by: Jonathan Benson
Recognizing that scientific fraud has spiraled completely out of control, a group of academic leaders is taking a stand to bolster transparency and improve the level of integrity in fields of research relating to biotechnology, genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), pharmaceuticals, and vaccines.
Rick Wilson, the Herbert S. Autrey Chair of Political Science and professor of statistics and psychology at Rice University in Houston, is leading the charge to boost transparency, openness, and reproducibility in scientific research. His group, the Transparency and Openness Promotion Committee, or TOP, recently published a series of guidelines in the journal Science that seek this end.
Wilson’s paper addresses many of the failures in existing publishing protocols that have allowed inaccurate or outright fraudulent studies to appear in prominent scientific and medical journals. The current system, he contends, actually inhibits openness and honesty while breeding phony science grounded in deception.
“A likely culprit for this disconnect is an academic reward system that insufficiently incentivizes open practices,” Wilson says. “In the present reward system, the emphasis on innovation undermines practices that support openness. Too often, publication requirements – whether actual or perceived – fail to encourage transparent, open and reproducible science.”
GMO safety studies corrupted by tainted animal feed given to both test and control animals
Wilson’s proposals include eight updated standards, each of which comes with three levels of adoption. Each one is geared towards improving communication and openness while fostering innovation and exploration across the disciplines. Such standards include improved transparency in citations, data collection, research, analytics, design, and more.
A full listing of Wilson’s proposed guidelines and what they entail is available here:
Such changes are vital if today’s scientific research is to be taken seriously, especially in light of all the blatantly fraudulent studies coming out these days in promotion of things like GMOs and vaccines. A recent paper published in the journal PLoS One, for instance, found that much of the animal feed used in GMO safety studies is contaminated, skewing the results in favor of corporate-owned food products.
Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini from the University of Caen in France compiled a team to look at the quality of dried feed given to laboratory animals around the world. Among the samples tested, which came from five continents, Prof. Seralini observed traces of some 262 pesticides, four heavy metals, 17 dioxins and furans, 18 PCBs, and 22 GMOs.
Vaccines and pharma pills aren’t immune to scientific fraud
The presence of these poisons in animal feed is obviously problematic when trying to assess the safety of a novel GMO or pesticide. If animals in both test and control groups are consuming tainted feed the results will likely be uniform, suggesting that the substance being tested is safe. And this, of course, is what the chemical and biotechnology companies that conduct such trials aim for in order to gain regulatory approval.
Such fraud is also prominent within the pharmaceutical and vaccine industries. Pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. is currently in hot water after two of its former scientists came forward to confess that their employer had falsified research to conceal the harm caused by the MMR vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella, as well as manufacture the illusion of vaccine effectiveness.
“The guidelines are sensitive to concerns by both journals and researchers,” added Wilson about the intent of his proposals.
“For example, we encourage journals to state exceptions to sharing because of ethical issues, intellectual property concerns or availability of necessary resources. We encourage journals to pick and choose among the different levels and standards in order to define what they expect of the researchers.”
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