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Science is broken

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2017/11/21

Science is broken: Perverse incentives and the misuse of quantitative metrics have undermined the integrity of scientific research is the full title of an article published in the on-line journal AEON . I learned of it through a friend who was interested in part because the authors are at the university from which I retired some 17 years ago.

The article focuses on the demands on researchers to get grants and publish, and that their achievements are assessed quantitatively rather than qualitatively, through computerized scoring of such things as Journal Impact Factor and numbers of citations of an individual’s work.

I agree that those things are factors in what has gone wrong, but there are others as well.

The AEON piece is an abbreviated version of the full article in Environmental Engineering Science (34 [2017] 51-61; DOI: 10.1089/ees.2016.0223). I found it intriguing that the literature cited in it overlaps very little with the literature with which I’ve been familiar. That illustrates how over-specialized academe has become, and with that the intellectual life of society as a whole. There is no longer a “natural philosophy” that strives to integrate knowledge across the board, from all fields and specializations; and there are not the polymath public intellectuals who could guide society through the jungle of ultra-specialization. So it is possible, as in this case of “science is broken”, for different folk to reach essentially the same conclusion by extrapolating from quite different sets of sources and quite independently of one another.

I would add more factors, or perhaps context, to what Edwards and Roy emphasized:

The character of research activity has changed out of sight since the era or “modern science” began; for example, the number of wannabe “research universities” in the USA has tripled or quadrupled since WWII — see “Three stages of modern science”; “The science bubble”; chapter 1 in Science Is Not What You Think [McFarland 2017].

This historical context shows how the perverse incentives noted by Edwards and Roy came about. Honesty and integrity, dedication to truth-seeking above all, were notable aspects of scientific activity when research was something of an ivory-tower avocation; nowadays research is so integrated with government and industry that researchers face much the same difficulties as professionals who seek to practice honesty and integrity while working in the political realm or the financial realm: the system makes conflicts of interest, institutional as well as personal, inevitable. John Ziman (Prometheus Bound, Cambridge University Press) pointed out how the norms of scientific practice nowadays differ from those traditionally associated with science “in the good old days” (the “Mertonian” norms of communality, universality, disinterestedness, skepticism).

My special interest has long been in the role of unorthodoxies and minority views in the development of science. The mainstream, the scientific consensus, has always resisted drastic change (Barber, “Resistance by scientists to scientific discovery”, Science, 134 [1961] 596–602), but nowadays that resistance can amount to suppression; see “Science in the 21st century”; Dogmatism in Science and Medicine: How Dominant Theories Monopolize Research and Stifle the Search for Truth [McFarland, 2012]). Radical dissent from mainstream views is nowadays expressed openly almost only by long-tenured full professors or by retired people.

I’m in sympathy with the suggestions at the end of the formal Edwards and Roy paper, but I doubt that even those could really fix things since the problem is so thoroughgoingly systemic. Many institutions and people are vested in the status quo. Thus PhD programs will not change in the desired direction so long as the mentoring faculty are under pressure to produce more publications and grants, which leads to treating graduate students as cheap hired hands pushing the mentor’s research program instead of designing PhD research as optimum for neophytes to learn to do independent research. The drive for institutional prestige and status and rankings seems the same among university leaders, and they seek those not by excelling in “higher education” but by winning at football and basketball and by getting and spending lots of grant money on “research”. How to change that obsession with numbers: dollars for research, games won in sports?

That attitude is not unique to science or to academe. In society as a whole there has been increasing pressure to find “objective” criteria to avoid the biases inherent inevitably in human judgments. Society judges academe by numbers — of students, of research expenditures, of patents, of magnitude of endowment , etc. — and we compare nations by GDP rather than level of satisfaction among the citizens. In schools we create “objective” and preferably quantifiable criteria like “standards of learning” (SOLs), that supersede the judgments of the teachers who are in actual contact with actual students. Edwards and Roy cite Goodhart’s Law, which states that “when a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure”, which was new to me and which encapsulates so nicely much of what has gone wrong. For instance, in less competitive times, the award of a research grant tended to attest the quality of the applicant’s work; but as everything increased in size, and the amount of grants brought in became the criterion of quality of applicant and of institution, the aim of research became to get more grants rather than to do the most advancing work that would if successful bring real progress as well as more research funds. SOLs induced teachers to cheat by sharing answers with their students before giving the test. And so on and on. The cart before the horse. The letter of every law becomes the basis for action instead of the human judgment that could put into practice the spirit of the law.

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Posted in conflicts of interest, consensus, fraud in science, funding research, politics and science, resistance to discovery, science is not truth, scientific culture | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Predatory publishers and fake rankings of journals

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2017/04/06

I get invitations to submit articles to a variety of journals that I have never heard of and whose supposed field of interest may bear little relation to my intellectual biography. The invitations come about as often as the notifications of winning lottery tickets or other windfalls.

More than a decade ago, librarian Jeffrey Beall began to compile lists of the “publishers” who put out these “journals” to profit from what authors pay to get published under the widespread need for academics to “publish or perish”. Beall no longer updates the lists and the web site is no longer operative, but a late version is available courtesy of the Wayback Machine.

