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Researchers fear 400 scientific studies used organs illegally harvested from Chinese prisoners
If a scientific study was conducted unethically, should publishers retract it?
- A new study suggests hundreds of published scientific papers involving organ transplants in China violated ethical standards.
- International professional standards say studies involving organ transplants shouldn't be published if the organs came from executed prisoners, or donors don't provide consent.
- China has long been accused of facilitating a shady network of organ harvesting and trafficking, though it's been difficult to prove.
Hundreds of studies involving research on organ transplant recipients in China might have violated ethics standards, according to a new study that's called for the retraction of more than 400 published scientific papers.
Published in the journal BMJ Open, the study suggests that thousands of organs used for transplants in China likely came from condemned prisoners, and that past research has largely failed to investigate this possibility. As study authors Wendy Rogers and Matthew Robertson wrote in an article published by Newsweek, this violates international professional standards that say journals shouldn't publish research that:
- involves any biological material from executed prisoners
- lacks human research ethics committee approval
- lacks consent of donors.
However, studies that fail to meet these criteria still get published. The study examined 445 papers, which detailed more than 85,000 organ transplants, published in peer-reviewed English-language journals between 2000 and 2017, finding that:
- 92.5 percent of the publications didn't say whether the transplanted organs came from executed prisoners.
- 99 percent didn't say whether organ donors gave consent.
- 73 percent of papers received approval from an institutional ethics committee for their research.
Organ harvesting in China
The Communist Party of China has persecuted Falun Gong since 1999. Hundreds of thousands of Falun Gong members have been unlawfully imprisoned, subject to torture, psychological abuse, and forced labor. They are thought to be a source of China's illegal organ harvesting trade.
Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
The Chinese government says about 10,000 organ transplants occur in the nation each year, and that these come from the "largest voluntary organ donation system in Asia." But there doesn't seem to be any evidence that such a large-scale voluntary donation program exists (for example, in 2010 China's official number of voluntary donors was 34), and a 2016 report suggested the real number of annual donations is somewhere between 60,000 and 100,000.
What explains the discrepancy? The authors of the recent study suggest China has been harvesting organs from condemned prisoners and prisoners of conscience, which may include Falun Gong members, Uighur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists and some Christians.
China has long been accused of facilitating a network of organ harvesting and trafficking, a claim that's supported by eyewitness testimony, shady government data and the relative ease with which recipients can buy organs in the country, while in most developed nations patients wait months. In 2015, China promised not to harvest organs from executed prisoners, though there's been no new laws or regulations passed that suggest the practice isn't taking place.
In December, the Independent Tribunal into Forced Organ Harvesting from Prisoners of Conscience in China released a report saying: "The tribunal's members are all certain – unanimously, and sure beyond reasonable doubt – that in China forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience has been practiced for a substantial period of time involving a very substantial number of victims."
Scientists should be held responsible, too
The authors of the recent study argue that researchers and publishers should strictly adhere to ethical standards when conducting research involving organ transplants, and they've called for the mass retraction of all published work that fails to meet ethical standards.
"When a paper is published without identifying the source of the transplanted organs, it risks sending the message that ethical standards may be ignored or breached," the researchers wrote for Newsweek. "This undermines the incentive to comply with these standards in the future."
- Report: China mass harvesting organs from prisoners - CNN ›
- Organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners in China - Wikipedia ›
- Organ Harvesting In China And The Many Questions To Be Answered ›
- Call for retraction of 400 scientific papers amid fears organs came ... ›
- A Chinese medical study is being retracted for relying on organs ... ›
- 'Barbaric': Human organs harvested from Chinese prisoners prompts ... ›
This storm rained electrons, shifted energy from the sun's rays to the magnetosphere, and went unnoticed for a long time.
- An international team of scientists has confirmed the existence of a "space hurricane" seven years ago.
- The storm formed in the magnetosphere above the North magnetic pole.
