Wednesday, 30 September 2015

So this company Cyagen is paying authors for citations in academic papers. – Bad Science


So this company Cyagen is paying authors for citations in academic papers.

August 14th, 2015 by Ben Goldacre
in bad science | 22 Comments »
Screenshot 2015-08-14 15.57.24Here’s
a strange thing, a seedy curio rather than a massive scandal, but I’d
be interested to know what you make of it. This week lots of academics
all received the same unsolicited marketing email from a large well
known research company called Cyagen, who make transgenic mice, stem
cells, and so on. The email was headed “Rewards for your publications”.
In it, Cyagen make a rather strange offer: “We are giving away $100 or
more in rewards for citing us in your publication!”.

The business model is very specific: if you cite them in an academic
paper then you get $100, multiplied by the Impact Factor of the journal
(a widely used measure of the journal’s influence). So if you cite them
in the New England Journal of Medicine, which has an impact factor of
56, then you will receive $5600 from Cyagen. If you cite them in the
British Medical Journal, you get $1700. And so on.

I would imagine that this is something journal editors will be
interested in, and concerned by. We worry about “conflict of interest” a
lot in science, and especially medicine: if someone has shares in a
company, or receives money from it, and their publication discusses that
company’s products, then this needs to be declared in the paper. If you
get funding for a study then, again, you must declare it. If you have
received payment for making an academic citation, then in my view this
is clearly a source of funds that should be declared.

Looking at Cyagen’s webpage on their offer to pay academics for citations, it is clear that they have been offering this incentive for a long time. And looking at their citations page,
I see they have a very long list of papers who have already cited them,
164 papers in total. I have read the most recent 5 papers to cite
Cyagen, and none of them declare that they received payments to do so.
To be clear, the payments are in the form of vouchers for Cyagen
products, but I am not sure this is so different from any other source
of funds, or payment: at best it is direct funding for research work,
like any other source of industry funding that should be openly
declared; but also, one cannot be sure how that financial contribution
from Cyagen to an academic team’s overall budget was subsequently spent.

To be clear, I am not accusing any individual academic author of
receiving funds from Cyagen, and failing to declare it. It is quite
possible that the authors of these 164 specific papers have cited Cyagen
without choosing to cash in on their incentive scheme. However, it is
clear that Cyagen have been offering this incentive for a long time,
because they discuss it on their page as if payment is commonplace.
Therefore it is reasonable to believe that some of the researchers in
the 164 papers listed on the link above have received funds from Cyagen,
in exchange for an academic citation. The question, then, is: who? And
did they declare it in the paper?

As I said, journal editors and publishers may want to investigate a
situation where authors have received undisclosed funds in exchange for a
citation. And anybody with some spare time, who is interested in a
little productive procrastination on this Friday afternoon, may want to
go through some or all of those 164 papers that Cyagen list as citing
them, in order to see if any one of them has declared receiving
money from the company. In a spirit of opennness, Cyagen may also wish
to specify which authors they have paid for citations.

I assume that Cyagen regard this offer – ““We are giving away $100 or
more in rewards for citing us in your publication!” – as unproblematic.
I’ll be interested in other peoples’ views on it. Perhaps my gut
reaction, that this feels dubious, is too puritanical. But I am
certainly very surprised by the offer, and I’ve attached images of the
pages where it is made, and the email, below, for the purposes of
archive. [Update 17:05: and a clever person has scraped and archived
Cyagen’s list of 164 citations here, in case it disappears.]

Thanks to the large number of people who forwarded the Cyagen
email to me, on email and twitter, and Evan Harris for his thoughts on
the topic.

Update 21:30, Cyagen have responded to concerns here.

Update 17/8. Is this offer evil, and should the income be declared?

Just briefly, I think the most interesting thing about this offer
is the wide range of views on it. Some think it’s absolutely fine, no
need to worry about the offer or declare the income. Some think it’s
outright scandalous. I think it’s a seedy academic curio, but I do think
the money should be declared, and I’ve been reflecting on why. I’m
short of time, so this will be longer than I’d like.

It seems, despite Cyagen’s crass language, that by “citation” they
are actually rewarding use of the brand name Cyagen, rather than
requiring a citation of a specific Cyagen methods paper: if so,
then this is paid product placement in an academic journal article,
rather than trying to bump up the citations for a Cyagen paper. Some
have said that scientists providing paid product placement for Cyagen
isn’t an issue because it doesn’t affect the substance of the science,
the results of an experiment. I can see the argument, but I think this
is misguided, and the payment for mentioned Cyagen should be declared as
for any other conflict of interest.

Here’s why. In medicine, you are asked to declare any financial
income related to companies, products and services related to the work.
This could be funding from a pharma company, paid promotional activity
for a device company, the salary of a research nurse in your unit,
shares in a company, free pills to use in your trial, patents you hold,
and so on. There is a large literature showing the conflict of interest
is associated with bias in research, but it’s not a guarantee of bias in
any one case, and often it’s innoccuous. Declaring a conflict of
interest doesn’t mean you’re corrupt. It is “a condition rather than a
behaviour” as the bigwigs say. You always declare it, so we can all see it.

It took a very long time for journals and academics to accept the
importance of declaring financial conflicts of interest. Along the way,
various interest groups have tried to wriggle and argue that, hey, look,
their particular specific financial incentive won’t really influence
behaviour, so it shouldn’t really be declared. That’s why it is
appropriate to have a single set of cultural norms: so that there is no
wriggle room or ambiguity about declaring the big financial stuff, or
the curios that might sometimes be salient. Cyagen, here, are offering a
financial incentive to say something in an academic paper. That’s an
unambiguous financial conflict of interest. I don’t think it is the
worst thing in the world, but I do think it should be declared, because
that’s what we do. Exceptions to the “declare when you’ve been paid
money to say stuff” rule are not a good idea. Since Cyagen stand by
their offer, I can’t really see why they – or those who’ve accepted
their financial incentive – would even want a free pass to be excluded
from the standard practice of declaring this kind of income, as under
the normal rules.  So in summary, my view is: it’s not evil, it is odd,
it was expressed in extremely crass terms, and it should be declared.

