I THOUGHT YOU WERE A “SCIENTIST”
Sean Maguire! There’s a familiar name from the Alt-Med beat! He regularly interviews / publicises Amanda Mary Jewell, notable cancer-cure parasite. AMJ started out as one of the MMS / bleach-enema pimps, and now runs a “alt-health” money-extraction facility in Belize, which seems to be a safe haven for killing gullible people and taking all their money.
Liked by 2 people
I am an independent science journalist, with around 13 years of biomedical research experience in molecular cell biology, stem cells and cancer research.
As science journalist, I see it as my task to promote reproducibility, honesty and integrity in academic research. I believe changes are necessary in the way science is conducted and published, and how scientists are evaluated. We need to achieve unconditional data sharing, transparency in academic research and editorial processes, most importantly in the peer review.
The usual science journalism restricts itself to repeating after the cues given by scientific elite and leading research institutions. What we mostly read in the science news, is the voice of power and money. The climate of fear is omnipresent in science: bad science is very rarely exposed in the open, fraud and ethics breach are routinely covered up, while accusations and criticisms are raised only behind closed doors and are often unfairly or even wrongfully assigned. There are many good and honest scientists out there, but they have no voice. My site is for them.
Therefore, one goal of my site is to give voice to such concerned scientists who would normally never dare to speak out their critique, for fear of their influential colleagues. Some of these voices are named, some names are confidential. You can be one of them, just contact me below.
My conference presentations are available for you to browse and re-use at Slideshare. Some of my seminars are available as videos on YouTube. My academic CV and original research publications are listed on ORCID. Finally, I am also a cartoonist, please visit my Facebook page Science Cartoons.
I welcome your opinions, suggestions and stories for my future journalistic investigations. Confidentiality guaranteed! Please leave a functional email address where I can reach you, if you want me to follow up on information you share.
Yours, Leonid Schneider
Molecular cell biologist turned Independent science journalist. All tweets science-related. Donate: https://www.patreon.com/user?u=3680033
CLEARLY A CLEVER MAN HE HAS BEEN PUBLISHED
Preprints have enormous potential to revolutionize peer review and science”
Meet Leonid Schneider, a cell biologist, science journalist, prolific cartoonist, and a passionate communicator. After gaining 13 years of research experience in molecular cell biology, Leonid began talking about science through his blog For better Science, where he explores current issues in academia using an investigative approach. Leonid considers his blog a form of much needed social activism in academia. His Facebook page Science Cartoons displays his art and sense of humor when representing subtle aspects of the scholarly publishing process. He also publishes his seminar presentations about various aspects of scholarly publishing on SlideShare. For a while, he also regularly contributed online editorials and print features as a freelancer for Lab Times (English) and Laborjournal (German). After acquiring a PhD in Biological and Biomedical Sciences from the University of Dusseldorf in Germany, Leonid held several postdoctoral positions as a stem cell researcher.
“Candid” and “passionate” are the words that come to mind when you read Leonid’s views on scholarly publishing. In this conversation, Leonid shares some of his personal views on some issues in academia and how they could be addressed, e.g., what he feels about the traditional peer review model, the potential of preprints, open science, the ethics of research and journal publishing, vigilantism, and whistleblowing. Towards the end of the interview, Leonid also talks about how researchers, publishers, funders, and institutions can drive positive change in scholarly publishing.
Could you please share your story with us? You are a biomedical researcher by academic training. How did you become an independent science journalist?
I guess I am what some people I write about call a “failed scientist”. Obviously they published big papers in big journals and drew lots of funding, and I did not. When I was still in research, I noticed that producing reliable science is not really the same as publishing oodles of papers or getting into elite journals. Back then, I actually had no clue about how widespread research misconduct and data manipulation are. I really did envy all those lucky colleagues who made what I thought were groundbreaking discoveries and deservingly published in Nature and Cell. So eventually I started to figure out what was really happening and I left lab research, since I saw no point in what I was doing. It got so bad I intensely disliked entering a lab. At that time I was already writing journalism pieces as a side job, and then I decided to set up my own website. It is certainly not a business, but a form of social activism. For better science.
Some of the questions that follow are based on the About me and contact section of your blog. How do you intend to promote “reproducibility, honesty and fairness in academic research”?
What I do is to give voice to scientists who care about such things like research integrity and ethics, reproducibility of results, and good scientific practice in general. Obviously the traditional route of letters to editors is not working for them, and the usual science journalism is also not really a place of contact, as it is very rarely critical of anything in academia except the perceived shortage of funding. This is why I specifically invite guest posts from scientists (including former scientists) to critically discuss published papers, or just share their experiences. There are so many good scientists out there, but they have no voice. On my site they do get their voice, even if some of them prefer anonymity.
