Should researchers use AI to write papers? Group aims for community-driven standards

Link: https://www.science.org/content/article/should-researchers-use-ai-write-papers-group-aims-community-driven-standards

Excerpt:

When and how should text-generating artificial intelligence (AI) programs such as ChatGPT help write research papers? In the coming months, 4000 researchers from a variety of disciplines and countries will weigh in on guidelines that could be adopted widely across academic publishing, which has been grappling with chatbots and other AI issues for the past year and a half. The group behind the effort wants to replace the piecemeal landscape of current guidelines with a single set of standards that represents a consensus of the research community.

Known as CANGARU, the initiative is a partnership between researchers and publishers including Elsevier, Springer Nature, Wiley; representatives from journals eLife, Cell, and The BMJ; as well as industry body the Committee on Publication Ethics. The group hopes to release a final set of guidelines by August, which will be updated every year because of the “fast evolving nature of this technology,” says Giovanni Cacciamani, a urologist at the University of Southern California who leads CANGARU. The guidelines will include a list of ways authors should not use the large language models (LLMs) that power chatbots and how they should disclose other uses.

Since generative AI tools such as ChatGPT became public in late 2022, publishers and researchers have debated these issues. Some say the tools can help draft manuscripts if used responsibly—by authors who do not have English as their first language, for example. Others fear scientific fraudsters will use them to publish convincing but fake work quickly. LLMs’ propensity to make things up, combined with their relative fluency in writing and an overburdened peer-review system, “poses a grave threat to scientific research and publishing,” says Tanya De Villiers-Botha, a philosopher at Stellenbosch University.

Author(s): HOLLY ELSE

Publication Date: 16 Apr 2024

Publication Site: Science

doi: 10.1126/science.z9gp5zo

Collision Course

Link: https://nymag.com/intelligencer/article/staged-car-crashes-insurance-fraud.html

Graphic:

Excerpt:

There’s a narrow path to such ostentation for the non-famous and non-college-interested who mock the idea of an actual job. Mize found his muse in the con and his ability to rope others into it. Here’s how they say it happened: He struck when you wanted cash. When totems of the middle class were slipping from reach. When you needed a down payment. To pay off credit cards. To start a business. When asking your parents for money made you feel like a failure. When you were suffocated by medical bills, neither earning enough to pay nor poor enough for government help.

Yet money alone doesn’t completely explain why the people closest to Mize entered the ring. Mize had a way of making himself your center of gravity, the one from whom you wanted approval, mentorship, love. Mize could be fun, even thrilling. But getting all that meant pleasing him. And pleasing him meant fraud.

Author(s): Lauren Smiley

Publication Date: 3 Oct 2022

Publication Site: NY Mag

Harvard Probe Finds Honesty Researcher Engaged in Scientific Misconduct

Link: https://www.wsj.com/us-news/education/harvard-investigation-francesa-gino-documents-9e334ffe

Excerpt:

Harvard University probe into prominent researcher Francesca Gino found that her work contained manipulated data and recommended that she be fired, according to a voluminous court filing that offers a rare behind-the-scenes look at research misconduct investigations.

It is a key document at the center of a continuing legal fight involving Gino, a behavioral scientist who in August sued the university and a trio of data bloggers for $25 million.

The case has captivated researchers and the public alike as Gino, known for her research into the reasons people lie and cheat, has defended herself against allegations that her work contains falsified data. 

The investigative report had remained secret until this week, when the judge in the case granted Harvard’s request to file the document, with some personal details redacted, as an exhibit. 

….

An initial inquiry conducted by two HBS faculty included an examination of the data sets from Gino’s computers and records, and her written responses to the allegations. The faculty members concluded that a full investigation was warranted, and Datar agreed.

In the course of the full investigation, the two faculty who ran the initial inquiry plus a third HBS faculty member interviewed Gino and witnesses who worked with her or co-wrote the papers. They gathered documents including data files, correspondence and various drafts of the submitted manuscripts. And they commissioned an outside firm to conduct a forensic analysis of the data files.

The committee concluded that in the various studies, Gino edited observations in ways that made the results fit hypotheses. 

When asked by the committee about work culture at the lab, several witnesses said they didn’t feel pressured to obtain results. “I never had any indication that she was pressuring people to get results. And she never pressured me to get results,” one witness said. 