One recent invitation came to me from the International Organization of Scientific Research (IOSR), which is on Beall’s list and offers some 22 “journals”. I tried sampling them and was not able to access articles from all of them, but did get to the IOSR Journal of Applied Physics and savored the article “Of void (vacuum) energy and quantum field: – a abstraction-subtraction model” by “Dr K N Prasanna Kumar || Prof B S Kiranagi || Prof C S Bagewadi” . At 63 pages, this is quite an article, featuring such insights as “Vacuum energy arises naturally in quantum mechanics due to the uncertainty principle”:
Abstract: A system of quantum field dissipating void and a parallel system of quantum field and void system that contribute to the dissipation of the velocity of void is investigated. It is shown that the time independence of the contributions portrays another system by itself and constitutes the equilibrium solution of the original time independent system. Methodology reinforced with the explanations, we write the governing equations with the nomenclature for the systems in the foregoing. Further papers extensively draw inferences upon such concatenation process, ipsofacto. Significantly consummation and consolidation of this model with that of the Grand Unified Theory is the one that results in the Quantum field giving rise to the basic forces which is purported to have been combined at the high temperatures at the Big Bang Vacuum energy is reported to be the reason for the consummation of the four forces at the scintillatingly high temperature.

It may be obvious why this reminds me of the hoax that Alan Sokal perpetrated on the journal Social Text.

The invitation from IOSR included a wrinkle I had not come across before: it flaunted its high ranking among journals (e-mail, 5 April 2017, from JPBS.journal JOURNALS <jpbs.journal@mail4iosr.org>):

I was tickled by the concept of the African Quality Center for Journals and Googled for it, half expecting that it did not exist. But it does, though its self-description did fit my suspicions:

The academic community has long been demanding more transparency, choice and accuracy in journal assessment. Currently, the majority of academic output is evaluated based on a single ranking of journal impact. African Quality centre [sic] for Journals (AQCJ) perform this job as precisely as possible.

Impact Factor is a measure reflecting the average number of citations to articles published in journals, books, patent document, thesis, project reports, newspapers, conference/ seminar proceedings, documents published in internet, notes and any other approved documents. It is measure the relative importance of a journal within its field, with journals of higher journal impact factors deemed to be more important than those with lower ones.

Evaluation Methodology
AQCJ consider following parameters for calculation Impact factor (AQCJ)
Ø              Citation : The impact factor for a journal is calculated based on a three-year period, and can be considered to be the average number of times published papers are cited up to two years after publication.
Ø             Originality : AQCJ checks random selects published article’s originality and quality. Only citation is not perfect way of Impact factor calculation.
Ø              Time publication : Periodicity of publication should be uniform. If it is not uniform, the quality of particular publication cannot impressible.
Ø              Geographical coverage : Only particular small area based publication cannot get good marks as it is not covering all around world research.
Ø              Editorial Quality : Editor Board of particular Journal gives the direction to any Journal. So it must be good and considerable for evaluation.”

And it does offer a list of “Top 20 Publishers”:

At a cursory glance, noting Nature, Cambridge, Springer, Wiley, this might briefly pass muster as plausible, until one looks more closely and decides to check up on, say, “Barker Deane Publishing” in Australia which is ranked above Taylor & Francis; Barker Deane Publishing specializes in “Self publishing and publishing for health, spirituality, positive living, new age”.

The website of the African Quality Center for Journals did not offer me a way to discover its possible connection to IOSR, but I suspect quite strongly that there is one. The syntax on the two web sites is rather strikingly congruent.

 

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Money has corrupted science, including some individual scientists

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2017/03/11

Some years ago, I had blogged about “The business of for-profit ‘science’”, pointing out that “A number of trends, in society as a whole as well as in science and medicine, have led to the present dysfunctional state of affairs. It is not the result of conspiracies or overt evil-doing . . .”.

Systemic change means that just “doing what everyone does” results in bad things for the public as a whole. An obvious illustration at the moment is that politics has become so pervaded by “spin” that truth has essentially disappeared from what politicians and their spokespeople say, with consequences that everyone should fear.

But that “normal” behavior has become dysfunctional does not entail that there is not also deliberate additional mischief being done, and things that seem so out of order that they ought to be criminally prosecutable.

One aspect of present dysfunctionality in scientific activities is the proliferation of what has been aptly described as predatory publishing on-line of what seem on their face to be scientific journals but whose entire raison d’être is to make money for the publishers from the fees paid by author. The steadily updated list of apparently predatory publishers and journals inaugurated by Jeffrey Beall was no longer on-line as of some time between 12 and 18 January 2017, but the Wayback Machine makes an earlier version available .

Admittedly, every active, publishing researcher knows that peer review and editorial judgments are far from infallibly expert and impartial, but the predatory journals have no quality control at all, illustrated by the acceptance of entirely fake articles, for instance in Open Information Science published by Bentham Science (Jessica Shepherd, “Editor quits after journal accepts bogus science article”, 18 June 2009 ); the editor of another Bentham journal, Open Chemical Physics, resigned after an article she had never seen was published, a piece that alleged the presence of “nanothermite” particles in the dust from the Twin Towers terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 (Thomas Hoffmann, “Chefredaktør skrider efter kontroversiel artikel om 9/11”, 28 April 2009; Denis G. Rancourt, “Editor in Chief resigned over the Harrit et al. nanothermite paper”, 11 November 2010).

Beall had listed more than 1100 publishers, some of which publish hundreds of ”journals” where “article processing charges” run from a few hundred dollars upwards to more than $1000. Any honest researcher with results of any importance seeks publication in a long-established and respected journal, so all this “publication” by the predators is sheer waste, much of it money that had been awarded to scientists as research grants. Bentham Science, perhaps iconic of the more prominent predators, lists well over 100 journals. In 2013, Science published the report of a sting operation in which fake manuscripts with obvious flaws were sent to a number of open-access journals; more than half the fake articles were accepted for publication (John Bohannon, “Who’s Afraid of Peer Review? A spoof paper concocted by Science reveals little or no scrutiny at many open-access journals”, Science 342 [2013] 60-5).