- The storm posed to risk to life on Earth, though it might have interfered with some electronics.
What do you call that kind of storm when it forms over the Arctic ocean?<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/8GqnzBJkWcw" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> Many objects in space, like Earth, the Sun, most of the planets, and even some large moons, have magnetic fields. The area around these objects which is affected by these fields is known as the magnetosphere.</p><p>For us Earthlings, the magnetosphere is what protects us from the most intense cosmic radiation and keeps the solar wind from affecting our atmosphere. When charged particles interact with it, we see the aurora. Its fluctuations lead to changes in what is known as "space weather," which can impact electronics. </p><p>This "space hurricane," as the scientists are calling it, was formed by the interactions between Earth's magnetosphere and the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interplanetary_magnetic_field" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">interplanetary magnetic field,</a> the part of the sun's magnetosphere that goes out into the solar system. It took on the familiar shape of a cyclone as it followed magnetic fields. For example, the study's authors note that the numerous arms traced out the "footprints of the reconnected magnetic field lines." It rotated counter-clockwise with a speed of nearly 7,000 feet per second. The eye, of course, was still and <a href="https://www.sciencealert.com/for-the-first-time-a-plasma-hurricane-has-been-detected-in-space" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">calm</a>.</p><p>The storm, which was invisible to the naked eye, rained electrons and shifted energy from space into the ionosphere. It seems as though such a thing can only form under calm situations when large amounts of energy are moving between the solar wind and the upper <a href="https://www.reading.ac.uk/news-and-events/releases/PR854520.aspx" target="_blank">atmosphere</a>. These conditions were modeled by the scientists using 3-D <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-21459-y#Sec10" target="_blank">imaging</a>.<br><br>Co-author Larry Lyons of UCLA explained the process of putting the data together to form the models to <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/science/space/space-hurricane-rained-electrons-observed-first-time-rcna328" target="_blank">NBC</a>:<br><br>"We had various instruments measuring various things at different times, so it wasn't like we took a big picture and could see it. The really fun thing about this type of work is that we had to piece together bits of information and put together the whole picture."<br><br>He further mentioned that these findings were completely unexpected and that nobody that even theorized a thing like this could exist. <br></p><p>While this storm wasn't a threat to any life on Earth, a storm like this could have noticeable effects on space weather. This study suggests that this could have several effects, including "increased satellite drag, disturbances in High Frequency (HF) radio communications, and increased errors in over-the-horizon radar location, satellite navigation, and communication systems."</p><p>The authors <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-21459-y#Sec8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">speculate</a> that these "space hurricanes" could also exist in the magnetospheres of other planets.</p><p>Lead author Professor Qing-He Zhang of Shandong University discussed how these findings will influence our understanding of the magnetosphere and its changes with <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-03/uor-sho030221.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">EurekaAlert</a>:</p><p>"This study suggests that there are still existing local intense geomagnetic disturbance and energy depositions which is comparable to that during super storms. This will update our understanding of the solar wind-magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling process under extremely quiet geomagnetic conditions."</p>
Research reveals a new evolutionary feature that separates humans from other primates.
- Researchers find a new feature of human evolution.
- Humans have evolved to use less water per day than other primates.
- The nose is one of the factors that allows humans to be water efficient.
A model of water turnover for humans and chimpanzees who have similar fat free mass and body water pools.
Credit: Current Biology
Being skeptical isn't just about being contrarian. It's about asking the right questions of ourselves and others to gain understanding.
- It's not always easy to tell the difference between objective truth and what we believe to be true. Separating facts from opinions, according to skeptic Michael Shermer, theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, and others, requires research, self-reflection, and time.
- Recognizing your own biases and those of others, avoiding echo chambers, actively seeking out opposing voices, and asking smart, testable questions are a few of the ways that skepticism can be a useful tool for learning and growth.
- As Derren Brown points out, being "skeptical of skepticism" can also lead to interesting revelations and teach us new things about ourselves and our psychology.