Author(s): Nidhi Subbaraman

Publication Date: 14 March 2024

Publication Site: WSJ

How (not) to deal with missing data: An economist’s take on a controversial study

Link: https://retractionwatch.com/2024/02/21/how-not-to-deal-with-missing-data-an-economists-take-on-a-controversial-study/

Graphic:

Excerpt:

I was reminded of this student’s clever ploy when Frederik Joelving, a journalist with Retraction Watch, recently contacted me about a published paper written by two prominent economists, Almas Heshmati and Mike Tsionas, on green innovations in 27 countries during the years 1990 through 2018. Joelving had been contacted by a PhD student who had been working with the same data used by Heshmati and Tsionas. The student knew the data in the article had large gaps and was “dumbstruck” by the paper’s assertion these data came from a “balanced panel.” Panel data are cross-sectional data for, say, individuals, businesses, or countries at different points in time. A “balanced panel” has complete cross-section data at every point in time; an unbalanced panel has missing observations. This student knew firsthand there were lots of missing observations in these data.

The student contacted Heshmati and eventually obtained spreadsheets of the data he had used in the paper. Heshmati acknowledged that, although he and his coauthor had not mentioned this fact in the paper, the data had gaps. He revealed in an email that these gaps had been filled by using Excel’s autofill function: “We used (forward and) backward trend imputations to replace the few missing unit values….using 2, 3, or 4 observed units before or after the missing units.”  

That statement is striking for two reasons. First, far from being a “few” missing values, nearly 2,000 observations for the 19 variables that appear in their paper are missing (13% of the data set). Second, the flexibility of using two, three, or four adjacent values is concerning. Joelving played around with Excel’s autofill function and found that changing the number of adjacent units had a large effect on the estimates of missing values.

Joelving also found that Excel’s autofill function sometimes generated negative values, which were, in theory, impossible for some data. For example, Korea is missing R&Dinv (green R&D investments) data for 1990-1998. Heshmati and Tsionas used Excel’s autofill with three years of data (1999, 2000, and 2001) to create data for the nine missing years. The imputed values for 1990-1996 were negative, so the authors set these equal to the positive 1997 value.

Author(s): Gary Smith

Publication Date: 21 Feb 2024

Publication Site: Retraction Watch

Exclusive: Elsevier to retract paper by economist who failed to disclose data tinkering

Link: https://retractionwatch.com/2024/02/22/exclusive-elsevier-to-retract-paper-by-economist-who-failed-to-disclose-data-tinkering/

Excerpt:

A paper on green innovation that drew sharp rebuke for using questionable and undisclosed methods to replace missing data will be retracted, its publisher told Retraction Watch.

Previous work by one of the authors, a professor of economics in Sweden, is also facing scrutiny, according to another publisher. 

As we reported earlier this month, Almas Heshmati of Jönköping University mended a dataset full of gaps by liberally applying Excel’s autofill function and copying data between countries – operations other experts described as “horrendous” and “beyond concern.”

Heshmati and his coauthor, Mike Tsionas, a professor of economics at Lancaster University in the UK who died recently, made no mention of missing data or how they dealt with them in their 2023 article, “Green innovations and patents in OECD countries.” Instead, the paper gave the impression of a complete dataset. One economist argued in a guest post on our site that there was “no justification” for such lack of disclosure.

Elsevier, in whose Journal of Cleaner Production the study appeared, moved quickly on the new information. A spokesperson for the publisher told us yesterday: “We have investigated the paper and can confirm that it will be retracted.”

Author(s): Frederik Joelving

Publication Date: 22 Feb 2024

Publication Site: Retraction Watch

Fixing Medicare Starts With Cracking Down On A Multibillion-Dollar Catheter Scam

Link: https://thefederalist.com/2024/02/20/fixing-medicare-starts-with-cracking-down-on-a-multibillion-dollar-catheter-scam/?utm_source=feedly&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fixing-medicare-starts-with-cracking-down-on-a-multibillion-dollar-catheter-scam

Graphic:

Excerpt:

The New York Times reported recently about a sharp spike in Medicare spending on catheters, amid numerous signs that scammers have targeted that benefit to bilk the government out of taxpayer funds. With Medicare rapidly approaching insolvency, the problem is twofold: Criminals still consider the program such an easy source of cash — because the feds do such a poor job at finding and catching the crooks. 

Times reporters interviewed several seniors explaining how they had been billed for catheters they never received and do not need or use. It also noted that the number of Medicare beneficiary accounts billed for catheters rose roughly nine-fold last year, from 50,000 to 450,000. 

The pattern of Medicare spending on catheters echoes the increase in beneficiaries billed. Based on this graph from the Times story, it doesn’t take a doctorate in economics to realize that something fishy has happened regarding payments for catheters — and that, assuming most or all of the increase is due to fraud, Medicare has already given the scammers billions of dollars.

Over and above whether and when the feds can catch the scammers, the real question is: How did this happen? Or, given the federal government’s history of permitting fraud in federal health care programs, how does this keep happening?