Of course not all mainstream print journals manage always to detect even obvious deficiencies, but predatory journals leave other clues, for example, that they continually solicit people for submissions and to serve as editors and on editorial boards (e.g. D. H. Kaye, “Flaky academic journals”, 21 December 2016; Gunther Eysenbach, “Black sheep among Open Access Journals and Publishers”).

Legitimate journals employ copyeditors, but the predators do not. Recently I benefited from e-mails that revealed yet further deceitful money grubbing. Bentham Science journals suggest that authors get (and pay for) copy-editing and language improvement services offered by Eureka Science — whose staff happens to be the same people who also run Bentham Science. The “two” companies also pretend to be separate entities in the arranging of conferences, for example the International Conference on Drug Discovery and Therapy (six since 2008).

Conferences can be real money-makers. For the 2017 International Conference on Drug Discovery and Therapy, registration fees range from about $500 for mere attendees to, for speakers ~$1000 (academic) o r~ $1600 (corporate) (the approximate “~” because fees vary a bit according to when they are paid). Invited speakers pay the same fees as non-invited, which strikes me as odd. When I’m invited to speak I’m offered expenses, even an honorarium; but then I haven’t been active in mainstream science research for quite some time. The Conference organizers do offer free travel and accommodation to a few eminent people, say Nobel Prize winners, since having those attend lends apparent legitimacy to the proceedings. These meetings can be lucrative indeed for the organizers: the 2015 International Conference on Drug Discovery and Therapy listed more than 360 registrants.

The identity of Bentham Science and Eureka Science was revealed to me by Fiona Hayden, self-described as a researcher in the field of corporate ethics with a special interest in the STM publishing industry. She discovered that
Ø      Bentham Science hides its identity and location.
Ø      It organizes conferences but tells potential audience that it is just a media partner, that the organizer is a different company.
Ø      It asks authors to pay for grammar and English editing to its own company with the different name Eureka Science.
Ø      It does not allow its employees to disclose on their social media accounts that they work for Bentham Science.
Ø      It puts people who expose them on a black list.

The version of the black list Hayden sent me had about 30 names. The criterion for inclusion seems to be anyone who might be a whistleblower about improper happenings: one person on the list whom I had known reasonably well was an activist for integrity of academic ideals; another has been one of the most prominent advocates of respectable high-quality open-access publishing.

At one of the “Eureka” conferences, several of the staff had identified themselves as Bentham employees to Hayden and her colleagues, who also identified by name and e-mail address several individuals active in “both” companies, which are registered in Karachi as Information Technology Services (ITS). Among the registrants at the 2015 Conference on Drug Discovery and Therapy, about 15 were Bentham employees listed as ITS or Eureka.

ITS, Bentham Science, & Eureka Science are one and the same, owned by retired Professor Atta-ur-Rehman who is always president or vice president of Eureka conferences (Fiona Hayden e-mail, 2 March 2017). While serving as Chairman of the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan, Atta-ur-Rehman had been warned about the publishing of fake journals in Pakistan (Q. Isa Daudpota [professor at Pakistan’s Air University], “Scourge of fake journals”, 30 November 2011, ).

I had posted recently about The Scourge of Wikipedia; Wiki’s unreliability is illustrated by its Google summary for Bentham Science, which makes it appear as a perfectly respectable mainstream outfit instead of the reality:

Fiona Hayden also supplied links to some articles by a range of authors deploring predatory publishing and other sad aspects of contemporary science:

http://www.dcscience.net/2011/12/16/open-access-peer-review-grants-and-other-academic-conundrums/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4315198/

http://neurodojo.blogspot.de/2015/04/how-much-harm-is-done-by-predatory.html

http://www.acc.org/latest-in-cardiology/articles/2013/05/10/16/21/straight-talk-predatory-publishers

http://blog.pokristensson.com/2010/11/04/academic-spam-and-open-access-publishing/

http://www.editage.com/insights/simple-steps-authors-can-follow-to-protect-their-research-from-predatory-publishers

https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17288-crap-paper-accepted-by-journal/

*                     *                   *                   *                   *                   *                   *                   *

Predatory publishing exists because of how the whole enterprise of science has been corrupted by outside interests and the overweening pursuit of financial profit. I deplore what Bentham/Eureka/ITS does, though the conferences are evidently found useful, given that they attract so many attendees. Meeting fresh faces from distant places can be a rewarding experience, as I found at a couple of the Conferences on the Unity of the Sciences  despite that they were organized by the Unification Church, many of whose other activities I deplore.

The degree to which “normal” mainstream science has succumbed to financial corruption may be illustrated by the Institute of Global Environment and Society, established by a professor at George Mason University. It has cashed in on the hysteria over climate change  by garnering “82 federal grants and 3 contracts from 5 agencies totaling $26,222,420 from Fiscal Year 2008 to FY 2016: (Source: www.USASpending.gov)” and spending most of it on salaries:

“IGES 2014 Income: $3,846,141 including $3,832,383 federal contributions; 2013 income $4,186,639 including $4,174 658 federal contributions; IGES spent $3,296,720 on salaries in 2014; $3,194,792 on salaries in 2013”. Principals of IGES moreover had the gall to urge criminal action against “global warming deniers” — Political correctness in science, 2017/03/06.

Not that long-established scientific publishers abstain from money grubbing, also profiting exorbitantly from open-access publishing designed to extract more money from authors and their patrons: Nature also publishes more than 30 open-access on-line journals as well as 42 journals with “hybrid open access” with per article fees between $1350 and $5200 for different journals. Elsevier charges fees ranging between $500 and $5,000, depending on the journal, for “open access” publishing.

