"Compromised science" news/opines (includes retractions, declining academic standards, pred-J, etc)

Florida university fires criminology professor blemished by retractions

Florida State University last week terminated a criminology professor accused of research misconduct, "Retraction Watch" has learned, capping a years-long, highly publicized saga the school says has caused almost “catastrophic” damage to its standing.

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Journal editors resign, strike in dispute with Wiley over ‘business model that maximises profit’

The editor in chief of a Wiley journal has resigned, saying the publisher recently has “seemed to emphasize cost-cutting and margins over good editorial practice.”

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Journal asks scientist to step down from editorial board after sleuth’s comments linked him to paper mill

An engineering researcher has stepped down from an editorial board at the request of a journal’s leadership following a sleuth’s comment on a "Retraction Watch" post linking him to paper mill activity.

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Econ study retracted after researchers find ‘undocumented alterations in the code’

An economics study has been retracted after other researchers identified several inconsistencies in the study’s code and submitted a comment to the journal.

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Journal to retract papers that cost its impact factor and spot in leading index

A journal that didn’t get an impact factor this year after Clarivate, the company behind the closely-watched but controversial metric, identified unusual citations in several articles will retract the offending papers, according to its editor.
The western world is besieged by criticisms - academics must be free to investigate

INTRO (William Reville): We live in strange times. A host of highly contestable concepts and practices very critical of western world standards and based on gender theory, identity politics, political correctness and so on are being introduced into our institutions with little prior scrutiny or debate.

These concepts/practices are all amenable to professional investigation by the appropriate academic disciplines – indeed, I can think of no other way they could be adjudicated. One would therefore expect the higher academies to be working overtime examining and adjudicating these matters.

But the reality is that those sectors of the academy not busily promoting these highly contestable concepts are sitting silent, transfixed like rabbits in the glare of a blazing headlamp while pillars of the academy, such as academic freedom, teeter and wobble around them under the new pressures.

The current criticisms gain traction with the assistance of powerful new pressures, principally “wokeism” and cancel culture. Woke is an adjective derived from African-American vernacular meaning “alert to racial prejudice and discrimination”, eg sexism and “white privilege”. Cancel culture means ostracising/banning those deemed to act or speak in an unacceptable manner – usually conservatives who criticise the new order... (MORE - details)
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COMMENT: A problem, however, is that scholars themselves originally invented these unvetted "concepts and practices" now circulating in the public. Which have become popular at the administrative levels of research and education institutions, in terms of guiding policy. Capped in this era by the trend of academics themselves becoming activists -- including scientists. Thus, it's a potential compromised situation (i.e., biased evaluation, motivated reasoning, etc) of some of those who are qualified to critique or test _X_ being those who have facilitated slash endorsed those very special interests.

Science activism is surging – which marks a culture shift among scientists: Science activism has long been considered taboo, as many in the field fear that politicizing science undermines its objectivity. Even so, scientist-activists have still managed to shape the U.S. political landscape throughout history [...] Two lessons emerge from our research thus far. First, our findings indicate that science activism may be gaining legitimacy within the scientific community. [...] As this newer generation of science activists moves into the profession, they will continue to shift the cultural norms of science.

RELATED: Is Evolutionary Biology Racist?

- - - varied socioeconomic analysis concerning the West's structural oppression of humanity - - -

critical theory

cultural studies


decolonality (liberation from Eurocentric standards)


gender studies


critical race theory
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Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and the new standards of scientific conduct

Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne, who will step down from his position Aug. 31, was initially accused of scientific misconduct, but that’s not why he lost his job. [...] A prominent person’s fall from grace often signals a healthy environment able to identify and address threats. Mark Tessier-Lavigne’s resignation suggests that leaders may now be held more accountable for meeting standards of research integrity that go beyond merely not lying about their work. Ultimately, his resignation may signal — or establish — higher public expectations for research integrity and encourage us to build structures to support them.

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What’s worse than a cruel animal experiment? A cruel and fake animal experiment.

Raising the consequences for animal testing experiments gone wrong.

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Journal Retracts Study That Linked Vaping to Liver Disease

A study linking the use of nicotine vapes to liver disease has been retracted after its authors failed to reply to concerns raised about the article’s methods and findings.

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A study linking the use of nicotine vapes to liver disease has been retracted after its authors failed to reply to concerns raised about the article’s methods and findings.

