Sequestration Threatens Science

If Congress can't reach an agreement on reducing the federal deficit by $1.2 trillion, automatic decreases to key federal science agency budgets go into effect.

By | September 19, 2012

image: Sequestration Threatens Science Wikimedia, Kmccoy

The clock is ticking, counting down to January 2, 2013—the date by which the US Congress must approve a plan to reduce the federal budget deficit by $1.2 trillion. If they fail, automatic budget cuts will be made at a variety of federal agencies, including those tasked with funding US life science researchers.

According to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), such “sequestration” would slash the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget $2.529 billion, the National Science Foundation (NSF) would lose $586 million, and the Department of Energy Office of Science would be cut by $400 million.

Science advocates are speaking out to urge legislators to prevent these automatic cuts, which were provisioned by the government-shutdown-averting Budget Control Act of 2011. "Federal funding for research programs are not the source of our nation’s debt, and cuts to these and other programs are not the solution to our fiscal problems," said Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) President Judith Bond in a statement. "We urge our elected leaders to act expeditiously to avoid the catastrophic consequences of sequestration and enable federal agencies to plan for the coming year."

Ellie Dehoney, vice president of policy and programs at science advocacy group Research!America, said that researchers should take the initiative to call their elected represented and voice their concerns about sequestration. "We definitely need more scientists to speak up," she told The Scientist. "These [sequestration] numbers will, in fact, have a dramatic impact on the number of grants that are approved by NIH and NSF." Dehoney added that scientists should try to appeal to both Democratic and Republican lawmakers in phrasing their advice, such as emphasizing the need to trim entitlements and reform the tax code to achieve deficit reduction. "We need big solutions," she said.

Slashing federal science budgets is also likely to have far-reaching effects on the economy, according to Carrie Wolinetz, president of United for Medical Research (UMR), an advocacy group that seeks steady increases in NIH funding. "NIH is not just about the research that it funds directly through universities," she said. "There is a whole wide range of industry that either spins off from that research or supports the research." Laboratory equipment makers, reagent suppliers, and software providers make up this "innovation ecosystem," Wolinetz added, and all depend, to some degree, on federal science funding.

This summer UMR quantified the economic impact of the automatic cuts to the NIH budget. If sequestration resulted in an estimated 7.8 percent reduction in non-defense, discretionary spending, the total number of NIH awards would drop by more than 1,800, some 33,000 jobs would vanish, and economic activity would decrease by $4.5 billion, according to the UMR report released this July. With the publication of the even higher OMB sequestration estimates (8.2 percent in discretionary spending), the UMR estimates appear to be conservative.

As the clock continues to tick, Congress has several options for how to handle the looming sequestration. It's unlikely that much will get done on the legislative front after elections in November, during the lame duck period that ends with the President and Congress officially taking office in January. Either policymakers hammer out a deficit reduction deal before the elections, or they could pass a bill that extends the deadline. Dehoney said that extending the deadline is the most likely scenario at this point. "I certainly see that as a possibility," Wolinetz agreed, adding that it's also possible that Congress fails to find agreement and the automatic cuts are initiated. "The worst case scenario for everyone, regardless of what their political stripes are, is getting to the 11th hour and letting sequestration be the default option."

But we may not even have to wait for sequestration to happen to see the negative effects, Wolinetz noted. As university administrators and industry officials attempt to chart out their progress and activities through the next fiscal year, the threat of across-the-board cuts to federal science agencies casts doubt and uncertainty. "That uncertainty itself is already causing a chilling effect," she said.

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Avatar of: YouKnowBestOfAll

YouKnowBestOfAll

Posts: 16

September 20, 2012

Before asking for more dollars for science, please make sure that we get more science for every dollar spent, i.e. improve efficiency and get rid of the waste. Very useful first step could be to minimize the misuse of scares public resources due to all kinds of misconduct (duplication, fabrication/manipulation of data, plagiarism/self-plagiarism), including past misconduct which has as main purpose to deceive authorities distributing public grants in order to allocate these to the fraudsters. Next step could be to establish within FBI a new department – “Academic Fraudâ€쳌 – dealing with cases of misconduct which are per se conspiracy (between researchers/editors/publishers) to obtain (more) public money (in future) by deception. Apart from purifying the Academia, this will create new jobs.