It may be that predatory publishing will inevitably continue so long as science continues to be characterized by cutthroat competitiveness and judgments made by quantity of research grants and of publications.

There may be an analogy with drug trafficking or prostitution: so long as the demand exists, entrepreneurs will find profitable ways to satisfy the demand. So long as scientific careers call for long lists of publications, sleazy publishers will continue to exist.

 

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How Science Has Changed — notably since World War II

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2017/01/01

The way science is usually mentioned, including its history, seems to imply a fundamental continuity in the development of modern science from its origins around the 16th-17th centuries (Galileo, Newton) to the present time, via the understanding of heredity (Mendel, much later DNA), of evolution (Darwin, Lynn Margulis, many others), of atomic structure and chemical bonding, of relativity and quantum mechanics, and much else.

One can certainly discern a continuity in these discoveries and accumulations of facts and the development of ever-better, more encompassing explanations. But the nature of scientific activity — who does science and how they do it — is best understood not as a continuum over this period but as three clearly distinguishable stages in which the interaction of science with society as a whole is significantly different: what the social place of scientists is, how their work is supported, how the fruits of science are disseminated and how they are accepted (or not accepted) outside science itself.

To understand the role of science in today’s worlds it is essential to understand this history.

The birth of “modern” science is credited uncontroversially to “The” Scientific Revolution of the 17th century, but there is not equally general recognition that there have been three distinctly and significantly different stages of scientific activity since then.

In the first stage, a variety of people — clergy, craftsmen, aristocrats, entrepreneurs —were seeking to satisfy their curiosity about how the world works; truth-seeking was effectively in the hands of amateurs, people doing it for the sake of doing it, truth-seeking was their chief controlling interest. Missteps taken at this stage resulted chiefly from the inherent difficulty of making discoveries and from such inherent human flaws as pride and avarice.

The second stage, roughly much of the later 19th century and first half of the 20th, saw science becoming a career, a plausible way to make a living, not unlike other careers in academe or in professions like engineering: respectable and potentially satisfying but not any obvious path to great influence or wealth. Inevitably there were conflicts of interest between furthering a career and following objectively where evidence pointed, but competition and collegiality served well   enough to keep the progress of science little affected by conflicting career interests. The way to get ahead was by doing good science.

In the third and present stage, which began at about the middle of the 20th century, science faces a necessary change in ethos as its centuries-long expansion at an exponential rate has changed to a zero-sum, steady-state situation that has fostered intensely cutthroat competition. At the same time, the record of science’s remarkable previous successes has led industry and government to co-opt and exploit science and scientists. Those interactions offer the possibility for individual practitioners of science to gain considerable public influence and wealth. That possibility tempts to corruption. Outright fraud in research has become noticeably more frequent, and public pronouncements about matters of science are made not for the purpose of enlightenment on truths about the natural world but largely for self-interested bureaucratic and commercial motives. As a result. one cannot nowadays rely safely on the soundness of what authoritative institutions and individuals say about science.

For a full discussion with pertinent citations and references, see my article “Three Stages of Modern Science”, Journal of Scientific Exploration, 27 (2013) 505-13.

Posted in conflicts of interest, fraud in science, funding research, politics and science, science is not truth, scientific culture, scientists are human | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Who looks at evidence? Almost no one

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2015/06/28

I’ve been a crank for a long time about Loch Ness Monsters, frustrated because I can’t get people to look at Tim Dinsdale’s 1960 film which shows quite clearly a huge animal swimming in Loch Ness, submerging while still throwing up a massive wake.

For more than a decade, I’ve been a crank about HIV not causing AIDS, frustrated because I can’t get people to look at the clear evidence that HIV tests don’t track something infectious, and that the numbers in plain sight on the website of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, rates of sexual transmission at less than 1 per 1000 acts of unprotected intercourse, mean that HIV cannot cause an epidemic.

Now I’ve become a crank about human-caused climate change, frustrated because people won’t look at the clear evidence that carbon dioxide has been increasing steadily even as the global temperature was level or dropping form the 1940s into the 1970s, when the experts were predicting an Ice Age; and as the global temperature has not increased since the end of the 1990s.

Why don’t people look at evidence?

Because, I’ve finally realized, they don’t want to risk having to change their mind. There is no positive incentive and plenty of negative incentive. It’s beyond cognitive dissonance, which is to evade the significance of evidence after having come across it. It’s obviously even better not to have come across the evidence at all.

On human-caused climate change (HCCC), disbelief is expressed loudly and publicly by “conservatives” (in my view more accurately described as reactionaries) who have that opinion for the wrong reasons, namely the belief that economic free markets are the most important thing and regulating anything is bad.

“Liberals” or “progressives”, on the other hand (who are actually not liberal or progressive but simply knee-jerk politically correct) don’t look at the evidence because they don’t need to, it’s of no interest to them, they would take their stance that humans cause environmental damage no matter what. And they maintain perfect deniability, they are blameless, they were just accepting what the authorities, the experts, have been saying loudly and incessantly.

Most of my family and friends treat my “reactionary” stance on HCCC as a minor flaw, allowing me space because I tend to get caught up in Quixotic stuff all the time. They have no interest in looking at the evidence because they are completely comfortable with the notion of HCCC because it fits their anti-reactionary political views — which I happen to share. If it turns out that this HCCC is mistaken, there would be all sorts of undesirable consequences, in particular that reactionary views might appear to have been vindicated.

I was distressed when Stephen Colbert took HCCC as proven. I am not happy when all the MSNBC crowd does so, but they’ve become too extreme for me anyway and I rarely watch. But I was very unhappy when Jon Stewart took HCCC as proven. And Pope Francis may have been the last straw (in the wind, as far as ever changing public opinion). Though I did get a sort of sardonic enjoyment from the pundits who pointed out that the Pope knew what he was talking about because he had been a chemist. And I am getting continuing Schadenfreude over the contortions of the Republican presidential candidates as they are forced to comment on the Pope’s encyclical.

