Post Tagged with: "Nature"

Scientific Misconduct

This nature article discusses the results of a survey about scientific misconduct, while an editorial makes some comments.

Quote: “The 2,212 researchers we surveyed observed 201 instances of likely misconduct over a threeyear period. That’s 3 incidents per 100 researchers per year. A conservative extrapolation from our findings to all DHHS-funded researchers predicts that more than 2,300 observations of potential misconduct are made every year.” Almost 9% of the respondents had witnessed some sort of misconduct, and 37% of those incidents went unreported.

The authors conclude that, besides protecting the whistleblowers better, it is necessary “to create a zero-tolerance culture”. The editor, however, holds the opinion that one also needs to take a look at “the environment that has allowed misconduct to flourish”. In his opinion, there should be the possibility of finding a solution without ruining the career of a scientist, especially in mild cases.

I tend to follow the editor’s reasoning. In my opinion, the zero-tolerance culture already exists to a certain extent, because a scientist convicted of, e.g. faking data, can forget about his career. But the result of such a policy is clear: no-one wants to blow the whistle on a colleague, because they don’t want to end somebody else’s career and because they will make themselves very unpopular. The real problem is the way misconduct is treated at the moment: we want to identify the guilty scientist, and punish him/her.

While this makes sense for the worst cases of fraud, in milder cases one should try and ask the question *why* the misdeed was done. Take, for example, the way hospitals treat mistakes nowadays: they try to find out how it could happen, and how it can be avoided in the future. This is very sensible, because it treats the problem in a proactive way: instead of reacting to the incident by punishing somebody, future incidents are reduced by tackling the things that cause them in the first place.

If there is a lot of pressure to produce as much data as possible in a research group, it is tempting to cut a corner once in a while. Can this not partly be considered the prof’s fault? In a similar way, one should address the working atmosphere in the group in question. The problem with the academic system is that there is no informal institution to turn to, besides your boss, if you are to witness a case of scientific misconduct. So we fall back to the old issue: the only person you can contact in case of problems has all the power over you.

At the University of Toronto, a “Graduate Student Oath”, similar to the Hippocratic Oath, has been tried as a means to strengthen scientific ethics (Science). Although this is an interesting idea, I doubt it will change the behaviour of people very much.

By June 25, 2008 6 comments Uncategorized

Discovery of Mg-40, Al-42, and Al-43

Baumann et al. have recently reported the discovery of three new isotopes 40Mg, 42Al, and 43Al. The discovery is notable for producing an isotope that neither the finite range droplet model (FRDM) nor the Hartree-Fock-Bogoliubov (HFB-8) predicted should be bound.

neutron rich low z chart of nuclides

Of the 3 isotopes, the discovery of 42Al is an unexpected surprise and thusly the most fascinating. As we all know from undergraduate nuclear chemistry the Weizsäcker’s formula contains a pairing term (d) approximately equal to 34*A-3/4 MeV. The term increases the binding energy for an even number of protons (Z) and neutrons (N), decreases it for an odd Z and N, and of course is zero for an odd atomic number (A). 42Al contains 13-protons and 29-neutrons, lies on the extreme neutron-rich side, and thus was not predicted to exist in a bound state.

Theory can be seen to be in contradiction from experimental data as seen below.

Mg-40 Data2
Reprinted by permission from Macmillan Publishers Ltd: Nature 449, 1022 – 1024 (25 Oct 2007).

To the immediate left of the 43Al dot is the collection of 42Al events. The 43Al event had a probability of ~2 x 10-3 of arising from the Al-42 cluster of events.The tantalizing conclusion of this work is that the neutron-drip line may reside further than even the next generation nuclear facilities could explore for Z>12.

Link to article:


By November 21, 2007 0 comments nuclear chemistry

ACS Boston 2007: Free Alcohol and Free Stuff

Free Alcohol
Saturday there was free food and alcohol at the Marriott for the Younger Chemist Committee (YCC). It was sponsored by the ACS web team. Fortunately, there weren’t many people there so I got more than my share of egg rolls and free booze. That night at the poster session, there was also free alcohol and free turkey which is an interesting combination of food and drink when its already late at night and you’ve been looking at talks all day.

Monday I will be trying to score some more free food and drink at the CHED poster session 2:30-4, I don’t know whether there will be anything, but I’ll shortly find out. The Nuclear division has their social hour at 7-9pm tonight, and there should be plenty of free alcohol there. Since, scimix is from 8-10, I’ll be there from 9 on.

Free Stuff
Monday is the first day the exposition opens up to us regular folk. The best booths by far have been the following.

Elsevier: Free personal fan that lights up and says, “I’m hot”. Which is also true… thermally at least.

Corning: Free M&Ms in their new 200mL plastic vessel

Strem: Which has a nice periodic table for your desk. The best thing about it, it’s actually up to date with the newest transactinides (i.e. Roentgenium).

ACS pubs: Free issue of ACS Nano. I dropped by and was hoping to catch an editor there, but the very cute girl from marketing that was managing the desk said they all went home for the day. Mind you, I was there at 10:30AM and the exposition only opened at 9:00AM. However, I did see Ivan there, but he looked overly excited about Hoffman’s poetry reading, which in my book is a red flag and signaled it was time to move on.

Nature: Free issue of Nature and Nature Nanotechnology: I went to that booth to try to meet some of their editors. But, no one there knew where they were or what time they were going to show up.


By August 20, 2007 0 comments Uncategorized