Weekly digest: what’s happening in open science?

Amy Williams

Featuring the FDA’s proposal to begin enforcing fines for the funders of unreported clinical trials, the potential harms of over zealous ‘industry bashing’, and the barbecue joint for high impact authors.

FDA may begin to enforce fines for late reporting of clinical trials via Nature

The United States government’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has this week released a proposal suggesting that it may begin to collect fines on research funders who do not publish the results of their clinical trials. Since the launch of the FDAAA Trials Tracker by the Evidence-Based Medicine DataLab in January, its creators had lamented that not one of the fines it tracked had yet been pursued for collection by the FDA. This new proposal outlines planned fines of up to $10 000 USD per day for each overdue trial that goes unreported. Offending funders will be notified of their outstanding trials and given a 30-day notice period in which to release results before the fines come into place. The proposal is currently out for a 60-day public consultation.

The barbecue joint for high impact authors via China Daily

There are plenty of complaints about the overreach of impact factor, but this restaurant in China takes the impact factor hype to a whole new level. Lancet Barbecue offers researchers discounts on their bills – of up to 30% of the total – for authors of papers published in journals with a high impact factor. Researchers hoping to get discounts must publish in listed journals, and the amount of the discount is calculated by multiplying the journal’s impact factor by 10. Publishing in high impact factor journals has become heavily incentivized in many research institutions in China, with researchers who manage to publish in journals such as Science and Nature standing to receive significant financial rewards.

Has the time come to dispense with ordered author lists? via Nature

The order of authors on a research paper can be an incredibly political subject, with the most senior researchers often snapping up the most prestigious places, leaving the early-career researchers relegated to the middle of the list, even if they have had a greater input into the work. This is bad not only for researchers’ careers, but also – this article argues – for science generally. The piece argues that ordered author lists, and the politics surrounding them, are a barrier to collaboration, and it advocates moving towards more progressive ways of recognizing contributions, such as contributorship taxonomies, which many journals now allow and some even mandate.

Do over-zealous anti-industry campaigners risk undermining science? via Plos blogs

Following a major fallout at the Cochrane Collaboration surrounding its review of the HPV vaccine, key member Peter Gøtzsche faces expulsion for ‘repeated, seriously bad behaviour’. The potential expulsion of Gøtzsche follows major arguments within Cochrane over industry involvement in its work, which Gøtzsche himself staunchly opposes. While accepting the need for Cochrane to retain its independence and impartiality, the piece argues that ‘zealotry always, always ends up hurting patients’. While the piece points out that industry conflicts of interest can cause big problems, it also argues that these biases are easier to spot and control than those of fierce industry critics. The piece advocates for caution around ‘industry bashing’ for ‘industry bashing’s’ sake, as it risks undermining trust in valuable and life-saving drugs and vaccines, and science more generally.