Evidence-seeking, I realize, is an obsession of perhaps the tiniest minority there is. On the dangers of modern medical practice, there are just a few dozen voices crying out publicly in the wilderness. On HIV/AIDS, there is our Rethinking AIDS  group of some dozens of people, with a few thousand more quietly agreeing. On HCCC, there are a few academic types like myself who got here because of the evidence, and who subsist uncomfortably in the association with people whose political and social views we do not share, to put it mildly.

I’m beginning to accept that none of the items in my bucket list will see the light of an enlightened day within my lifetime: Nessie discovery, rejection of HIV=AIDS, rejection of carbon-dioxide-is-hurting-us.

But I do remain curious about how the “authorities” will adjust when reality eventually catches up with them irrevocably.

[Corrected 8 August 2015 in paragraph 7]

Posted in consensus, denialism, fraud in medicine, fraud in science, global warming, media flaws, medical practices, politics and science, science is not truth, science policy, unwarranted dogmatism in science | Tagged: , , , , | 11 Comments »

Contemporary science and medicine are losing credibility

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2014/12/31

“The Demise of Science? Hundreds of computer generated studies have been published in respected scientific journals” describes more problems than just the publication of fake articles generated by computer programs.

“Independent research, where funding is unrelated to findings, has become a rarity, and the end result is a dramatic deterioration of credible science” is spot on. What used to be the place for independent purely truth-seeking “basic” research, the “ivory tower” of academe, has become a place where budding researchers must find their own research support from outside sources if they are to have a career — see e.g. Science has become another Bubble; Science rewards hucksters and spin artists, not soundly tested science; The business of for-profit “science”;  and links in those articles.

“The Demise of Science?” cites the increase in articles retracted because of falsification and other breaches of proper conduct.

Clinical trials are biased, and prescription drugs are now responsible for more deaths than anything but cancer and heart disease (David Healy, Pharmageddon, University of California Press, 2012; Peter C. Gøtzsche, Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime: How Big Pharma Has Corrupted Healthcare, Radcliffe, 2013).

A large proportion of published studies in medical matters cannot be reproduced.
Inveterate defenders of the mainstream will seek to discount the facts discussed in “The Demise of Science?” by noting that it is an Internet publication on a website that favors alternative medicine; but the same critique was made years ago by Marcia Angell, a former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine:

It is simply no longer possible to believe
much of the clinical research that is published,
or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians
or authoritative medical guidelines

Drug companies and doctors: a story of corruption
New York Review of Books, 15 January 2009

Posted in fraud in medicine, fraud in science, funding research, science is not truth, scientific culture | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Corrupt “science” publications and meetings

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2014/12/20

The “publish-or-perish” syndrome, together with the low cost of “publishing” on-line, has brought an endless spate of new “journals” put out by entrepreneurs ready to cash in; and quality control is not a consideration, even as some of the “publishers” pay lip-service to peer review.

A correspondent  to my HIV/AIDS blog  contributed a link to a story at Retraction Watch  that shows how the urge to make money by “publishing” is not restricted to new entrepreneurs, it is alive and well at corporate giants like Elsevier, whose prime interest in proliferating publications means that they do not even exercise ordinary care in overseeing how they accept articles: they had to retract a number of published articles that had been accepted after faked “peer review” because the article authors were allowed to choose who the “peer reviewers” would be.

Elsevier, of course, also published advertisements for drug companies under the pretense that they were journals (Corruption in medical science: Ghostwriting), and emasculated the innovative Medical Hypotheses after unfounded initiatives by HIV/AIDS vigilantes (see Chapter 3 in Dogmatism in Science and Medicine).

A related phenomenon to fake and shoddy “journals” is the proliferation of “conferences” whose only purpose is self-promotion by individuals, institutions, or even perhaps countries, since China is a prominent venue for these occasions; again see Fake, deceptive, predatory Science Journals and Conferences. The invitations to pseudo-conferences are often so incompetently composed that they remind one of the emails from Nigeria that one has won a huge prize at a lottery or inherited a huge amount from a previously unknown relative. Below is a just-received specimen; note that I never responded to earlier invites as well as other signs that this is an unedited from letter; note the poor written expression and syntax; but above all, browse the list of “Keynote Speakers” and “Part” listing of “renowned speakers”; a number of academics are quite happy to enjoy a grant-paid sightseeing vacation in China at an event organized primarily by Big Pharma and an entrepreneurial pseudo-conference-arranging outfit. Don’t neglect the link to the organizational home to note the huckstering of sponsorships, exhibition space, and the registration fees that range from $1300 to $2000; as well as the list of eight other concurrent “conferences” .

—————————————————————————————–
Dear Henry H. Bauer,

How are you? I wish everything goes well with you!

This is an email to follow up my previous invitations. I have not heard from you for a couple of weeks since my first letter. Now we have received well responding from worldwide experts in planned sessions, in case you won’t miss it, we’ d like to extend our invitation again. I am writing to confirm whether you would like to attend this grand congress and present a speech. Would you please give me a tentative reply? Thank you very much.

I apologize for the inconvenience if the letter disturbed you more than once. On behalf of the Meeting Organizing Committee, it is my pleasure and privilege to invite you to be the Session speaker in the 7th Annual International Congress of Antibodies (ICA-2015).

