Tag: peer review

Bioethics News

Call for Papers: Health and Food Ethics

August 14, 2017

October 2018

Health and Food Ethics

Hippocrates once said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Physicians in some U.S. cities have followed this advice by writing prescriptions for patients to obtain fresh produce through healthy food outreach programs. Clinical encounters, however, cannot fully reverse the negative health effects of low quality diets. Further, millions remain hungry as the quantity of the global food supply is at risk. Providing safe, nutritious, and environmentally- sustainable food to all is a great challenge, and if the global community cannot find solutions to feed the world, economic and social costs will be high. “Ending hunger, achieving food security, improving nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture” is one of the Sustainable Development Goals set forth by the United Nations. As such, a central question worth exploring in the October 2018 issue of the AMA Journal of Ethics is: What should be the roles of health professionals in promoting accountability by governments, non-governmental and civil society organizations, and the food and beverage industry in promoting strategies that can meet the nutrition and health needs of our global population? Other issues include: reducing and redistributing food loss and waste; incentivizing responsible food production and labeling practices; communicating about food practices and food access during clinical encounters; and strategies to promote food security as a goal of health professions.

Manuscripts submitted for peer review consideration and inclusion in this issue must follow all Instructions for Authors and be submitted by 12 February 2018.

Link for more information


Image: By Original: lyzadangerDerivative work: Diliff – http://www.flickr.com/photos/lyza/49545547,

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Can we trust research in science and medicine?

By Brian D. Earp  (@briandavidearp)

Readers of the Practical Ethics Blog might be interested in this series of short videos in which I discuss some of the major ongoing problems with research ethics and publication integrity in science and medicine. How much of the published literature is trustworthy? Why is peer review such a poor quality control mechanism? How can we judge whether someone is really an expert in a scientific area? What happens when empirical research get polarized? Most of these are short – just a few minutes. Links below:

Why most published research probably is false

The politicization of science and the problem of expertise

Science’s publication bias problem – why negative results are important

Getting beyond accusations of being either “pro-science” or “anti-science”

Are we all scientific experts now? When to be skeptical about scientific claims, and when to defer to experts

Predatory open access publishers and why peer review is broken

The future of scientific peer review

Sloppy science going on at the CDC and WHO

Dogmas in science – how do they form?

Please note: this post will be cross-published with the Journal of Medical Ethics Blog.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Can We Trust Research in Science and Medicine?

By Brian D. Earp  (@briandavidearp)

Readers of the JME Blog might be interested in this series of short videos in which I discuss some of the major ongoing problems with research ethics and publication integrity in science and medicine. How much of the published literature is trustworthy? Why is peer review such a poor quality control mechanism? How can we judge whether someone is really an expert in a scientific area? What happens when empirical research get polarized? Most of these are short – just a few minutes. Links below:

Why most published research probably is false

The politicization of science and the problem of expertise

Science’s publication bias problem – why negative results are important

Getting beyond accusations of being either “pro-science” or “anti-science”

Are we all scientific experts now? When to be skeptical about scientific claims, and when to defer to experts

Predatory open access publishers and why peer review is broken

The future of scientific peer review

Sloppy science going on at the CDC and WHO

Dogmas in science – how do they form?

Please note: this post will be cross-published with the Practical Ethics blog. 

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

CFP: Pain and its Paradoxes

BMJ Medical Humanities will host a special issue on PAIN in June 2018. Be part of it.


Title: Pain and its Paradoxes
Abstract Deadline: August 1, 2017
Final Submission Deadline: October 1, 2017 (publication date June 2018)


Pain is almost certainly the most common illness experience on the planet.  Yet, it is frequently treated poorly, and those who experience pain often endure skepticism, doubt, and stigma for their condition.  In most places around the world, pain closely tracks social power structures, which means that marginalized groups are both more likely to experience pain, and are more likely to have it regarded dubiously and treated inadequately.


Moreover, while pain is a near-universal part of the human condition, it remains difficult to define and conceptualize.  As Emily Dickinson famously noted, pain has an element of blank.  And while pain and suffering are often experienced together, they remain distinct phenomena: some people in pain do not suffer, and some people who suffer state that they are not in pain.  Pain is an essential pathway to redemption for many, and for others it exists only as a devastating, hollowing experience that defies meaning.  In short, the paradoxes of pain are multiple, varied, and slippery.  While pain has not escaped scholarly attention in the medical and health humanities over the last decade, current and inequitable burdens of global pain alone justify sustained focus and analysis.  


Accordingly, the Special Issue of Medical Humanities on “Pain and its Paradoxes” aims to integrate critical and rigorous scholarship (peer reviewed) addressing the lived experiences of pain, past, present, and future.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

The Back Story on “Can cancer researchers accurately judge whether preclinical reports will reproduce?

How well can researchers accurately predict whether high profile preclinical findings will reproduce? This week in PLoS Biology, STREAM reports the result of a study suggesting the answer is “not very well.” You can read about our methods, assumptions, results, claims, etc. in the original report (here) or in various press coverage (here and here). Instead I will use this blog entry to reflect on how we pulled this paper off.

This was a bear of a study to complete. For many reasons. Studying experts is difficult- partly because, by definition, experts are scarce. They also have limited time. Defining who is and who is not an expert is also difficult. Another challenge is studying basic and preclinical research. Basic and preclinical researchers do not generally follow pre-specified protocols, and they certainly do not register their protocols publicly. This makes it almost impossible to conduct forecasting studies in this realm. We actually tried a forecast study asking PI’s to forecast the results of experiments in their lab (we hope to write up results at a later date); to our surprise, a good many planned experiments were never done, or when they were done, they were done differently than originally intended, rendering forecasts irrelevant. So when it became clear the Reproducibility Project: Cancer Biology project was a go and that they were working with pre-specified and publicly registered protocols, we leapt at the opportunity.