A highly critiqued paper in a British journal has been cited in US legal cases to restrict access to abortion. Attempts to retract the paper by insiders at the journal have failed, leading to a row over editorial independence.

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Costly invite? Scientists hit with massive bills after speaking at COVID-19 ‘webinars’

Researchers are fighting back against a mysterious conference organizer and an arbitration court that may not exist.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. should stop talking about vaccines

The presidential candidate now claims that the polio vaccine killed more people than it saved.

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‘A very disturbing picture’: another retraction imminent for controversial physicist

A prominent journal has decided to retract a paper by Ranga Dias, a physicist at the University of Rochester in New York who has made controversial claims about discovering room-temperature superconductors — materials that would not require any cooling to conduct electricity with zero resistance. The forthcoming retraction, of a paper published by Physical Review Letters (PRL) in 20211, is significant because the Nature news team has learnt that it is the result of an investigation that found apparent data fabrication.
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Science rescinds expression of concern issued last month

Science has rescinded an expression of concern it issued one month ago after the authors provided data that “addressed concerns about the integrity of the paper.”

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Exclusive: Public health journal says it will retract vaping paper for questions authors say were addressed in peer review

The journal BMC Public Health plans to retract an article that found smoking rates fell faster than expected in the US as use of e-cigarettes increased, Retraction Watch has learned.

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Exclusive: City of Hope cancer researcher goes to court to fight misconduct finding

An alumna of the lab of Carlo Croce, a high-profile cancer researcher at The Ohio State University with 14 retractions, has sued the institution over the results of its investigation that found she committed research misconduct.

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Meet the author who has published more than 500 letters to the editor in a year

Hyperprolific authors have been drawing attention for some time. In 2018, for example, a Nature article reported that “thousands of scientists have published a paper every five days.” And earlier this year El Pais noted that a now-suspended scientist was publishing a paper every 37 hours. What about an author who publishes more than once a day, on average?
The battle for research integrity is winnable

The issue of research integrity cuts to the core of scientific endeavour. If scientific results were arrived at by incorrect—or even fraudulent—methods, is our knowledge of the world really increasing? This is a question that more and more people both within and outside science are wrestling with.

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NTU investigating senior professor accused of plagiarising former student’s work

The Nanyang Technological University (NTU) is investigating one of its professors following online claims that he had plagiarised a former student’s final-year project in his research paper.

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Implementing statcheck during peer review is related to a steep decline in statistical reporting errors

ABSTRACT: We investigated whether statistical reporting inconsistencies could be avoided if journals implement the tool statcheck in the peer review process. In a preregistered natural experiment covering over 7000 articles and over 147,000 extracted statistics, we compared the prevalence of reported p-values that were inconsistent with their degrees of freedom and test statistic in two journals that implemented statcheck in their peer review process (Psychological Science and Journal of Experimental and Social Psychology) and two matched control journals (Journal of Experimental Psychology: General and Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, respectively), before and after statcheck was implemented. Preregistered multilevel logistic regression analyses showed that the decrease in both inconsistencies and decision inconsistencies around p = .05 is considerably steeper in statcheck journals than in control journals, offering preliminary support for the notion that statcheck can be a useful tool for journals to avoid statistical reporting inconsistencies in published articles. We discuss limitations and implications of these findings.
Corruption of the academic peer-review process

EXCERPT: . . . this disturbing episode — which ends with an unwarranted and politically-motivated retraction of a paper that some climate scientists happened to disagree with.

The paper at the center of this story is not particularly significant, as it mainly reviews the conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on trends in weather extremes...

[...] To be clear, there is absolutely no allegation of research fraud or misconduct here, just simple disagreement. Instead of countering arguments and evidence via the peer reviewed literature, activist scientists teamed up with activist journalists to pressure a publisher – Springer Nature, perhaps the world’s most important scientific publisher – to retract a paper.

Sadly, the pressure campaign worked. The abuse of the peer review process documented here is remarkable and stands as a warning that climate science is as deeply politicized as ever with scientists willing to exert influence on the publication process both out in the open and behind the scenes. (MORE - missing details)

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What the Stanford president’s resignation can teach lab leaders

Marc Tessier-Lavigne’s departure makes overworked researchers ponder: how do we prevent misconduct in our own labs?
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How many time does _X_ have to be debunked? re: (Sep-2019) A famous argument against free will has been debunked
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HSE researchers question the correctness of experiments denying free will

EXCERPTS: Neuroscientists from HSE University have criticized the famous studies that question the free will of our decisions. You can’t shift responsibility for your actions to the brain. The results of the new work were published in the Neuropsychologia journal.