Avatar of: Taro Todoroki

Taro Todoroki

Posts: 1

September 20, 2012

You mean going after fraud, like the whole world needs to be doing with banks and financial institutions? The people who actually caused this economic crisis in the first place through regular and massive scale fraud (here in the UK some of that has already been exposed in the courts too) - along with manipulating inflation rates and greedily selling more and more loans uncontrolled which people simply couldn't pay back?

I guess you're right though eh, demonise the scientific research and education institutions as yet another a nice distraction. 'Purify' academia was an interesting word you chose. Nice plan, Mr Burns! :P

Avatar of: Mick Thomas

Mick Thomas

Posts: 1

September 21, 2012

Your comment is misleading from the start. "Science" is not asking for more dollars, rather they are asking for their already meager grants not to be cut. Scientific research has stringent controls relating to misconduct, more strict than commercial or financial institutes. I also fail to see how duplication is any sort of misconduct as there are often multiple studies on the same subject running concurrently as studies are approved based on relevance and gaps in scientific knowledge. You suggest there is a conspiracy between researches and publishers to fabricate/manipulate or plagiarise data to defraud governments of public funds. What world do you live in? The implication that researchers fraudulently produce results to skim off the top is ridiculous. If anything research groups should be an example to society on how to appropriately and efficiently distribute funds as they often operate on shoestring budgets with researchers foregoing personal gain in the pursuit of greater scientific understanding. You sir are a buffoon.

Avatar of: YouKnowBestOfAll

YouKnowBestOfAll

Posts: 16

September 21, 2012

Dear Taro (and all those of you who do not like what you see here),

Nobody wants to “demonise the scientific research and education institutions as yet another a nice distractionâ€쳌. However, one should not ignore the flaws in the system.
They say that the first step in solving a problem is acknowledging it. Closing one’s eyes and/or ears in cases of misconduct, or even worse – cases of cover up of obvious and straightforward misconduct, is NOT beneficial for anyone (including the great majority honest researchers/educators), but the fraudsters.

You might find useful the discussion at Retraction Watch “Does focusing on wrongdoing in research feed mistrust of science?â€쳌
http://retractionwatch.wordpre...

I am saying that just as banks and financial institutions are held accountable for their fraud, so should be the scientific research and education institutions. Or you suggest that these should be exempt?

Avatar of: owltattoo

owltattoo

Posts: 1

September 21, 2012

True, but I believe a more productive solution would be to increase regulatory oversight for research institutions, and in fact increase some funding to alleviate the stress of having to crank out papers every quarter in order to get a decent research and/or teaching position.

Avatar of: YouKnowBestOfAll

YouKnowBestOfAll

Posts: 16

September 24, 2012

Dear Mick(ey),

Thank you for your comment. It is emblematic for the present state of affairs, as it clearly demonstrates a pile of misconceptions which deserve to be addressed.

RE: “"Science" is not asking for more dollarsâ€쳌
Respectfully, allow me to disagree. The evidence that your statement is INCORRECT is in the above article where anyone can read:
“United for Medical Research (UMR), an advocacy group that seeks steady increases in NIH fundingâ€쳌.

RE: “I also fail to see how duplication is any sort of misconductâ€쳌
Unlike you, The U.S. Office of Research Integrity points out 4 (fours) major problems with this. Please, check this out http://ori.hhs.gov/education/p...

Here are some points:
(i) “a paper that appears in two different journals robs other authors the opportunity to publish their worthwhile work. Moreover, duplicate or redundant publications waste the time and limited resources of the editorial and peer review systemâ€쳌

(ii) “redundant and duplicate publication must be avoided, for it has the potential for distorting the existing data base, possibly resulting in the establishment of flawed public health policiesâ€쳌

(iii) "copyright infringement, because data or text (or both) appearing in one copyrighted publication will also appear in another publication whose copyright is owned by a different entity"

Mick(ey), obviously, you have never been informed about these issues, which is clear indication for a major flaw of your supervisor and/or institution.