Author(s): Christopher Jacobs

Publication Date: 16 Feb 2024

Publication Site: The Federalist

Maine Takes on Fossil Fuel Divestment. How Will It Happen?

Link:https://www.governing.com/finance/maine-takes-on-fossil-fuel-divestment-how-will-it-happen?utm_campaign=Newsletter%20-%20GOV%20-%20Daily&utm_medium=email&_hsmi=219420154&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-__sPq7wAi53EzPYe16VS7ePNypi9aGJv7mpM9geXevYQuSJJtrQ4NzYGMvpkVK6vF2KYhovrJ2o-svNpgMLyuWsqbxbovsKME3Sm1RZLuiVq8ZdoE&utm_content=219420154&utm_source=hs_email

Excerpt:

Activists credit the support of Beck, Maine Rep. Maggie O’Neil and state Sen. Chloe Maxmin for making Maine the first state to require fossil fuel divestment by law.

Passed and signed by Maine’s governor in 2021, LD99 calls for the state’s permanent funds and its pension system, MainePERS, to divest from fossil fuel investments by 2026 and not reinvest going forward.

It prohibits both specific lists of publicly traded companies as well as any whose “core business” is in fossil fuel exploration, extraction, refining, processing or infrastructure. (A separate 2021 law also requires Maine to divest from private prisons.)

Other pension systems, including New York state’s, have made promises to divest from companies whose primary business drives planet-warming emissions, but are not required to by legislation. In 2015, California passed a law to remove public investments in thermal coal, but a move to extend that to all fossil fuel companies died in the Legislature this session.

MainePERS’ assets — about $18 billion at the end of the last fiscal year — are small in comparison to New York and California, but how they manage their legislative mandate will be closely watched as other states face calls for fossil fuel divestment and wider questions of dealing with climate risk in investing.

Leaders at the pension system stressed a key phrase in the legislation, that any MainePERS divestment decision will be made “in accordance with sound investment criteria and consistent with fiduciary obligations” — crucial to a state constitutional requirement to its pension members.

….

MainePERS Chief Investment Officer James Bennett estimates about $1.2 billion of the system’s total holdings are in fossil fuel investments, split evenly between publicly traded companies and private investments.

Liquidating private investments will be more complicated, he says. Many of the limited partnerships MainePERS is invested in include fossil fuel assets alongside other infrastructure investments and cannot be separated. They’d need to sell the whole thing, if it indeed is within the financial interest of members to do so.

Author(s): Taylor K Brown

Publication Date: 13 July 2022

Publication Site: Governing

Problematic Paper Screener

Link: https://dbrech.irit.fr/pls/apex/f?p=9999:1::::::

https://www.irit.fr/~Guillaume.Cabanac/problematic-paper-screener

Graphic:

Excerpt:

🕵️ This website shows reports the daily screening of papers (partly) generated with:► Automatic SBIR Proposal Generator► Dada Engine► Mathgen► SCIgen► Tortured phrases… and Citejacked papers 🔥⚗️ Harvesting data from these APIs:► Crossref, now including the Retraction Watch Database► Dimensions► PubPeer

Explanation: https://www.irit.fr/~Guillaume.Cabanac/problematic-paper-screener/CLM_TorturedPhrases.pdf

Author(s): Guillaume Cabanac

Publication Date: accessed 16 Feb 2024

Post Office scandal explained: What the Horizon saga is all about

Link: https://www.bbc.com/news/business-56718036

Excerpt:

The Post Office had prosecution powers and, between 1999 and 2015, it prosecuted 700 sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses – an average of one a week – based on information from a computer accounting system called Horizon. Another 283 cases were brought by other bodies including the Crown Prosecution Service.

Some went to prison for false accounting and theft. Many were financially ruined, even though they had repeatedly highlighted problems with the software.

After 20 years, campaigners won a legal battle to have their cases reconsidered. To date only 93 convictions have been overturned. Under government plans, victims will be able to sign a form to say they are innocent, in order to have their convictions overturned and claim compensation.

….

Horizon was introduced by the Post Office in 1999. The system was developed by the Japanese company Fujitsu, for tasks like accounting and stocktaking.

Sub-postmasters complained about bugs in the system after it falsely reported shortfalls – often for many thousands of pounds.

Some attempted to plug the gap with their own money, as their contracts stated that they were responsible for any shortfalls. Many faced bankruptcy or lost their livelihoods as a result.

The Horizon system is still used by the Post Office, which describes the latest version as “robust”.

….

Nobody has ever been held accountable for the scandal.

The heavily criticised former Post Office chief executive, Paula Vennells, said she would hand back her CBE after a petition calling for its removal gathered more than a million signatures.

Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey is among several politicians who have faced questions, as he was postal affairs minister in the coalition government. He said he regretted not asking “tougher questions” of Post Office managers, describing what had happened as “dreadful”.

