Federal agencies are planning next week to propose new rules for research involving human subjects. Several research organizations said that they were studying the planned notice. Existing rules have been criticized by some for not sufficiently protecting human subjects, while many scientists say that the process of complying has become too complex. Further, many social scientists have pushed for change, arguing that the current system is designed for medical research and needlessly delays important social science work.
Indiana Wesleyan University has revoked the Ed.D. of Dexter Suggs, who resigned as superintendent of the Little Rock School District in April amid allegations that portions of his doctorate were plagiarized, Arkansas Online reported. An Indiana Wesleyan official confirmed that the doctorate was revoked, a move that could be costly for Suggs. Under terms of his exit agreement with the school district, payments would stop if his doctorate were subsequently "revoked, rescinded or otherwise nullified." Suggs could not be reached for comment but earlier had denied any impropriety about his doctorate.
In today's Academic Minute, Adam Gaffey, a linguist and philosopher at South Dakota’s Black Hills State University, analyzes the language used in campaign speeches. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.
Nearly a year after announcing controversial changes to faculty and staff health care benefits, including the introduction of coinsurance and an out-of-pocket deductible, Harvard University backtracked somewhat. Provost Alan M. Garber said in an email to faculty and staff that a new plan without deductibles and coinsurance is now available to nonunionized professors and staff members. The new, alternative point-of-service plan will have a higher premium but no deductible or coinsurance for in-network care -- hopefully appealing to those seeking predictable insurance costs, Garber wrote.
Harvard also removed deductibles and coinsurance for diagnostics labs and X-rays, which some faculty members objected to last year as barriers to seeking preventive care. Addressing concerns that the health care changes would disproportionately affect those at the lower end of the employee pay scale, the university is also shifting salary tiers upward -- meaning that employees who make less than $75,000 will be part of the lowest tier, up from $70,000, and eligible for lower premiums.
“The announcement of changes to be introduced with Harvard’s 2015 health plans stimulated considerable discussion and concern within the university community,” Garber said. “We have heard the views of many members of our community in open forums, online, and in a number of other informal meetings with individuals and groups. We deeply value the thoughtful comments and suggestions that we received.” Still, Garber said that health insurance premium rates for everyone will increase year over year, due to the rising cost of care.
It’s been called academe’s last acceptable prejudice: that against rural, Southern students. And a new study supports that claim, suggesting that college students from Appalachia who speak a dialect feel made fun of or that they’re frequently corrected. Lead author Stephany Dunstan, the assistant director of the Office of Assessment at North Carolina State University, interviewed 26 students from rural, Southern Appalachia who attended an unnamed large research institution in the urban South. She asked about their experiences in college and their dialects, and performed vocalic analysis of several features typical to the Appalachian dialect. Many participants said they felt they had to work harder to prove to others on campus that they are intelligent and capable, “despite” their dialects, Dunstan said via email. “For some students this means that they code-switch (or change their speech) frequently or in some cases, categorically.”
Dunstan said a major implication of the study for faculty is to be “mindful in their courses that students of all dialect/language backgrounds are treated respectfully and feel comfortable using their own voices (for example, not feeling they must code-switch to a ‘standard’ variety to be taken seriously or respected).” It’s similarly important that faculty members who speak diverse dialects feel comfortable using them in class, so students hear them, she added.
How do you avoid personalizing a website based on critiquing scientific research (or risking professional retaliation for it)? Remain anonymous. That’s what the creators of PubPeer have done for about three years, facilitating crowdsourced critiques of peer-reviewed research published elsewhere. But the creators came out this week in a post on their site. Previously known only as “a diverse team of early-stage scientists in collaboration with programmers who have collectively decided to remain anonymous,” the faces of PubPeer are as follows: Brandon Stell, an American researcher in the brain physiology lab at the University Paris Descartes, and George Smith and Richard Smith, two brothers who still have not revealed their professional affiliations. (Richard Smith once worked for Stell as a graduate student and George Smith is a web developer who helps maintain the site, Stell told Science.)
Boris Barbour, a Paris neuroscientist, and Gabor Brasnjo, a patent attorney based in San Francisco, also have gone public as members of the newly announced PubPeer Foundation to expand postpublication peer review, increase PubPeer’s transparency and otherwise improve the site. “The bylaws of the newly created foundation aim to establish it as a service run for the benefit of its readers and commenters, who create all of its content,” the creators said in a statement on the site Monday. “We feel that a nonprofit organization constitutes the ideal framework through which to pursue these goals.”
In an email interview, Stell said the creators came out to register the California-based foundation as a nonprofit, which “unfortunately is incompatible with our anonymity.” The site hasn’t been without controversy, and it’s involved in an ongoing lawsuit brought by a cancer researcher who says he lost a job opportunity due to anonymous PubPeer commenters. Stell said he and his partners were nevertheless “very proud at how efficient PubPeer has become at alerting scientists to issues with published papers.”