I know that this issue is a bit complex and difficult for you to comprehend, but please note that Duplication in science publishing is NO different than duplication of money or duplication of art, for example. Do you suggest that duplicating dollar bills and spreading these among the public isn’t any sort of misconduct? Or duplicating a painting (even when it is done by the original author) and presenting duplications to the public as original isn’t any sort of misconduct? Please note that the purpose for presenting ANY duplication is always one and the same: Personal benefit by deceiving the other party.

EXAMPLES:
Duplicate publication (1):

“What we mean by social determinants of healthâ€쳌, Navarro V, Int J Health Serv. (2009),
PMID: 19771949
“What we mean by social determinants of healthâ€쳌, Navarro V, Glob Health Promot. (2009), PMID: 19276329

I’ll appreciate if someone could explain to me: What is the purpose of this duplication?
Apart from the problems pointed out from ORI, there is one more here:
There is a great deal of confusion not only among the readers, but among other authors as well, since some of them cite GHP (the earlier publication) while more of them cite IJHS (the later publication).
Who benefits from this mess? One thing is for sure: It’s not the Science, neither the public.
Herewith, I suggest that this case can be used as an etalon for duplication, i.e. 1 Navarro = 100% duplication. For example, other duplications can be, say 0.7 Navarro (for major duplication), or, say 0.07 Navarro (for minor duplication).

Duplicate publication (2):
The paper “Welfare state, labour market inequalities and health. In a global context: An integrated framework. SESPAS report 2010″ published in Gaceta Sanitaria 2010; 24(Suppl 1):56–61, contains two figures (the core of the paper) which appear in earlier publication of the same authors, however, without any reference to the earlier publication entitled “Employment Conditions and Health Inequalitiesâ€쳌, Final Report to the WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health (CSDH), 20 September 2007, available here: http://www.who.int/social_dete...

Fig. 1. Macro-level framework and policy entry points on p. 57 from the above mentioned paper in Gaceta Sanitaria is identical to Figure 13. Policy entry points in the macro-theoretical framework on p. 109 from “Employment Conditions and Health Inequalitiesâ€쳌, Final Report to the WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health (CSDH), 20 September 2007;
Fig. 2. Micro-level framework and policy entry points on p. 58 from the above mentioned paper in Gaceta Sanitaria is identical to Figure 14. Policy entry points in the micro-theoretical framework on p. 109 from “Employment Conditions and Health Inequalitiesâ€쳌, Final Report to the WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health (CSDH), 20 September 2007.

Apart from the identical figures, there are striking similarities in the texts of these two publications.
WHO Report, 2007:
Figure 2 provides a micro conceptual framework from which we can assess the potential links between employment conditions and health inequalities through a number of behavioural, psychosocial, and physiopathological pathways. Potential exposures and risk factors are classified into four main categories: physical, chemical, ergonomic, and psychosocial. axes such as social class, gender, or ethnicity/race are key relational mechanisms that explain why workers will be exposed differently to risk. the key axes generating work-related health inequalities can influence disease even though the profile of risk factors may vary dramatically. Material deprivation and economic inequalities, exposures which are closely related to employment conditions (e.g., nutrition, poverty, housing, income, etc.), may also have an important effect on chronic diseases and mental health.
Gaceta Sanitaria, 2010:
The “Micro Conceptual Frameworkâ€쳌 (fig. 2) identifies the links between employment conditions and health inequalities with reference to three different pathways: behavioural, psychosocial, and physio-pathological. Potential exposures and risk factors are classified into four main categories which are physical, chemical, ergonomic, and psychosocial. The specific mechanisms of stratification according to (for example) class, gender, and ethnicity/race explain how workers are exposed to risk in different ways. The axes generating work-related health inequalities can influence disease even though the profile of risk factors may vary dramatically. Exposure to material deprivation and economic inequalities, which are closely related to employment conditions (e.g., nutrition, poverty, housing, income, etc.), have important effects not only on acute conditions but also on chronic diseases and mental health.

Then, the very same figures appear once again in 2011 WHO publication http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publi... (p.165-195), once again with different titles and with absolutely no attribution to the earlier publications in Gaceta Sanitaria 2010, or WHO 2007.

