Median Watch

Eyes on statistics

Scientific fraud is rising, and automated systems won’t stop it. We need research detectives

Reposted from The Conversation. Fraud in science is alarmingly common. Sometimes researchers lie about results and invent data to win funding and prestige. Other times, researchers might pay to stage and publish entirely bogus studies to win an undeserved pay rise – fuelling a “paper mill” industry worth an estimated €1 billion a year. Some of this rubbish can be easily spotted by peer reviewers, but the peer review system has become badly stretched by ever-rising paper numbers.

What to do when applying for research grants is a waste of time for almost everybody

Reposted with permission from Campus Morning Mail. Researchers have a dark sense of humour when it comes to research funding. One of my favourite sneers was from the ecologist Terry McGlynn who said, “instead of writing this grant, I should walk the whole country and get a penny from each person. Same amount of money, but less hassle.” Applicants to last year’s early- and mid-career Medical Research Future Fund fellowships may be wishing that they had gone on a long walk rather sitting at their computers, with speculated success rates at under 5 per cent.

Funding schemes that cost as much as they reward

Johnson & Johnson have a funding scheme for women in STEM. Of course this is a great idea and much needed given the chronic under-representation of women in health and medical research, which was confirmed again this week with the latest NHMRC figures. But there’s a huge potential problem with this scheme: the success rate is under 1%. The last round had 650 applications and 6 awarded. Given this incredibly low success rate, this scheme could be costing as much as it rewards.

A change to judging career disruption

Re-posted from this 2016 AusHSI blog because this is still an issue. Let’s start with the obvious. Winning funding for health and medical research is soul-crushingly hard. Success rates for major schemes are under 20%, so failure is the norm. Your application will be judged by a panel of 6 to 12 senior researchers. A key marker of success is your track record, which may simply mean the number and quality of your papers, and your previous research funding (a very circular measure).

When should I quit research? An evidence-based approach

Re-posted from the AusHSI blog (8 May 2015). After yet another failed fellowship application I considered if I should leave research. I now have seven fellowship failures and no successes, and that seems like a lot. Success rates for grants are nose-diving and even the former head of the NHMRC says that researchers should be considering other careers (pay-walled). I’ve spent a lot of time running research projects for no money, but working for no money is a luxury I can’t afford.