Diederik Stapel speaks

This could have been a very interesting talk, but I was disappointed the moment he just briefly touched the MANY reasons leading to this extend of fraud. I would have been interested in the small steps leading to the personal justification of data fabrication on such a large scale. I was disappointed because I didn’t see any deep self searching nor honest regret of what he did (especially concerning his co authors). I think if he would have documented the process leading up to this horrible example the community could have profited. But his “heart warming” apology felt like a cheap attempt to make some sort of comeback.

Retraction Watch

stapel_npcDiederik Stapel, the social psychologist who has now retracted 54 papers, recently spoke as part of the TEDx Braintrain, which took place on a trip from Maastricht to Amsterdam. Among other things, he says he lost his moral compass, but that it’s back.

Here’s the talk, which lasts 17 minutes:

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Doing the right thing: Researchers retract two studies when they realize they misinterpreted data

Thats the way all PI should deal with such issues. thats the way I always thought things should be handled!

Retraction Watch

protein scienceWhat do you do when new experiments show that you interpreted the data from your old experiments the wrong way?

Some scientists might just shrug and sweep those errors — and their previous papers — under the rug. But when it happened to Jeffery Kelly, of the Scripps Research Institute, and his colleagues, they decided to retract their earlier work.

Here’s the abstract of their new paper (we bolded a few sentences for emphasis):

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Retraction notice for cancer paper gives wide berth to the “p” word

I always wonder why people simply “copy and paste” other peoples work. I guess this type of “work containing large proportion of other authors’ writings on the same topic in other publications, without sufficient attribution to these earlier works…” will have a high discover rate. At least I hope so.

Retraction Watch

jneuroncolThe Journal of Neuro-Oncology has retracted a 2009 article on brain tumors for what’s clearly plagiarism — but which is called everything but.

The article was titled “Glioma grading: sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive values of diffusion and perfusion imaging,” and it came from a group at the Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology, in Trivandrum, India.

Here’s the — rather laughable — retraction notice, which dances around the matter about as deftly as a freshman with the prom queen:

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Concept of fairness

The evolution of cooperation is one of the most important transitions in evolutionary history. The factors favoring cooperation over selfish interests have kept biologist busy over the last century. This “old” paper examined “inequality aversion” or the “sense of fairness” in brown capuchin monkey as a potential factor promoting group cohesion and cooperation.

The experiment was rather simple. The researchers challenged two monkeys (who could observe each other) with a simple task, but rewarded them unequal. One monkey consistently got a low quality reward, while the other one always got a high quality reward for exactly the same amount of work. Watch what happens!

the paper can be found here

the video can be found here


Planting false memories

I stumbled upon a pretty cool paper recently published in Science: “Creating a False Memory in the Hippocampus”. A group of scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were able to plant false memory directly into mice brains, making them afraid of places they had no reason to fear.

They used a nifty technique called optogenetics to implant the false fear memory. Using viruses as carrier, the scientists were able to inserted a light sensitive protein switch (microbial opsin) directly into neurones which are known to play a key role during memory formation and are particularly active during the exploration of new territories.

The researcher allowed the mice to explore an area, lets call it place 1, without any experimental manipulation. On the following day they reactivated the neurones which were active during the exploration of place 1 and applied a small electric shock at the same time. When placing the mice back into place 1 mice showed a place specific and characteristic fear response without ever experiencing harm in place 1.

We will never know what exactly the mice “remembered”, but I think this is one further step in understanding the complex process of memory formation demonstrating the power of optogenetic tools in neuroscience. However, thinking about the potential consequences if this method is further developed feels scary! An interesting paper if you have access to it!

The paper can be found here

And further information on optogenetics can be downloaded here


Pokemon meets biology meets education

I was never a huge Pokemon fan. Now that I think about it I never cared for it. I was simply a couple years to old I guess. But even then I watch my little brothers being fascinated by the entire franchise. Video Games, trading cards, action, monsters fighting  etc etc etc Pokemon had it all. I remember that my brothers know all the names, the stats and everything necessary to be an expert in this game. Recently I stumbled over this great project. Apparently I the was not only one noticing the time and afford kids are willing to invest in something fun, but in contrast to myself they made something out of it. A couple of smart people thought that knowing so much about fictional creatures is not so much different from knowing real animals. and they decided to make a :”non-commercial-open-access-open-source-because-basically-this-is-good-for-you-your-children-and-your-planet” game out of it. Its real animals and they ave stats and you can play and everyone can participate in creating new content! I have no idea if it works but it is a cool idea worth writing about and sharing! So go out and participate and share the crap out of this project!


Climbing mount Fraudji

wow that is massive fraud and blaming his students is……low. Building a career on systematic manipulation. And all thanks to a whistel blower and the possibility to go public via youtube

I wonder if such a scandal would have come out before the possibility of individuals to reach out to the public without media support.

Retraction Watch

katoThe University of Tokyo panel investigating the work of a former professor there, Shigeaki Kato, has recommended the retraction of 43 of his group’s articles, according to a report in the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

If the papers are indeed retracted, Kato, who already has at least five articles subject to an expression of concern and five retractions, would be fifth on the list of most retractions for a single author, by our unofficial tally. His fellow countryman, Yoshitaka Fujii, continues to hold the lead at what appears to be 183, followed by Joachim Boldt (~89), John Darsee (~83), and Diederik Stapel, at 53. [See note at end.]

The Asahi report quotes Kato — who has received some $20 million in government funding for his work  — as acknowledging problems with the data in his studies:

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