The conference with the theme “Innovations from Defending Surface to Penetrating the Membrane” will be held during April 25-28, 2015 in Nanjing, China. If the suggested thematic session is not your current focused core, you may look through the whole sessions and transfer another one that fits your interest. We sincerely wish your participation.

Keynote Speakers:

Dr. Brian E. Harvey, Vice President, Pfizer Inc., USA
Dr. Liangzhi Xie, Founder & CEO, Sino Biological Inc., China
Dr. Andrew Wang, Chairman, Taiwan Antibody Association, Taiwan
Dr. Jonathan Milner, CEO, Abcam, UK
Dr. Chien-Hsing Ken Chang, Vice President, Research and Development, Immunomedics, Inc., USA
Dr. Michael Yu, Presidert, Innovent Biologics, Inc., China

We look forward to seeing you in Nanjing in 2015 for this influential event.

If you need any assistance about the conference, please do not hesitate to contact us at any time!

For more information, please visit: http://www.bitcongress.com/ica2015/default.asp
Sincerely yours,

Dannie
Organizing Commission of ICA-2015
East Area, F11, Building 1,
Dalian Ascendas IT Park,
1 Hui Xian Yuan,
Dalian Hi-tech Industrial Zone,
LN 116025, China
Tel: 0086-411-84575669-860
Email: dannie@bit-ica.com

PS: Part of Renowned Speakers:
Mr. Homan Chan, Investigator, Novartis Institute of Biomedical Research, USA
Dr. Tao Wu, Principal Scientist, Boehringer Ingelheim, USA
Dr. Liming Liu, Merck Research Laboratories, USA
Dr. Joshua DiNapoli, Senior Scientist, Sanofi Pasteur, USA
Dr. Ostendorp Ralf, Vice President, MorphoSys AG, Germany
Dr. Abdul Wajid, Senior Director, XOMA, USA
Dr. Ernesto Oviedo-Orta, Clinical Sciences Expert, Novartis Vaccines Diagnostics Siena, Italy
Dr. Guohong Wang, VP, Immunalysis Corporation, USA
Dr. Rong-Rong Zhu, Senior Scientist, EMD Millipore, USA
Dr. David P. Humphreys, Senior Group Leader, UCB-New Medicines, UK
Dr. Jian Li, Principal Scientist, Pfizer Inc., USA
Dr. Bing Kuang, Principal Scientist, Pfizer, USA
Dr. William Haseltine, Founder, Chairman of the Board and CEO, Human Genome Sciences, USA
Dr. Martin Lemmerer, Principal Scientist, Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, Inc., USA
Dr. Jijie Gu, Senior Principal Research Scientist, AbbVie Pharmaceuticals, Inc., USA
Dr. Ronald C. Desrosiers, Professor, Harvard Medical School, USA
Dr. Eva Kimby, Professor, Karolinska University Hospital, Sweden
Dr. Joseph F. John, Professor and Chief, Medical University of South Carolina, USA
Dr. Dongfeng Tan, Professor, the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, USA
Dr. Paul Fisch, Group leader and Professor, University of Freiburg, Germany
Dr. Koshi Mimori, Professor & Director, Kyushu University Beppu Hospital, Japan
Dr. Peggy Hsieh, Professor, Florida State University, USA
Dr. Rudiger Schade, Professor, Charité-University Medicine of Berlin, Germany
Dr. Tae Young Jang, Professor, Inha University, Korea
Dr. Oddmund Bakke, Professor, University of Oslo, Norway
Dr. Rajat Sethi, Chair, California Health Sciences University, USA
Mr. Tim Bernard, CEO, Pivotal Scientific Limited, UK
Dr. Dan Zhang, Chairman and CEO, Fountain Medical Development Ltd., China
Dr. Kaia Agarwal, President, Regulatory Compass, LLC., USA
Ms. Sandra Frantzen, Shareholder, McAndrews, Held Malloy, Ltd., USA
Dr. Seth D. Ginsberg, President, Global Healthy Living Foundation, USA
Dr. James R Harris, CEO, Healthcare Economics LLC., USA
Dr. Martin Gleeson, CSO, Genalyte Inc., USA
Dr. Mingjiu Chen, President and CEO, biosynergics Inc., China
Dr. Jane Dancer, Chief Operating Officer, F-star, UK
Dr. Xiaodong Yang, President and CEO, Apexigen, USA
Dr. Wenzhi Tian, President and CEO, Huabo Biopharm Co Ltd, China
Dr. Ralph V. Boccia, Director, Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, USA
Dr. Jun Bao, Senior Vice President, Shenogen Pharma Group, China
Dr. Francesc Mitjans, Chief Scientific Officer, Lykera Biomed, Spain
Dr. Fiona Greer, Director, SGS M-Scan, UK
Dr. Albrecht Gröner, Head Pathogen Safety, CSL Behring, Germany
Dr. Chung-Chou Lee, CEO of Medigen Vaccinology Corporation, Taiwan
Dr. Chengbin Wu, President of RD, Shanghai CP Guojian Pharmaceutical, China
Dr. Ni Jian, General Manager, National Engineering Research Center of Antibody Medicine, China
Dr. Ian Q. Li, Chief scientific Officer, ATGCell Inc., Canada
Dr. Terry Dyck, President, CEO, IGY Immune Technologies Life Sciences Inc., Canada
Dr. Vijay E-Bionary, CEO, E-Bionary Technologies, India
Dr. Allan Riting Liu, Vice President & Senior Advisor, Wanbang Biopharmaceutical Group, China
512

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All I can say is, FOR SHAME, to everyone associated with such scams.