When we read scientific news, we only hear from those who are in power, who made it into a big journal, who got the largest chunk of funding, who hold top faculty positions. Are those really objectively the best scientists? If so, why do they abandon their own breakthrough discoveries so quickly and move on to the next hot-air claim? Why is so much of elite published work irreproducible? And what about those “sloppy” figures: is there any correlation to research irreproducibility? I think there is.
Other readers bring me evidence of data manipulations which I then publish. Those are mostly people with a very good eye for image duplications and some solid ethics principles. Incidentally, those manipulations are often found in the breakthrough papers by the stars of science, same people we admire in the news.
I used to be surprised about why hardly any other medium brings critical investigative articles about what really goes on in academia, but now I know that this is really difficult and could involve legal battles. I want to thank here all my donors, for their generous help and support.
Interestingly, your view – “we need to achieve unconditional data sharing, transparency in academic research and editorial processes, most importantly in the peer review” – is in line with the theme of the recently concluded Peer Review Week 2017, Transparency in Review. How can we go about achieving these things?
First of all, the incentives for change cannot come from the top. Unfortunately this is what is currently happening. Commercial publishers are leading the publishing revolution, including peer review. I am a bit worried about this, also because peer review is probably the most cumbersome, time- and money-consuming part of the scholarly publishing process. By the way, this is despite peer reviewers doing their job for free, which some scientists wish to change, but which I think is part of their academic work spectrum. So if publishers wish to revolutionize peer review which costs them so much, I worry: into which direction? What if they actually want to abolish it, and legalize predatory or vanity publishing?
Traditional peer review obviously does not work, it actually never did. I believe the problem is its confidentiality. Honestly I do not understand why some people want to increase it by having double or triple blind peer review, I think it will introduce additional levels of paranoia and nastiness. On the other hand, publishing of peer review reports improves their quality and makes personal and unfair attacks disappear, and this is despite there being no naming of the reviewers themselves. I see peer review transparency as key, the more transparency the better. This is, however, a grassroots movement, only scientists themselves can start with it, by engaging with their peers journal editors, and of course with funding agencies, or simply starting to peer review preprint publications in the open. There is no better peer review than the open, signed and discussible review of a preprint. I do hope more and more scientists will engage in it.
Preprints have an enormous potential to revolutionize peer review and science in general, and I see with a degree of worry that publishers are trying to corner that market. I hope it will not go the way of Open Access, where publishers quickly took control first of the Open Access movement and then of Open Access policies of funders and national states.
Data sharing is another issue. Published science for which the original data is unavailable is useless. Even clinical trial data can be safely anonymised before release; in fact it is the patient groups which advocate data sharing, while clinicians oppose it, allegedly on their patients’ behalf. Times are a bit too rough to take scientists on their word of honor alone. The solution is to mandate data sharing, and I think only research funding agencies can do that; journals prefer to act totally helpless. They would never retract a paper which refuses to share data, if its authors threaten a lawsuit.
We need real robust open science, but what we get instead is some publishers redefining what open science is. They say it is exactly the same as author-pays open access publishing. Open science means open data. Unconditionally, there are no real excuses.
You have, on more than one occasion on your blog, alluded to a climate of fear in the scientific community. Could you elaborate? Is this a pessimistic view, or do you believe there is hope and things could get better, if they are not so today?
The climate of fear is what brings people to my site, what makes them share my articles by email or word of mouth communication instead of sharing on social media, and which makes them sign their guest posts with “anonymous.” Globally, this fear is what prevents people from peer reviewing preprints or doing any post-publication peer review at all. Certain elite scientists actually boast about how much power they have and make it quite clear what they can do to those criticizing their work.
It is incredibly easy to crush an academic’s career by placing some phone calls or dropping some emails, and people are well aware of this. You write one critical review on PubPeer or elsewhere, and even if you did not sign it, your name can be guessed, because science is a village, if you look at any specific field of research. People know each other, they peer review each other’s manuscripts and grant applications, they sit on each other’s tenure committees. Suddenly you don’t get conference or seminar invitations, your grant proposals and papers are rejected by anonymous reviewers, and come evaluation time with your faculty: your head rolls.
It’s not just research misconduct or simple bad science which academics are afraid to criticize for fear of retribution. Sexual harassment is also something which only a woman with career suicide intentions will report. Never mind the general abuse and humiliations early career researchers have to endure in silence.
This is what the sacred confidentiality of peer review caused: it makes punishment and destructions of critics very easy. Are scientists really proud of the monste