The dispute about how much free will people have in making their decisions has been going for decades. Neuroscientists have joined this discussion thanks to the electroencephalographic (EEG) experiments of Benjamin Libet.

[...] The HSE neuroscientists repeated the experiment with two groups of subjects, adding small changes to the task in one of the groups. Using behavioral reports and hypersensitive EEG techniques, the scientists investigated the correlation between the time of intention awareness and the time of final decision.

It turned out that the time of awareness can be influenced by experimental procedures: for example, without certain training, the subjects are barely able to determine their intentions, and the traditional Libet paradigm pushes them to the feeling that they can determine the moment of decision-making and intention. Apparently, the instruction itself in the Libet task makes the participants feel that the intention should emerge long before the final decision is made.

In addition, the study confirmed that there is no direct link between the activity of the brain preceding the action and the intention to perform the action... (MORE - missing details)
Abandon the idea of ‘great green walls’

EXCERPT: Despite this problematic history, the vision of a green wall of trees to hold back the desert remains very popular, with billions of dollars pledged and spent in China on the Three Norths Shelterbelt Program, and in Africa on the Great Green Wall Initiative.

As ecologists and geographers who have worked in the drylands of Africa and Asia for decades, we argue that the idea of “green walls” is not only misguided but dangerous. Bound to fail for both social and ecological reasons, the green wall idea reinforces false assumptions about the nature of environmental change in the world’s drylands — lending powerful support to misguided notions that top-down, technocentric interventions are the best. We should abandon the idea to make room for more realistic, evidence-based and effective interventions... (MORE - missing details)
Former postdoc who admitted to faking data pleads guilty to attempted forgery

A cancer researcher who admitted to faking data has pleaded guilty to attempted forgery in a case involving letters of recommendation he passed off as coming from his former supervisor.

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An editor resigned in protest. Now, Wiley is firing him four months earlier than he planned to leave.

The publisher Wiley has fired the chief editor of the Journal of Biogeography after he resigned over conflicts with the company.

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President of Japanese university resigns after findings of ‘self-plagiarism’

The president of Aizu University in Japan has resigned after two investigations found he had self-plagiarized or double-submitted a dozen papers.
Author of paper on COVID-19 and jade amulets sues employer for ‘mental anguish,’ discrimination

A professor at the University of Pittsburgh is suing the institution and two administrators, alleging they discriminated against him because he is Black. The researcher, Moses Bility, an assistant professor of infectious diseases and microbiology in the university’s School of Public Health, alleges the school’s response to a 2020 paper he published and later withdrew that proposed jade amulets may prevent COVID-19 was discriminatory.

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Colombia drug regulator halts clinical research at US-funded facility

Following an inspection earlier this month, Colombia’s FDA has suspended all human research at a facility that until this summer had been receiving U.S. funding to develop a malaria vaccine.

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Wiley journal editors resign en masse, fired chief editor speaks

Two-thirds of the associate editors of the Journal of Biogeography, a Wiley title, have resigned in a dispute with the publisher, and more resignations are likely, according to those involved.

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Outcry over ‘terminal anorexia’ response letter prompts retraction

The authors of a response to an article critiquing the use of the term “terminal anorexia” retracted their letter last month after receiving major backlash from researchers, healthcare providers, and people with eating disorders.[/b]
There’s far more scientific fraud than anyone wants to admit

EXCERPT: The number of retractions each year reflects about a tenth of a percent of the papers published in a given year – in other words, one in 1,000. Yet the figure has grown significantly from about 40 retractions in 2000, far outpacing growth in the annual volume of papers published.

Retractions have risen sharply in recent years for two main reasons: first, sleuthing, largely by volunteers who comb academic literature for anomalies, and, second, major publishers’ (belated) recognition that their business models have made them susceptible to paper mills – scientific chop shops that sell everything from authorships to entire manuscripts to researchers who need to publish lest they perish.

These researchers are required – sometimes in stark terms – to publish papers in order to earn and keep jobs or to be promoted. The governments of some countries have even offered cash bonuses for publishing in certain journals. Any surprise, then, that some scientists cheat?

