TS Picks: June 20, 2016

Excellence schmexellence; thinking outside the biomedical box; homeopathy journal sunk by self-citation

Jun 20, 2016
Bob Grant

WIKIMEDIA, 1997

Selections from The Scientist’s reading list:

  • The biomedical research enterprise is short on risk-taking and ambitious ideas, and the situation isn’t getting any better, according to an editor at open-access journal eLife. Peter Rodgers penned an essay in Nautilus last week (June 16) bemoaning the overly conservative nature of life-science research, and contrasting the intellectual inertia in biological fields with the brashness and forward-thinking nature of theoretical physics research. Federal funding bottlenecks, an almost innate fear of mathematical models, publishing pressure, and a reliance on traditional model systems are all to blame for the overly cautious nature of life sciences.
     
  • “Excellence” is hurting UK science. A group of researchers say that overuse of the word in government funding agency documents and in the media and over-pursuit of the ideal is damaging science in the country. In a yet-to-be-published manuscript, they argued that scientists in the U.K. should instead be chasing “soundness” in their research.
     
  • Last week in STAT News, retraction watchdogs Ivan Oransky and Adam Marcus danced a jig on the impending grave of a journal focused on the scientifically discredited field of homeopathy. “Consider it the publishing equivalent of catching notorious gangster and murderer Al Capone on the simple charge of tax evasion: A homeopathy journal has gotten itself booted from the list of respectable scientific titles thanks not to its questionable science but rather a smaller infraction: fishy citations,” they wrote. Homeopathy was recently removed from Thomson Reuter’s annual list of journal rankings for having a self-citation rate of more than 70 percent, they explained.