Posted in conflicts of interest, fraud in medicine, fraud in science, peer review, scientific culture | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

When prophecy fails

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2014/07/13

True believers do not question their belief when evidence disproves it, for example when predictions turn out to be wrong. Instead they find ways to modify the predictions while keeping the core belief intact, illustrating the phenomenon of cognitive dissonance: the inability to recognize facts that contradict one’s beliefs.

The classic study is When Prophecy Fails: A Social and Psychological Study of a Modern Group that Predicted the Destruction of the World by Leon Festinger, Henry Riecken, & Stanley Schachter (University of Minnesota Press, 1956).

This is often cited in connection with religious cults and similarly disparaged groups. However, the lesson is just as applicable to true believers of all sorts, including true believers in the conventional wisdom and acolytes of scientism, true believers in the religion of Science (Scientism, the Religion of Science).

Scientists themselves are not immune. Half a century ago, Thomas Kuhn [1] pointed out that the history of science is a record of maintaining theories long after the evidence has disproved them. Bernard Barber [2] pointed out that what are now the most applauded advances in science were fiercely resisted at the time they were first proposed. Gunther Stent [3] pointed to “premature discoveries” like continental drift and quantitative genetics that were dismissed for several decades before gaining acceptance. Imre Lakatos [4] pointed out that scientists routinely make ad hoc adjustments to theories in order to maintain the core belief, just as Ptolemy added epicycles — wheels upon wheels — to sustain the credibility of Earth-centered astronomy.

The popular view that scientific theories are continually tested against evidence is wrong. It’s only in the long run that science eventually acknowledges its errors and corrects them, and sometimes that long run is very long indeed.

A contemporary case in point is HIV/AIDS theory. The evidence has long been quite plain that “HIV” is not infectious, is not transmitted sexually, and doesn’t cause “AIDS” (The Case against HIV). Prediction after prediction of the theory has been disproved, for example, that an AIDS epidemic would sweep across the heterosexual world (section 4.1 in The Case against HIV). Innumerable individuals continue to be dreadfully harmed, to the point of death, by supposedly life-saving antiretroviral drugs (section 5 in The Case against HIV). People continue to be told that they are “HIV-infected” despite the fact that there is no approved test for “HIV infection”, and increasingly the mainstream is doubling down on the harm it causes by calling for more and more widespread “HIV testing”.

Perhaps most incredibly, the idea is now being promulgated assiduously that perfectly healthy, HIV-negative people should take up a permanent regime of toxic drugs in order to decrease the likelihood of becoming “HIV-positive”:
Healthy gay men urged to take HIV drugs — WHO:
“The World Health Organization (WHO) is urging all sexually active gay men to take antiretroviral drugs to reduce the spread of HIV. The organisation says the move may help prevent a million new HIV infections over 10 years”.

What exactly is the evidence that antiretroviral drugs can prevent infection?
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) cite 4 trials of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP).
Like peer review, clinical trials are widely thought to safeguard the quality and reliability of scientific publication, but that is not now the case: vested interests of drug companies and researchers and others have made clinical trials tools for marketing drugs instead of for discovering truth [5]; innumerable devices are employed to slant results of clinical trials in directions desired by the sponsor [6, 7].

The four studies cited by CDC illustrate that great skepticism is called for.
1. “Preexposure chemoprophylaxis for HIV prevention in men who have sex with men” (New England Journal of Medicine 363 [2010] 2587-99 by Robert M. Grant (corresponding author) and 34 other authors “for the iPrEx Study Team” listed in a Supplementary Appendix on the NEJM website.
2499 subjects were followed for a median of 1.2 years. 36 in the PrEP group administered FTC (emtricitabine) plus TDF (tenofovir) became infected compared to 64 on placebo, yielding a claimed effective reduction of 44% in infection rate. How this is calculated is rather obscure, since the paper’s Figure 2 shows cumulative probabilities of infection as about 9% and about 7.5%; that decrease of 1.5% from 9% is a decrease by 1/6 which is about 15%  rather than 44%.

PrEP-Grant

 Beyond that apparent contradiction, certain details in this report seem unbelievable. Both placebo and drug recipients supposedly had identical rates of adverse events (70% and 69% respectively) and of serious adverse events (5% each).

There’s something obviously wrong here. Participants must have been significantly unhealthy if some 70% on placebo experienced adverse events and 5% serious adverse events, in little more than a year and when the average ages were 26.8 and 27.5 years in placebo and drug groups respectively. There were only very minor differences between the groups: Drugs caused more nausea (2% vs. <1%, p = 0.04) but placebo caused more diarrhea (61 vs. 49 events p = 0.36, insignificant).
More specifically: It has long been known that TDF is toxic in a number of ways, notably by causing kidney failure: Poisonous “prophylaxis”: PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prevention); Treatment Guidelines are dangerous; Unlimited insanity: Truvada to prevent HIV; Spinning Truvada; Kidney-disease denialism (a special case of HAART denialism); Tenofovir and the ethics of clinical trials.

2. “Antiretroviral prophylaxis for HIV-1 prevention among heterosexual men and women” (New England Journal of Medicine 367 [2012] 399-410) by Jared M. Baeten (corresponding author) and 44 others “for the Partners PrEP Study Team” that are listed in a Supplement.
The same oddity is reported here, of similar rates of adverse events (~85%) in two separate drug-administered cohorts as well as in the placebo group. Serious adverse events were also reported as similar at 7.3 or 7.4%. The study extended over 3 years.
Again one wonders why people on placebo, with median age in the low 30s, would experience a 2.5% per year rate of serious adverse events, even in Kenya and Uganda.
The subjects were 4758 couples, and HIV infection was reported at 0.65 per 100 person-years with TDF alone, 0.50 with FTC/TDF, and 1.99 on placebo; thus reductions of 67% and 75% respectively: about twice the 44% reported by Grant for FTC/TDF.

