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But they also should consider how protected their own job position is, Steneck said.In the case of Scientist A, for instance, if Scientists B and C wield a lot of influence in their field, could criticizing their work hurt Scientist A’s ability to get funding for future projects?Ecologists and evolutionary biologists commonly engage in so-called questionable research practices, according to a survey published last week by Hannah Fraser and Fiona Fidler of the University of Melbourne in Australia and Tim Parker of Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington.
As a result, Scientist A is now pondering whether the right move is to write another commentary and continue discussing the issue publicly in the literature — or demand retraction of recent papers by Scientists B and C.
“Is this a case for scientific debate,” Scientist A wondered in the email message, “or a case of misconduct?
“The leaders did not want to retract their earlier research and the postdoc was not willing to risk a career,” Steneck said.
Dozens of the unreliable articles remain in the published literature, and while most experts in the field know that, outsiders may not have a clue.
(Such questionable research practices generally aren’t considered misconduct, though some people argue otherwise.) When I briefly described Scientist A’s concerns about the wildlife population dataset to Parker, an ecologist and evolutionary biologist, he thought the situation sounded problematic.
Most researchers would agree that studies should always report that a change in measurement methods was implemented at the very time-point when a big change in the measurements was observed, he said.
Scientist A further notes that although their older research reports clearly mentioned the shift to the newer census method, the more recent studies by Scientists B and C haven’t acknowledged it.
That includes a new report this year that ignored other published work pointing out the importance of the change in methods.
The trouble is, pursuing retractions or corrections is often an uphill struggle.
Generally, going through all the “proper channels” for addressing flawed research — from writing letters to authors or journal editors to requesting a retraction — seldom works, said Ivan Oransky of Retraction Watch, a website dedicated to tracking retractions made by scientific journals.