundtable discussion with our Speakers, Diego Baptista, Patricia Herterich, Tanita Casci, Stephen Eglen, Elisabeth Bik.