Ethics in Science


A superficial reading of popular media on science plagiarism, doctored results, falsification, backstabbing, sabotage appear to suggest that these have spilt over only recently from other hyper-competitive professions. But appearances are deceptive. This (as with many other human traits) has been around since we began to think.

Here I will attempt to bring together scientific ethics, ideas about ethical scientific practise and the positive side of all the noise about bad-science. In the interim, a few links.

  • Clearly a strategy of naming and shaming- Beall’s list makes for an interesting read. Many of those with some years in scientific research will vouch for the increase in emails claiming yet another OpenAccess journal to “submit your new research findings” to. This certainly seems to address (in a Rambo-esque manner- one man army) the question about the (sometimes more than apparent) questionable quality of the journals. Many you will find have indian-sounding names- because they are based in India. This together with Mr. Aly’s interview is a fascinating read about the rise of dubious journals and the economics of it. Naturally when ~1000 articles are published in our field every month, we often don’t have the time to check on this, so Dr. Beall does a useful job. But more such Bealls are needed to get a global perspective on this.
  • The article that appeared in Nature “Investigating journals: The dark side of publishing” (Mar 2013) can be read here [pdf] (for those of who can’t get beyond the paywall). The irony being ofcourse that it appears the critique of OpenAccess is strongest amongst journals which don’t practise it. However all is not lost, there is a “Critical Analysis of Scholarly OpenAccess Publishing” blog which has a number of criteria which could be used to define predatory-publishing:  checklist if you like.
  • Science in the time of predatory publishing (Gracias Senor Gabriel Garcia-Marquez): Interview with a journal editor Mr. Aly from Egypt or Belgium, a former emloyee of Hindawi Publishing, India (!) which leaves lots to one’s imagination. Predatory publishing or simply bad scientific-publishing? You make up your mind.


While ringing in the new year (anno domini, i.e. current era (CE) 2014) there has been a huge storm kicked up in the science publishing and science ‘generating’ communities. For long seen as one and the same (with editors and all reviewers doing work pro-bono, i.e. for no or token fees), the professionalization and possible expansion of scientific publication has some feel led to a chasm between the two communities.

I am ofcourse referring to the ‘sting’ by a member of the editorial staff of the journal Science (John Bohannon) and the counters by Mike Eisen and a bigger followup by Randy Schenkman. A nice review of similar stings in the past (submitting fake papers to journals and seeing them accepted, to demonstrate the flaws in the review system) highlights the efforts by Bohannon aren’t new. However the internet with its reach and speed, allow data to be gathered globally and surveyed somewhat quantitatively- as seen in this info-graphic from

Comments are closed.