This month, SoNYC, our monthly discussion series in NYC about all aspects of communicating and carrying out science online, turns one! We’re hosting a party on May 2nd to celebrate, and to warm up we’re taking a look back at all the SoNYC events from the past year.
SoNYC is co-organised by Lou Woodley of nature.com, John Timmer, Science Editor at Ars Technica and Jeanne Garbarino and Joe Bonner at Rockefeller University. We follow a rotating 3-month editorial cycle to ensure we cover all angles of science online:
In month 1 we cover topics relating to science communication and outreach. Month 2 focuses on online tools for scientists, including digital publishing and month 3 of the cycle looks a “implicational” issues such as legal and policy discussions.
In this post we round up all of the SoNYC events around implicational issues around carrying out science online – everything from legal considerations to research misconduct. You can read the recap of the events from the science communication and outreach strand here and the review of those that focused on online tools for scientists and digital publishing here.
Science, science communication and the Law
On Wednesday 9th June, the third SoNYC took place. The discussion laid out key ideas behind the US courts’ use of scientific evidence and application of libel law to journalists, addressing how intellectual property law and government regulations are responding to the rapid pace of innovation in the biological sciences, and how feedback from the online community is influencing those processes. The panel featured:
- Nadim Shohdy works in the Office of Industrial Liaison at NYU.
- Simon Singh is a UK science journalist who was subject to a libel suit as a result of one of his articles.
- Dan Vorhaus is the editor of the Genomics Law Report, and practices law at Robinson Bradshaw.
- Matt Berntsen
In the news but not yet reviewed
On Thursday 10th November, the sixth SoNYC took place. The topic for discussion was whether the fact that a paper hasn’t been peer reviewed can influence how its findings are reported. Recent headlines have been filled with scientific work that hasn’t made it through peer review and the panel discussed the ways we can judge the quality of something that hasn’t been through peer review. They also considered whether focusing on peer reviewed science limits journalists to simply summarizing papers. The panel included:
- John Matson covers astronomy for Scientific American.
- Maia Szalavitz is a journalist who focuses on neuroscience. Her current focus is on Time.com’s Healthland.
- John Timmer is the science editor for Ars Technica, and has trained his managing editor to recognize when a news story contains the word “arXiv”.
- John Rennie NY Science writer/editor.
Keeping the scientific record straight
On Tuesday 20th March, the tenth SoNYC tool place and the topic for discussion was Keeping the scientific record straight. The internet has enabled the faster and more thorough dissemination of published science, meaning that more eyes than ever are available to check the accuracy, veracity and integrity of the research record. With our enhanced ability to spot plagiarism and image manipulation electronically, it appears that the frequency with which we’ve flagged potentially fraudulent or plagiarized papers has gone up. The panel looked at the trends in retractions and how they relate to real or perceived increases in research misconduct. The discussion considered the steps publications are taking to deal with the sloppy or fraudulent research practices that sometimes result in retractions, and also what research institutions are doing to investigate and deter such practices.
- Moderator: Brendan Maher, Nature
- John Krueger of the Office of Research Integrity.
- Ivan Oransky, Executive Editor, Reuters Health and one of the people behind the Retraction Watch blog.
- Liz Williams, Executive Editor, The Journal of Cell Biology.
In anticipation of the discussion, we ran a series of guest posts on Of Schemes and Memes, discussing what steps publications are taking to deal with fraudulent research practices and what is being done to investigate and deter such practices. First we heard from Richard Van Noorden, Assistant News Editor at Nature. He gave us an overview of what retractions can tell us about setting the research record straight, highlighting some recent high profile cases of retraction, revealing why retraction rates appear to be increasing. We also compiled a Storify from a session at February’s AAAS meeting in Vancouver on Global Challenges to Peer Review which touched on some of the challenges faced by journal editors. Next we heard from Dorothy Clyde (Dot), Senior Editor at Nature Protocols, detailing the role an editor plays in avoiding plagiarism, giving advice to all parties. In our final post, SoNYC panel member Ivan Oransky, executive editor of Reuters Health, explained the concept behind the Retraction Watch blog.
Find the take home messages below and a write up and Storify of the discussion here.