3. “Antiretroviral preexposure prophylaxis for heterosexual HIV transmission in Botswana” (New England Journal of Medicine 367 [2012] 423-34) by Michael C. Thigpen (corresponding author) and 23 others plus further members of the TDF2 Study Group listed in the Supplementary Appendix.
1219 individuals were studied for a median of 1.1 years, with reported efficacy of TDF/FTC at 62.2%: 1.2 and 3.1 infections per 100 person-years, respectively. The drugs did produce more “nausea (18.5% vs. 7.1%, P<0.001), vomiting (11.3% vs. 7.1%, P = 0.008), and dizziness (15.1% vs. 11.0%, P = 0.03) than the placebo group, but the rates of serious adverse events were similar (P = 0.90)” [emphasis added].
Once again it seems more than strange that the rates of serious adverse events on placebo should be the same as on the drugs: why would 7% of people healthy enough to enroll in a clinical trial experience a serious adverse event in little more than a year? When the average age was only in the 20s?
But incredible details aside, this article should never have been published: “Because of
low retention and logistic limitations, we concluded the study early and followed
enrolled participants through an orderly study closure rather than expanding enrollment”. It is an elementary principle that when protocols cannot be followed, “results” must not be given any credence.

4. “Antiretroviral prophylaxis for HIV infection in injecting drug users in Bangkok, Thailand (the Bangkok Tenofovir Study): a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled phase 3 trial” (Lancet 381 [2013] 2083-90) by Michael Martin (corresponding author) and 16 others “for the Bangkok Tenofovir Study Group”.
2413 individuals were assigned to TDF or placebo, with apparent infection rates of 0.35 and 0.68 per 100 person-years respectively, presumably from sharing of infected needles rather than from sexual transmission. One may be excused for being skeptical about this given that other studies have shown that drug abusers who don’t share needles tend to be “infected” at a greater rate than those who do share needles (section 3.3.8 in The Case against HIV).
Here again the “occurrence of serious adverse events was much the same between the two groups”, albeit ill health among drug abusers is to be expected; median age was 31. “Nausea was more common in participants in the tenofovir group than in the placebo group (p=0·002)”.

Those are the data that supposedly justify administering highly toxic drugs to perfectly healthy individuals continually during their years of sexual activity.
What the reports actually demonstrate is that clinical trials can be and are biased unscrupulously to produce highly misleading “data”, “showing” for example that a drug of known toxicity is no more harmful than placebo.

In an honest world, the perpetrators of such schemes, Big Pharma and its “researcher” shills, would be charged with manslaughter if not murder.
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[1] Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, University of Chicago Press, 1970
[2] Bernard Barber, “Resistance by scientists to scientific discovery”,  Science, 134 (1961) 596-602
[3] Gunther Stent, “Prematurity and uniqueness in scientific discovery”, Scientific American, December 1972, 84-93
[4] Imre Lakatos, “History of Science and its Rational Reconstruction”, pp. 1-40 in Method and Appraisal in the Physical Sciences, ed. Colin Howson, Cambridge University Press, 1976
[5] David Healy, Pharmageddon, University of California Press, 2012
[6] Ben Goldacre, Bad Pharma: How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients, Faber & Faber, 2013
[7] Peter C. Gøtzsche, Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime: How Big Pharma Has Corrupted Healthcare, Radcliffe, 2013

Posted in conflicts of interest, fraud in medicine, fraud in science, medical practices, prescription drugs, unwarranted dogmatism in science | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

More reviews of DOGMATISM book

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2014/05/22

Two substantial reviews offering much room for further thought have just been published of Dogmatism in Science and Medicine: How Dominant Theories Monopolize Research and Stifle the Search for Truth:

Journal of Scientific Exploration, 28 (2014) 142-48, by Donald J. DeGracia
Dogmatism in Science and Medicine (DSM) by Henry H. Bauer is about the corruption of modern science. For practicing scientists it is a disturbing book to read. Medicine is bitter, yet we put up with it to get better. DSM is bitter medicine intended to improve the health of science.
. . . .
Dr. Bauer does a professional, competent, and important job bringing the corruption of modern science into the light. The criticisms offered above do not detract from the fundamental correctness of the picture DSM paints, but instead underscore its seriousness, and the need to further refine the picture. To scoff at DSM or to think it is off-base is merely to reveal that the scoffer is woefully uninformed about the transformations that have occurred in science over the past decades. If one is a practicing scientist, or a concerned citizen of good will, one ignores this book at one’s own peril.

Journal of Scientific Exploration, 28 (2014) 149-52, by Brian Josephson
At the end of this fascinating book, Bauer asks the question: Can 21st century science become trustworthy again? He suggests that change must come from outside the existing institutions, which merely serve to perpetuate knowledge monopolies, but first the need for change must become generally recognized . Possibilities discussed include a Science Court; independent, publicly funded institutions that can assess scientific claims of public importance; and designated funds for non-mainstream research. Something of this nature is clearly needed.

 

 

 

Posted in denialism, fraud in medicine, fraud in science, funding research, global warming, media flaws, medical practices, peer review, politics and science, prescription drugs, resistance to discovery, science policy, scientism, scientists are human | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Critiques of science, medicine, academe

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2014/02/25

A request for information led me to update my bibliography of books and articles describing deficiencies and flaws in present-day science, medicine, and academe. It’s posted on my personal homepage and also here.

Posted in conflicts of interest, consensus, fraud in medicine, fraud in science, legal considerations, media flaws, medical practices, peer review, politics and science, prescription drugs, science policy, scientific culture, scientism, unwarranted dogmatism in science | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »