In Good Health
(from Consumer Health Digest newsletter)
research integrity

Trump University lawsuits settled (Consumer Health Digest #16-43 - November 20, 2016)
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has announced that Donald J. Trump has agreed to pay $25 million to settle three lawsuits which charged that he had misrepresented the nature and value of real estate courses offered by Trump University. The settlement includes payment of $21 million to settle two California class-action suits and $4 million to New York State to be used to (a) reimburse former students who were not parties to the class-action suits and (b) if funds remain, to pay up to $1 million for costs and/or penalties for Trump University's failure to obtain a license from the New York's Education Department. Trump admitted no liability, but Schneiderman's press release minced no words:
In 2013, my office sued Donald Trump for swindling thousands of innocent Americans out of millions of dollars through a scheme known as Trump University. Donald Trump fought us every step of the way, filing baseless charges and fruitless appeals and refusing to settle for even modest amounts of compensation for the victims of his phony university. Today, that all changes. Today's $25 million settlement agreement is a stunning reversal by Donald Trump and a major victory for the over 6,000 victims of his fraudulent university. Credential Watch has additional details and links to the documents in all three lawsuits.

NAS report addresses concerns about research integrity (Consumer Health Digest #17-24 - June 18, 2017)
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has published a report that expresses concern about research integrity and proposed measures that would protect it. The report states:
- A growing body of evidence indicates that substantial percentages of published results in some fields are not reproducible.
- While a certain level of irreproducibility due to unknown variables or errors is a normal part of research, data falsification and detrimental research practices, such as inappropriate use of statistics or after-the-fact fitting of hypotheses to previously collected data, also play a role.
- New forms of detrimental research practices are appearing, such as predatory journals that do little or no editorial review or quality control of papers while charging authors substantial fees.
- The number of retractions of journal articles has increased, with a significant percentage due to research misconduct.
- Practices that have until now been categorized as "questionable"-for example, misleading use of statistics that falls short of falsification, and failure to retain research data-should be recognized as "detrimental" practices.
- Detrimental practices should be understood to include not only actions of individual researchers but also irresponsible or abusive actions by research institutions and journals.
- Research institutions and federal agencies should ensure that good faith whistleblowers-those who raise concerns about the integrity of research - are protected and that their concerns are addressed in a fair, thorough, and timely manner.
- Research sponsors, publishers, and federal funding agencies should ensure that the information needed for knowledgeable persons to reproduce the reported results is made available at the time of publication or as soon as possible after that.
- Researchers should routinely disclose all statistical tests carried out, including negative findings. Available evidence indicates that scientific publications are biased against presenting negative results and that the publication of negative results is on the decline. But routine reporting of negative findings will help avoid unproductive duplication of research and make research spending more productive.
- Scientific societies and journals should develop clear disciplinary authorship standards based on the principle that those who have made a significant intellectual contribution are authors. Universal condemnation by all disciplines of gift or honorary authorship, coercive authorship, and ghost authorship would also contribute to changing the culture of research environments where these practices are still accepted.
To bring a unified focus to addressing challenges in fostering research integrity across all disciplines and sectors, the report urges the establishment of a nonprofit, independent Research Integrity Advisory Board. The RIAB could facilitate the exchange of information on approaches to assessing and creating environments of the highest integrity and to handling allegations of misconduct and investigations. The report - Fostering Research Integrity - can be accessed online free of charge or ordered from the Academies Web site, which also has a video of the briefing that announced the report.

"Predatory journal" critic speaks out again (Consumer Health Digest #17-24 - June 18, 2017)
Jeffrey Beall, who was the first person to study what he called "predatory journals," has emerged from a 5-month silence. Predatory publishers use an author-pay open-access model and aim to generate as much revenue as possible, often foregoing proper peer review. In 2012, Beall launched a blog titled Scholarly Open Access that listed predatory publishers and journals and offered critical commentary on scholarly open-access publishing. In January 2017, facing intense pressure from his employer (University of Colorado Denver) and fearing for his job, he removed the content from his Web site. [Beall J. What I learned from predatory publishers. Biochemia Medica 27:273-279, 2017] His recent article traces the history of open access publication, the rise of predatory journals, and the opposition he received from authors, publishers, and-to his surprise-academic librarians. It also warns:
I think predatory publishers pose the biggest threat to science since the Inquisition. They threaten research by failing to demarcate authentic science from methodologically unsound science, by allowing for counterfeit science, such as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to parade as if it were authentic science, and by enabling the publication of activist science. . . .
CAM is really taking off, and it's being largely fueled by pay-to-publish journals, though a few subscription journals have gotten in on the action as well. Predatory journals and even journals from legitimate publishers are legitimatizing this unscientific medical research in the public's eye. Acupuncture and homeopathy are thriving, and numerous "studies" are being published each year to back up their effectiveness claims. In medicine, demarcation is failing, and there's no longer a clear line where legitimate medical research ends and unsound medical research begins. More questionable medical research is being published now than ever before in history, including bogus research promoting fake medicines and nutraceuticals. There's no longer a clear separation between the authentic and counterfeit medical research, even though medical research is the most important research for humankind today. Indeed, of all human endeavors, what surpasses medical research in importance, value, and universal benefit?
Although the Scholarly Open Access Web site no longer contains Beall's lists, the Internet Archive has preserved them.

Recommendations offered to combat predatory journals and conferences (Consumer Health Digest #22-12 - March 20, 2022)
The InterAcademy Partnership (IAP) has published a 126-page report on a two-year study to identify practical interventions to curb the rise in journals and conferences of practices that are compromising the integrity of research. [Combatting Predatory Academic Journals and Conferences. InterAcademy Partnership, 2022.] The report used this definition:
Predatory journals and conferences are described here as a spectrum or typology of journal and conference practices; a broad set of dynamic predatory behaviours that range from genuinely fraudulent and deceitful practices – as described by the international consensus definition in Nature (
Grudniewicz et al, 2019) – to questionable and unethical ones, with varying degrees of unacceptable to well-intentioned low-quality practices in the middle. At their core, and in agreement with the international consensus definition, these practices serve to prioritise self-interest at the expense of scholarship. They can be committed by new and established, fraudulent and reputable, traditional and Open Access publishers, anywhere in the world. Typical markers are provided for each part of the spectrum to help users navigate their way around this complexity.
The IAP includes more than 140 science, engineering, and medical organizations that are seeking solutions to the world’s most challenging problems. The study drew evidence from a survey, interviews, and an extensive literature review. The report calls for:
- raising awareness and minimizing the risk, vulnerability, and the temptation to use or promote predatory practices
- publishers, libraries, indexing and conferencing services to improve and promote minimum standards of quality and practice
- action from: (a) leading multilateral organizations, such as UNESCO, and international science networks, such as the International Science Council, (b) higher education institutions, (c) government organizations, (d) science funders, (e) learned societies, and (f) national academies
- transitioning to less profit-motivated economic models of open-access publishing, including alternatives to author-pay or pay-to-present models, to cover the costs associated with academic publishing
- reform the research evaluation systems used by universities, research funders, and professional bodies
- improving the peer-review process by increasing its transparency, training, and rewarding of good practice.

Retraction Watch highlights new tactics being used to publish fake scientific papers (Consumer Health Digest #24-03 January 21, 2024)
Frederick Joelving, an editor for Retraction Watch, has described how paper mills operate to exploit “the growing pressure on scientists worldwide to amass publications even if they lack resources to undertake quality research.” These mills generate “possibly tens or even hundreds of thousands of articles every year” that contain made-up data, are plagiarized, or are of low quality. Their preferred targets are open-access journals to which authors pay to have their articles considered for publication. In addition to selling papers to prospective authors and influencing manuscript reviewers, paper mills have exploited the lax vetting processes for hiring open-access journal editors and guest editors of special issues of the journals. They plant their own editors, who in some cases employ made-up identities rather than their own. They also pitch special issues to journal editors, get their own agents placed on editorial boards of journals, and attempt to bribe journal editors to publish papers. While some journal publishers have recently made significant efforts to retract fraudulent papers, it remains a challenge for editors to safeguard their journals against the efforts of paper mills. [Joelving F. Paper trail. Science, Jan 18, 2024]

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acronyms : FDA: Food and Drug Administration,
FTC: Federal Trade Commission
AMA: American Medical Association

Good health to everyone (except for the charlatans that make money on other people's health).

page created: August 3rd, 2017 and last updated: January 25th, 2024