For our particular study of preclinical research forecast, there was another challenge. Early on, we were told that the Reproducibility Project: Cancer Biology was controversial.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

A Plutocratic Proposal: an ethical way for rich patients to pay for a place on a clinical trial

Guest Post: Alexander Masters and Dominic Nutt
Paper: A Plutocratic Proposal: an ethical way for rich patients to pay for a place on a clinical trial

Is it ethically possible to fund a clinical trial by charging the participants?  We believe we have discovered a way to do it.  Our suggested method has, as far as we know, never been proposed before.

In A Plutocratic Proposal: an ethical way for rich patients to pay for a place on a clinical trial we show how the system could work and argue that all the usual and obvious objections to patient-funded clinical research do not apply in this case; indeed, in several respects the Plutocratic Proposal is more ethical than established methods of funding human experiments.  Furthermore, we believe the Plutocratic Proposal will provide new money for research, particularly for neglected research into rare diseases; it will not deplete the already limited resources of traditional funders.

The ‘usual ethical objections’ include such points as:

  • paying participants could be exploited by research teams desperate to run their trials;
  • research teams might bend their inclusion criteria to accommodate rich patients and so encourage bad science;
  • by enabling research groups to charge patients directly, they can bypass the peer review process and so promote quack ideas;
  • paying patients will attempt to buy their way off concurrent comparison wings, which is not only ethically but scientifically ruinous.

How can a patient-financed funding scheme overcome such fundamental and, until now, apparently insuperable ethical objections?  Read the paper to find out

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Nonpublication of Neurology Trials for Stalled Drugs & the Ironic Nonpublication of Data on those Stalled Drugs

In my experience, peer review greatly improves a manuscript in the vast majority of cases. There are times, however, when peer review improves a manuscript on one less important axis, while impoverishing it in another more important one. This is the case with our recent article in Annals of Neurology.

Briefly, our manuscript created a sample of FDA-approved neurological drugs, as well as a matched sample of neurological drugs that did not receive FDA approval- but instead stalled in development (i.e. a 3 year pause in testing). We then used clinicaltrials.gov to identify trials of drugs in both groups, and determined the proportion of trials that were published for all approved drugs, as well as FDA non-approved drugs. We found- not surprisingly- that trials involving stalled neurological drugs were significantly less likely to publish. What- for us- was the bigger surprise was that the proportion of trials published at 5 years or more after closure was a mere 32% for stalled neurological drugs (56% for licensed). Think about what that means in terms of the volume of information we lose, and the disrespect we show to neurological patients who volunteer their bodies to test drugs that show themselves to be ineffective and/or unsafe.

We shopped the manuscript around numerous places- eventually landing at Annals of Neurology. The paper received glowing reviews. Referee 1: “The research is careful and unbiased and the conclusions sound and impactful.” Referee 2: “This is an excellent and very important paper. It rigorously documents a very important issue in clinical trial conduct and reporting.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Recapping the recent plagiarism scandal

Parts of the paper that are nearly identical to my blog

A year ago, I received a message from Anna Powell-Smith about a research paper that was a mirror image of a post I wrote on my personal blog1 roughly two years prior. The structure of the document was the same, as was the rationale, the methods, and the conclusions drawn. There were entire sentences that were identical to my post. Some wording changes were introduced, but the words were unmistakably mine. The authors had also changed some of the details of the methods, and in doing so introduced technical errors, which confounded proper replication. The paper had been press-released by the journal,2 and even noted by Retraction Watch.3

I checked my site’s analytics and found a record of a user from the University of Cambridge computer network accessing the blog post in question three times on 2015 December 7 and again on 2016 February 16, ten days prior to the original publication of the paper in question on 2016 February 26.4

At first, I was amused by the absurdity of the situation. The blog post was, ironically, a method for preventing certain kinds of scientific fraud. I was flattered that anyone noticed my blog at all, and I believed that academic publishing would have a means for correcting itself when the wrong people are credited with an idea. But as time went on, I became more and more frustrated by the fact that none of the institutions that were meant to prevent this sort of thing were working.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Where to publish and not to publish in bioethics – the 2017 list

Allegedly, there are over 8.000 so called predatory journals out there. Instead of supporting readers and science, these journals serve their own economic interests first and at best offer dubious merits for scholars. We believe that scholars working in any academic discipline have a professional interest and a responsibility to keep track of these journals. It is our job to warn the young or inexperienced of journals where a publication or editorship could be detrimental to their career and science is not served. We have seen “predatory” publishing take off in a big way and noticed how colleagues start to turn up in the pages of some of these journals. While many have assumed that this phenomenon mainly is a problem for low status universities, there are strong indications that predatory publishing is a part of a major trend towards the industrialization of misconduct and that it affects many top-flight research institutions (see Priyanka Pulla: “In India, elite institutes in shady journals”, Science 354(6319): 1511-1512). This trend, referred to by some as the dark side of publishing, needs to be reversed.

Gert Helgesson, Professor of Medical Ethics, Karolinska InstitutetThus we published this blog post in 2016. This is our first annual update (the previous version can be found here). At first, we relied heavily on the work of Jeffrey Beall, a librarian at the University of Colorado, who runs blacklists of “potential, possible, or probable” predatory publishers and journals. His lists have since been removed although they live on in new form (anonymous) at the Stop predatory journals site (SPJ) and they can also be found archived.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Gender Bias Distorts Peer Review Across Fields

In many scientific fields, women publish fewer papers than men, are less likely to be listed as first authors and are less likely to receive glowing letters of recommendation from their advisers. These disparities have decreased over time, but they persist. Now, a study finds that some journal editors might be inadvertently taking gender into account when selecting reviewers for papers.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.