Falsifying and Fabricating Data in Scientific Research are Unethical Actions (Case of Briones T.L.).

Most professions follow a code of ethics to provide the best quality service with professional and personal integrity. Professionals violating their code of ethics (e.g. professional misconduct) could face sanctions imposed by an ethics board, or similar entity. For instance, ethical conduct of researchers in the field of health and human services is reviewed and monitored by the Office for Research Integrity (ORI).

The case of Dr. Teresita Briones, a neuroscientist and associate professor in the College of Nursing at Wayne State University, is an example of ethical violation in scientific research and illustrates the consequences of research misconduct.

The ORI investigated Dr. Briones and found research misconduct activities in research supported by federal agencies such as the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR), National Institutes of Health (NIH).  According to the ORI, Dr. Briones misconduct, related to falsifying and fabricating data, was evident in five scientific publications and three grant applications. Specifically, Dr. Briones intentionally and knowingly duplicated, reused, and falsely relabeled images of tests and claimed they originated from different experiments.

As of April-7-2015, the ORI issued sanctions, and both parties agreed on the following:

  • The five scientific publications to be voluntarily retracted from the scientific journals.
  • Dr. Briones agreed to exclude herself (for three years) from:
    • Contracting and subcontracting with any US agency.
    • Any advisory capacity for the US Public Health Service, board, peer-review committee or consultant.

Follow the link below for detailed information regarding this case (http://ori.hhs.gov/content/case-summary-briones-teresita-l)

To date (April-15-2015), I was able to access online all the publications in question. Her publications are in well-stablished journals with restricted and open access. I imagine that the process of removing publications after they are released is very slow. It would be interesting to see how long it takes for the publications to disappear online.

In summary, this case shows the importance of following professional ethical codes and the ability of a regulatory agency to detect and impose sanctions for professional misconduct.

Comparing Mission Statements from Two Colombian Universities

The objective of this post is to contrast the mission statement of two Colombian universities. The first statement is from the largest public university (funded by the central government), Universidad Nacional de Colombia and second is from the largest private university, Universidad de los Andes.

Universidad Nacional’s mission statement can be found in Spanish at http://unal.edu.co/la-universidad/mision-y-vision/ You can read my translation to english below.

“As the University of the nation, we promote access with equity to the Colombian educational system, provides the largest number of academic programs, forms competent and socially responsible professionals. Contributes to the elaboration and resignification of the nation’s project, studies and enriches the national cultural, natural, and environmental patrimony of the country. As such, it provides consultations in the scientific, technologic, cultural, and artistic fields with both academic and research autonomy.”

Universidad de Los Andes’ mission statement can be found at https://www.uniandes.edu.co/component/content/article/656-about-uniandes You can read it below.

“Universidad de los Andes is an autonomous, independent, and innovative institution that fosters pluralism, tolerance, and respect for ideas. It aims for academic excellence while providing rigorous critical and ethical character development, in order to enhance in all students an awareness of their social and citizenship responsibilities, as well as a firm commitment to the society. The university’s student body, in an environment of interdisciplinary and flexible integral character development, becomes the chief agent of the educational process. A highly skilled, knowledgeable, and prestigious faculty facilitates the development of an outstanding academic and professional life project that supports research, contributes to the development of the country, and transcends its geographical boundaries.”

These two mission statements have many similarities as they mention the social role of the institutions and briefly describe their academic activities. However, Universidad Nacional appear to have a heavier social component. It seems like this university cooperates with the government in achieving social goals to promote equity in education, educating socially conscious professionals and aiding in the resignification process of the nation.

On the other hand I perceived multiple differences in these statements. For instance, Universidad Nacional makes emphasis in their interest in cultural aspects, Universidad de Los Andes doesn’t A clear divergence between these two statement is that Universidad de los Andes wants to have an impact inside the country as well as beyond geographical boundaries, however, Universidad Nacional only mentions functions and objectives tied to the nation. Part of this disparity could be the source of funding from these two institutions, the first is a private university and the second obtains most of it;s funding from governmental sources.mention this component in their mission.

I think that the statement by Universidad de los Andes has a more “modern” approach. It mentions pluralism and multidisciplinary, which are crucial components of modern educational models.

In summary I found that these two statements have great similarities as they both state their activities and objectives, but clear differences emerge in what aspects of society they want impact.

When does human life begin?

Thank you for coming back to read my blog!

Today, I am discussing a controversial topic that many groups of society approach from different point of views: when does life begin?

First and foremost, I would like to clarify that I am not going to approach this question from the religious point of view. I want to provide some scientific evidence that might help you understand the biological processes that an embryo, fetus, and newborn go through. I will leave the topic of religion to you, to your own believes and how your roots have shaped your thoughts.

After conception (the union of he sperm and the egg), there are many different stages and that take course to form a fetus and a newborn. Some of those stages have been particularly associated with the beginning of life. The following table, in chronological order, encompasses most of those stages.

Time After Conception

Stage

Description

Week 0 Conception Union of gametes to form a new human being
Week 1 Gastrulation Embryo forms germ layers and first cellular differentiation happens
Week 1-2 Implantation Embryo attaches to the uterus and the placenta starts developing
Week 5-6 Heart beating Heart starts beating at a regular rhythm
Week 26-27 Fully formed nervous system Brain, spinal cord and nerves produce impulses and control movement
Week 39-42 Fetus is fully mature Fetus is able to survive without the mother
After birth Newborn breaths Newborn is able to survive outside of the womb

 

Moreover, there are other scientists that believe that there is not a specific time when life begins. Instead, life takes form in a dynamic way and human life just does not begin, as most religious points of view believe. I however, think that as scientists, we need to provide answers to this question to inform people on how humans develop.

At this point in time, I believe that human life begins at the gastrulation stage. It is in this stage of development when cells start organizing and differentiating to give rise to organs and systems. Also, the cells here start their development in a more coordinated and organized manner.  A gastrulated embryo has the potential to move forward to develop a new being. The following picture shows how cells start organizing in the embryo.

gastrulation

My position on this topic might change in the future as I learn and understand better the processes influencing embryonic and fetal development.

Welcome to my Blog… What is it about?

My plan for this blog is to share information and my thoughts on subjects related to human and animal developmental biology. I will address these topics from the physiological standpoint; always trying to tie the content to environmental, bioethical, and well being issues. In this occasion I am introducing broadly the concept of developmental biology and discuss my main interest within this science.

First and foremost, developmental biology could be broadly defined as the branch of biological sciences that studies the processes (chemical, molecular, and physiological), that bring two reproductive cells (gametes) to combine and produce an embryo to progressively generate structures such as specialized cells, organs, systems, and fully mature organisms.

Early in my veterinary studies, reproductive sciences sparked my interest in understanding how gametes can produce an offspring. It is a fascinating process that many people consider a miracle due to the complexity of the events. However, I want to discuss the most important steps to illustrate the greatest adaptations that animals have acquired to propagate in their environments.  My greatest interest in this science lays in understanding the communication between mammalian embryos, in early stages, and the maternal environment to begin the implantation process. More importantly, my ultimate goal is to understand the physiology and environmental effects in those developmental steps to aid animal conservation. Nevertheless, I will be discussing some other important aspects that occur throughout development in mammal and non-mammalian species.

Thank you for reading and I will be posting again soon!