What this means for you

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If you are Singaporean or live in Singapore...

  • Your tax money is probably not being used for the intended purpose if it happens to end up with the Dementia Consortium. 

  • When taking part in a study or clinical trial, make sure you know your rights, which includes that you receive any publication ever to be produced from your participation. Follow up independently to make sure that happens, contact me if you need assistance.

  • I spoke with Joe Bloggs the other day, not a researcher. He said, "My daughter is eight years old, so I don't need to worry about what will happen by the time she is in University." Does it need to be pointed out how short-sighted that is? If you need reasons not to do anything, there are plenty and indeed you don't actually need one. If you feel like something should be done as a Singaporean, there is much you can do. Of everywhere I've lived and worked, Singapore is one of the most potentially empowered societies, I promise you. There are legal mechanisms in place for you to effect change, and as educated, competitive, and talented students and citizens, you can find ways other societies cannot even dream of. And no one will break your door down. For example, you may communicate with Commercial Affairs Department of the Singapore Police Force, the Auditor General, Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau, the Public Service Commission, NParks (AVS), and/or MOE for information.

If you study biomedicine in Singapore...

In my opinion, doing your Final Year Project with some members of the Dementia Consortium might be the start and end of your research career. Have a look at what happened to your predecessors in the report. Even if you do not plan to work in research, you actually want to learn something. I urge you in the strongest terms to consider this very carefully. It's not that you will associate with the wrong people. It's that your inspiration might die, and you might end up hating anything to do with research, unless you are fortunate and brave to later engage in a different experience.

If you work in neuroscience in Singapore...

If you look at the report, you'll see that your chances of being forced into a situation where you have to put up with unethical activities are unacceptably high. That's not a problem if you can talk to someone who will rectify the matter. The problem is you will have no recourse. If you want to take corrective action - forget everything they tell you about ethics in the Epigeum course. I never wanted to become a whistle-blower. I tried everything humanly possible not to become a whistle-blower. But one day it came down to this: kill animals for no reason, or say no. I said no and am paying the price.

Before you start working, take your own precautions. Do your homework very very carefully before you join a group.

If you are a member of the academic community...

It does not matter if you are at McGill or University of California, San Diego, a chemist or a historian. If you think you have 'nothing to do with this', please think again. It is called 'the academic community' for a reason. If you are working in neuroscience, chances are you are publishing in the same journals, might be applying to the same funding bodies, and may collaborate with, peer-review or be peer-reviewed by someone you thought had nothing to do with you. It's less about your nose being clean, and more about all of us having the same face.

Support Retraction Watch

We expect universities to carry out their own internal investigations of research and academic misconduct in a fair and transparent process (I leave government regulatory bodies out of this for the time being). We also expect publishers to make sure researchers did not bend or break the rules while doing their research, and to judge the scientific merit of the work being published fairly and objectively, without favoritism. What happens when these safeguards fail? There are organizations, notably COPE, to investigate reports of research misconduct and editorial practice of publishers. Publishers of scientific journals voluntarily agree to COPE's terms because they are confident that, by and large, their conduct is ethical (yeah right, read more about Frontiers in Frequently unasked questions). But COPE won't investigate on their own - someone has to report to them.

Really as far as I know, the only effective watchdog out there is Retraction Watch. Think of it as free and fair media in the world of academic research. However, Retraction Watch staff are under-resourced and we need to invest in policing the business of research. It cannot be trusted to parties with a powerful vested interest in containment and profit generation. In the meantime: please support Retraction Watch!