The inquiry is hearing from Post Office investigators, Fujitsu, civil servants and others.

Author(s): By Kevin Peachey, Michael Race & Vishala Sri-Pathma

Publication Date: 11 Jan 2024

Publication Site: BBC News

Is Social Security’s Website Suddenly Saying the System Owes You Far Less?

Link: https://www.forbes.com/sites/kotlikoff/2023/10/20/is-social-securitys-website-suddenly-saying-it-owes-you-far-less/?sh=e3603bc7f679

Graphic:

Excerpt:

Social Security states, at this link: retirement/planner/AnypiaApplet.html, that “(Its) Online Calculator is updated periodically with new benefit increases and other benefit amounts. Therefore, it is likely that your benefit estimates in the future will differ from those calculated today.” It also says that the most recent update was in August 2023.

This statement references Social Security’s Online Calculator. But they have a number of calculators that make different assumptions. And it’s not clear what calculator they used to produce the graphic, see below, that projects your future retirement benefit conditional on working up to particular dates and then collecting immediately. Nor is Social Security making clear what changes they are making to their calculators through time.

What I’m quite sure is true is that the code underlying Social Security’s graphic projects your future earnings at their current nominal value. This is simply nuts. Imagine you are age 40 and will work till age 67 and take your benefits then. If inflation over the next 27 years is 27 percent, your real earnings are being projected to decline by 65 percent! This is completely unrealistic and makes the chart, if my understanding is correct, useless.

….

The only thing that might, to my knowledge, reduce projected future future benefits over the course of the past four months is a reduction in Social Security’s projected future bend point values in its PIA (Primary Insurance Amount) formula. This could lead to lower projected future benefits for those pushed higher PIA brackets, which would mean reduced benefit brackets. This could also explain why the differences in projections vary by person.

….

Millions of workers are being told, from essentially one day to the next, that their future real Social Security income will be dramatically lower. Furthermore, the assumption underlying this basic chart — that your nominal wages will never adjust for inflation — means that for Social Security’s future benefit estimate is ridiculous regardless of what it’s assuming under the hood about future bend points.

….

One possibility here is that a software engineer has made a big coding mistake. This happens. On February 23, 2022, I reported in Forbes that Social Security had transmitted, to unknown millions of workers, future retirement benefits statements that were terribly wrong. The statement emailed to me by a worker, which I copy in my column, specified essentially the same retirement benefit at age 62 as at full retirement age. It also specified a higher benefit for taking benefits several few months before full retirement.

Anyone familiar with Social Security benefit calculations would instantly conclude that there was either a major bug in the code or that that, heaven forbid, the system had been hacked. But if this wasn’t a hack, why would anyone have changed code that Social Security claimed, for years, was working correctly? Social Security made no public comment in response to my prior column. But it fixed its code as I suddenly stopped receiving crazy benefit statements.

Author(s): Laurence Kotlikoff

Publication Date: 20 Oct 2023

Publication Site: Forbes

PSNI apologises to officers and civilian staff after major security breach

Link: https://m.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/psni-apologises-to-officers-and-civilian-staff-after-major-security-breach/a1823676448.html?=123&s=03

Graphic:

Additional: https://twitter.com/owenboswarva/status/1688975359604101129/photo/1

Excerpt:

However, a second tab in the spreadsheet contained multiple entries in relation to more than 10,000 individuals. For each individual, there are 32 pieces of data meaning that in total, there are about 345,000 pieces of data in the file.

The spreadsheet, which has been seen by the Belfast Telegraph after we were alerted to it by a relative of a serving officer, includes each officer’s service number, their status, their gender, their contract type, their last name and initials, details of how much of the week they work, and their rank.

It also includes the location where they are based (but not their home address), their duty type (from chief constable to detective, intelligence officer and so on), details of their unit (such as the anti-corruption unit or the vetting department), their branch and department, and other technical information about their employment.

There are 10,799 entries in the database. There are 9,276 police officers and police staff. It is not clear if the additional entries relate to other employees or former employees.

The data has been removed from the internet.

There are details of staff who are suspended, on career breaks, or partly retired.

It reveals members of the organised crime unit, telecom liaison officers, intelligence officers stationed at ports and airports, PSNI pilots in its air support unit, officers in the surveillance unit and – of acute sensitivity – almost 40 PSNI staff based at MI5’s headquarters in Holywood.

There are a tiny number of individuals whose unit is given as “secret”. But although that does not disclose precisely what they do, it marks them out as operating in an acutely sensitive area – and then gives their name.

Author(s): Sam McBride and Liam Tunney

Publication Date: 8 Aug 2023

Publication Site: Belfast Telegraph