And these are not merely academic matters. Particularly when it comes to medical research, fakery hurts real people... (MORE - missing details)
Fresh evidence of ChatGPT’s political bias revealed by comprehensive new study

INTRO: The artificial intelligence platform ChatGPT shows a significant and systemic left-wing bias, according to a new study by the University of East Anglia (UEA). The team of researchers in the UK and Brazil developed a rigorous new method to check for political bias. Published today in the journal Public Choice, the findings show that ChatGPT’s responses favour the Democrats in the US, the Labour Party in the UK, and in Brazil President Lula da Silva of the Workers’ Party. Concerns of an inbuilt political bias in ChatGPT have been raised previously but this is the first largescale study using a consistent, evidenced-based analysis... (MORE - details)
Can we keep climate science separate from misinformation?

INTRO: Climate change is real and important. Mitigation and adaptation policies make excellent sense. Scientific integrity is important also. Climate advocates have been extremely successful in promoting representations of the science of extreme weather that depart significantly from the actual research of the scientific community and assessed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

This post is inspired by the successful efforts last week of climate activists — including three widely-cited scientists — to enforce misinformation by the legacy media. In a nutshell, ABC News wrote an accurate story about how climate was not a major or even significant factor in the Lahaina, Maui fire and disaster. After being mobbed by the enforcers, the story was changed to emphasize the role of climate. These sort of activist scientists who seek to enforce preferred public narratives have been called the “science police.”

Today’s post pushes back against this narrative enforcement with some actual science. Have a look at the panel below... (MORE - details)

RELATED: Corruption of the academic peer-review process
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What are LLMs bad at? Reference lists

ChatGPT does not have a true understanding of the questions it is asked or the tasks it is set. Among the “nonsensical answers” that ChatGPT can give, one type especially pertinent to research publishing is its inability to generate relevant and accurate citations.

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Use of AI Is Seeping Into Academic Journals—and It’s Proving Difficult to Detect

EXCERPTS: The rapid rise of generative AI has stoked anxieties across disciplines. High school teachers and college professors are worried about the potential for cheating. News organizations have been caught with shoddy articles penned by AI. And now, peer-reviewed academic journals are grappling with submissions in which the authors may have used generative AI to write outlines, drafts, or even entire papers, but failed to make the AI use clear.

Journals are taking a patchwork approach to the problem. [...] Experts say there’s a balance to strike in the academic world when using generative AI—it could make the writing process more efficient and help researchers more clearly convey their findings. But the tech—when used in many kinds of writing—has also dropped fake references into its responses, made things up, and reiterated sexist and racist content from the internet, all of which would be problematic if included in published scientific writing.

If researchers use these generated responses in their work without strict vetting or disclosure, they raise major credibility issues. [...] generative AI is not all bad—it could help researchers whose native language is not English write better papers...

[...] For now, it's impossible to know how extensively AI is being used in academic publishing, because there’s no foolproof way to check for AI use, as there is for plagiarism... (MORE - missing details)
The World Health Organization promotes quackery yet again

INTRO: The World Health Organization concluded its First WHO Traditional Medicine Global Summit on Friday. The conference was co-hosted by the Indian government and held in Gandhinagar, India, where the WHO had set up a Global Centre for Traditional Medicine, with help from $250 million from the Indian government.

Unfortunately, as we have long lamented, the WHO has long had a penchant for promoting “traditional medicine,” particularly Traditional Chinese Medicine but also Ayurveda and others, as “evidence-based” and worthy of being “integrated” with science-based medicine, and this conference is just one more example of how far down that road the WHO has gone. To get an idea of how this meeting is being described and promoted by its stakeholders, I refer you to a statement by the Indian government released on August 17, the first day of the summit... (MORE - details)

RELATED: Decolonization of knowledge

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As Offshore Wind Ramps Up, Scientists Flag Potential Impacts

EXCERPT: . . . Scientists already know some of the local impacts of wind farms. For example, they can, somewhat counterintuitively, reduce local wind speed. They also create their own local climates, and cause disturbances in the water in the form of a downwind wake. But what those changes might mean for marine life or for industries that depend on ocean resources is something that scientists are still trying to figure out.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., offshore wind has become the subject of bitter political disagreement and fear, fueling lobbying and lawsuits aimed at halting projects before they even begin. As researchers work to model potential outcomes, they stress that they don’t want to derail offshore wind, but rather seek to better understand it so that any negative effects can be minimized, and positive effects maximized.

Scientists have a lot more work to do before they can know the true effect of thousands of offshore wind turbines, as well as how and where they should be built. There may even be questions they haven’t thought to ask yet, said Ute Daewel, a scientist who studies marine ecosystems at The Helmholtz-Zentrum Hereon in Germany.

