June 25, 2015 — Preserving the integrity of science amid what some may see as an increase in the publication of questionable research findings will require new efforts, according to Bruce Alberts and other participants of a Sunnylands-National Academy of Sciences retreat.
In an article in Science magazine, the group argues for a change in incentives so that scientific scholars are rewarded for publishing well, rather than publishing often. For example, when a candidate is being evaluated for tenure at a university, he or she should be assessed on the importance of a select set of work, not the number of papers published.
The authors go on to make suggestions for improvements to the peer review process, suggesting an alternative to the word “retraction,” since the word’s negative connotation may preclude a researcher from voluntarily correcting an unintended mistake. As a substitute, Alberts and colleagues propose “voluntary withdrawal,” a phrase that would clearly indicate an issue not related to fraud or misconduct. “Withdrawal for cause,” by contrast, would be invoked any time fraud was an issue, the authors suggest.
Alberts and his co-authors, including National Academy of Sciences President Ralph J. Cicerone, met in February to discuss scientific integrity at The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, Calif. The Sunnylands/NAS retreat was organized by Kathleen Hall Jamieson, program director at Sunnylands.