Corrections – Work Package 3

WP3 analyses attempts at correction and includes actual attempts at correction and improved communication to discourage error propagation and encourage correction in the future; this work package is presented in this post.

The project is organised in five closely connected work packages, each involving all the PIs to guarantee maximum synergy. WP1 creates a corpus of sources mapping nanobiology and its community and is described here. WP2 traces error and controversial claims in nanobiology over time and is presented in this post, see here. WP4 analyses processes that impede or facilitate correction and investigates how scientists trust research results, as well as how this trust can be enhanced; it is presented here. A fifth work package is devoted to project organisation and integration.

This work package will study the effects of counter-challenges, corrections, or attempts at correction, both retrospectively (by historical actors) and contemporaneously with the project (by participating nanobio scientists). Specific tasks involved are:

  • Study of the effects of annotation of published nanobio literature: as annotation of the literature is carried out, communication processes will be studied to investigate how annotation is received, and whether and how it can facilitate scientific deliberation on contested claims.
  • Replication project: replication of crucial experiments that claim nanoparticles can cross the cell membrane or otherwise reach the interior of the cell. These experiments will be prepared following deliberation with researchers involved in the contested claims, and will be informed by STS analyses of the problems involved in successful replication/reproduction (such as the ‘experimenters regress’) and examples of replication projects in other fields.
  • The editorial process: editorial reactions to attempts at correction, including a study of retractions in nanobio and a study of comments on PubPeer; with PubPeer’s help, a study of moderation processes.
  • Study of nanobio ‘epistemic activists’ and the backlash against them: analysis of scientists who campaign for improvements in the operation of science (nanobio science in particular), such as greater openness, tighter methodologies, better validation, or new forms of scientific review and communication. This will cover how their activism is received by other scientists in the institutional context of science, what contributes to the success of their campaigning, but also what drives these scientists and how they accommodate their activism within their scientific careers.

Outcomes and synergies

WP3 will stimulate debate about crucial nanobio claims; examine how correction attempts are received; and will clarify how a more productive setting for challenges and corrections could be created. The work package relies on close collaboration among researchers with expertise in nanobiology, in the technical operation of annotation systems and the skills to measure their effects, and in logical and social science analysis of communications under the agonistic conditions associated with controversial science.

Risk assessment

A risk of the replication project is that colleagues in nanobiology do not accept the fairness of the experiments. This is in itself an object of study. The risk will be minimised by building on best practices from previous replications projects (we have and will continue to seek advice from Tim Errington, Cancer Replication Project and Alex Holcombe, replication project in psychology) including open science and seeking constant feedback from the original studies’ authors.

Raphaël Lévy is the lead PI of this WP.

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