“It’s so complex,” she said, “that I sometimes think we probably also miss a lot of things that might happen.” (MORE - missing details)
Paper that found ‘climate crisis’ to be ‘not evident yet’ retracted after re-review

An article published last January in a physics journal attracted attention for its conclusion that–contrary to mainstream climate science–extreme weather events have not become more intense or more frequent as the temperature of the earth’s surface has increased.

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Ex-cops tangle with journals over strip clubs and sex crimes

A study by two economists who found opening strip clubs or escort services caused sex crimes in the neighborhood to drop contains “fatal errors” and should be retracted, argues a group of past and current law enforcement officers, including three academics.

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Paper that helped form basis of pricy research tool retracted

Nearly four years after a critic pointed out flaws in a paper about a controversial research tool involved in nearly 20 retractions, the owner of that instrument has lost the article after he failed to overcome the editors’ concerns about the work.

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Exclusive: UCSF and VA found “pervasive” manipulation in lab of former center director

Two institutional investigations that concluded in 2016 and 2019 found scientific misconduct in multiple publications from the lab of a leading urologist at the University of California, San Francisco...

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Exclusive: World-renowned biologist accused of bullying student, stealing his work

One of the world’s foremost conservation biologists is being accused of plagiarism and bullying by a former PhD student...
Joseph Heller: “Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.” --Catch-22
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The New Apocalypticism

INTRO: In 1983, Michael Barkun, today a professor emeritus at Syracuse University, wrote an incredible essay, presciently identifying the rise of a “New Apocalypticism” in American political discourse. Today I share some excerpts from that 40-year-old essay — Divided Apocalypse: Thinking About The End in Contemporary America — and connect them to today’s public discussions of climate change.

Barkun defined the “New Apocalypticism,” as follows:

The so-called "New Apocalypticism" is undeniably religious, rooted in the Protestant millenarian tradition. Religious apocalypticism is, however, not the only apocalypticism current in American society. A newer, more diffuse, but indisputably influential apocalypticism coexists with it. Secular rather than religious, this second variety grows out of a naturalistic world view, indebted to science and to social criticism rather than to theology. Many of its authors are academics, the works themselves directed at a lay audience of influential persons — government officials, business leaders, and journalists — presumed to have the power to intervene in order to avert planetary catastrophe.

Barkun observed that intellectuals were fulfilling a societal function previously served by religious leaders, even though these intellectuals did not always view science and religion to be compatible:

. . . however uninformed or unsympathetic these secular prophets may be concerning their religious counterparts, they clearly recognize the presence in their own work of religious motifs. Their predictions of "last things" generate the feelings of awe that have always surrounded eschatology, even if in this case the predictions often grow out of computer modelling rather than Biblical proof-texts.

For many, science has come to replace religion in its perceived ability to identify the root cause of our existential crisis and scientists have replaced religious leaders as holding the unique ability to offer guidance on how we must transform in order to stave off catastrophe... (MORE - details)



Climate apocalypse

Global catastrophic risk

Doomsday Clock
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The Alimonti Addendum

INTRO: No it’s not the next Bourne thriller, it is instead one of the most egregious failures of scientific publishing that I have seen, SpringerNature have retracted a 2022 paper — Alimonti et al. — after it received negative press coverage in The Guardian and AFP, including criticism from oft-quoted climate scientists. This week both The Guardian and AFP ran stories celebrating their success in getting the paper retracted.

[...] You can see the SpringerNature retraction notice in full below. Note that it does not detail any substantive issues with the paper, only vaguely referring to The Guardian and AFP articles in the passive voice: “Concerns were raised . . .“ (MORE - details)

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Study: Carbon offsets aren’t doing their job, overstate impact

INTRO: Carbon offset projects claiming to curb deforestation are significantly overestimating their impact, according to a new study published in Science on Thursday.

Sold as a way to lessen the impact of greenhouse gas emissions by allowing polluters or consumers to purchase offsets or credits that allow them to keep emitting in return for funding projects that decrease emissions elsewhere, offsets have become a high-profile model for corporate climate action.

But a systematic evaluation of 26 carbon offset projects that claim to slow the rate of potential deforestation in six countries on three continents found that the vast majority of projects did not actually slow deforestation, and those that did were significantly less effective than they claimed... (MORE - details)