The same figures appear also in another publication of these authors in another peer reviewed journal:
See “A Macro-level Model of Employment Relations and Health Inequalitiesâ€쳌 in International Journal of Health Services (IJHS) Vol. 40, No. 2, 2010, p. 215-221
Figure 1. Theoretical framework of employment relations and health inequalities: a macro-level model on p. 217
See “A Meso— and Micro-level Model of Employment Relations and Health Inequalitiesâ€쳌 in IJHS Vol. 40, No. 2, 2010, p. 223-227.
Figure 1. Theoretical framework of employment relations and health inequalities: a micro-level model on p.225

The figures are always the same, they always appear with different titles and always there is absolutely no attribution. May be someone could explain to me: Is this an honest mistake or intentional deception?

Please note that Vicente Navarro from Example 1 is the Editor-in-Chief of IJHS in Example 2, and Carme Borrell – the Editor-in-Chief of Gaceta Sanitaria, together with Joan Benach (one of the authors) were Faculty Mentors at The University of Toronto (the institution of the other author – Carles Muntanes). Coincidentally they are all from Spain and are co-authors in numerous piublications.
http://knowledgex.camh.net/res...

RE: “Scientific research has stringent controls relating to misconductâ€쳌
Prima facie – Yes, but in real life …it’s just dust in the eyes of the public.
In an email to me the Vice Rector for Faculty Affairs at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra (institution of one of the authors) openly admits that “Figures 1 and 2 do not explicitly refer to the document“ and that “the original report is not directly citedâ€쳌, but refuses to acknowledge this as misconduct?!?

Interestingly enough, the University of Toronto (institution of one of the authors) has Framework for dealing with misconduct, which states: “Specifically, the following acts generally are considered instances of Research Misconduct: 4.1 m) Misleading publication, for example: ... 9. Portraying one’s own work as original or novel without acknowledgement of prior publicationâ€쳌.
See here: http://www.research.utoronto.c...
However, UoT refuses to acknowledge this misconduct and refuses to act according its own framework?!?

Elsevier, the publisher of Gaceta Sanitaria, declares that “One of the conditions of submission of a paper for publication is that authors declare explicitly that their work is original and has not appeared in a publication elsewhere. The re-use of material, without appropriate reference, even if not known to the authors at the time of submission, breaches our publishing policiesâ€쳌. However, for almost one year now Elsevier is VERY reluctant to adhere to its own Policy in this case?!?

According to COPE website http://publicationethics.org/a...
"All COPE members are expected to follow the Code of Conduct for Journal Editors. COPE will investigate complaints that members have not followed the Code."
However, it has been almost one year after I have informed COPE about the above mentioned case and so far there was absolutely no action whatsoever from COPE?!?

RE: “If anything research groups should be an example to societyâ€쳌
On top of the above mentioned, there are copyright irregularities, since at present three parties: WHO, Elsevier (Gaceta Sanitaria) and Baywood Publishing (IJHS) claim simultaneously the copyright on identical material!
So far, the research group in this case is an example of multiple misconducts.

RE: “What world do you live in?â€쳌
I live in the real world where according to ORI (see above) â€쳌the more publications authored by an academic, the better his/her chances of getting a promotion or tenureâ€쳌 (i.e. it’s all about getting more from the hard-earned tax payers' money), while you Mick(ey) obviously live in Disneyland.

Avatar of: Ignatz

Ignatz

Posts: 1

October 16, 2012

as you mentioned in your cut and paste, every journal requires a declaration of originality. if you are writing a review article, as opposed to an original article, you may and often need to use illustrations/data from many published original articles that fit the theme and direction of the review article. these published illustrations/data are under copyright of the initial journal and permission needs to be obtained. so, do authors publish  the same data in multiple original articles? they are not supposed to, but it does happen to some extend in my experiences, but those cases are probably on the order voter fraud that one of our political  parties is so incised about. further, as you can see, the ori does often find such and other forms of misconduct in science.

that aside, your blanket accusations pointing to the very rare exceptions speak that you really don't understand well the larger topic you are talking about. and the 'getting more from the hard earned taxpayers money' is a giveaway to the nonsensical news sources that you get these ideas from. if you want to find directions to save your hard earned taxpayer money, you are looking at a very small pool, one in which the future of advancing health and quality of life longer in our lives and childrens lives reside. contrast that with say tax breaks to big oil, support of the vast military industrial complex, support of banks, etc,etc,etc. 

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