Screenshot 2015-08-14 15.56.38

Screenshot 2015-08-14 16.21.34


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22 Responses

  1. Sacha said,

    August 14, 2015 at 5:05 pm
    It’s one thing to fund a study. It’s another thing entirely to pay
    someone to write what you want — that’s not science, it’s PR. You’re not
    being puritanical at all, this is corruption, plain and simple.

  2. Richard Van Noorden said,

    August 14, 2015 at 6:02 pm
    “Cyagen make a rather strange offer: if you cite them in your academic paper, they will give you money”.

    That’s not quite their offer. Cyagen say that if you cite them in
    your paper, then once they have verified this information, they will
    give you a voucher for money off future services from them. So it’s a
    discount voucher.

  3. Mary Hawking said,

    August 14, 2015 at 7:18 pm
    I’m not clear about the context: what were the previous citations related to and what did the email say?

    I would have thought that if a study id using “trangenic mice”, there
    ought to be a link to both the company and the precise strain: is that
    counted as a citation?

    Was the email directed at a broad range of researchers, or only those using company producs?

    I agree – absolutely – that offering financial incentives for citations
    (regardless of the merits/demerits) is totally inappropriate: the
    broader question of whether the source of highly specialised study
    supplies (such as trangenic mice) should be routinely cited is slightly

  4. Axel Berger said,

    August 14, 2015 at 7:54 pm
    This is an old and very well researched problem. TV makers get paid
    to have the popular detective drive a certain make of car, scoff a
    certain brand of drink and so on. That this kind of advertising is not
    innocent and that it works is beyond doubt. The media have established
    firm rules about this, science journals need just copy them.

  5. Austin Jelcick said,

    August 14, 2015 at 8:30 pm
    Dear Ben,

    We truly appreciate the feedback you and other reporters, bloggers,
    and researchers have provided regarding our current promotion. There
    appears to have been some gross miscommunication. Please see below for a
    link to our FB page with some answers to questions we have encountered
    regarding the promotion. We hope this helps to clarify the promotion as
    well as the situation.

  6. oh well said,

    August 14, 2015 at 10:31 pm
    Not very versed in bench work, are we? It is almost impossible to
    change a bench researcher choice of pipette tip brand. The animals
    themselves are the most expensive component of a transgenics
    experiments. It’s like Word to the epidemiologists. (You get R for free,
    the way we get electricity from the uni for a small fee.) Do you think
    anyone would change their transgenics purveyor for 100 dollars discount
    on the next order?

  7. stephen said,

    August 14, 2015 at 11:02 pm
    Ben, this citing is corrupt and you do us a service by exposing it.
    As a friend, peoples’ views should be people’s views. All power to
    your elbow.

  8. Conn Suits said,

    August 15, 2015 at 2:17 am
    This should just be illegal. Science needs to start living up to
    the normal standards of honesty in money things, and in the telling the
    truth and published reports. And science should avail itself of the law
    to stop fraudsters and people who engage in this kind of shady practice.
    Although this is nowhere near as bad this article made me think of the
    activity of drug companies writing their own research papers and paying a
    doctor to put their name on it. Neither of these things are part of
    normal honest scientific work. More things should be illegal. And people
    should be prosecuted. It will not kill people in academic science to
    simply do their jobs properly.

  9. Fredd Schwartz said,

    August 15, 2015 at 6:43 am
    Ben, I’m confused.

    If a researcher utilities a particular supplier of goods or services,
    how does it cross the scruples line if a supplier offers an incentive to
    let them know that their product, or products were utilized and
    subsequently cited in a customer’s published research?

    Store credit now crosses the line? Since when?

    If I produced a product utilized in industry and through a promotional
    vehicle I could better track and document the successful use of my
    product by my customers in various applications, how does that then
    become a bad thing?

    OK, yes, I could scan through my client list and contact each of them
    to follow up as to how exactly they utilized my product and what the
    end results were through their use of my product, or I could offer some
    type of incentive to them to take the time out of their valuable work
    day to provide me with that information.

    And yes, I could create some kind of survey form and ask them to stop
    what they’re doing and fill it out and mail it back to me, or I could
    sweeten the pot and have them voluntarily report back to me upon
    completion of their application and the results of such by offering a
    discount on future purchases of my product.

    Let’s face it. If they were not happy with my product, it wouldn’t
    matter what “incentive” was offered to them. Two things would be certain
    though, first and foremost, I’d never make another sale to them and any
    failure of my product would be published for all to see, resulting in
    the loss of future sales from potential customers who read their

    What I see in your article, Ben, is a much to do about nothing. Well,
    not exactly nothing. Your article does shine a light on an incentive
    program designed to increase sales, while providing valuable information
    back to Cyagen regarding the use and results of that use of Cyagen

  10. susan bewley said,

    August 15, 2015 at 7:24 am
    “we truely appreciate the feedback etc.”

    the explanation on facebook is worth reading for a tutorial in weasel words and faux sincerity

    its an innocent payment reward scheme for something that will happen anyway … mon oeil!

    it is a cynical financial move and should have no place in science

    we might already have metrics problems but this will only distort more

  11. Pharmacist-in-Exile said,

    August 15, 2015 at 7:33 am
    Where do we draw the line? I use a lot of solvents in my research,
    and so does a lot of my collegues – by simply coordinating our purchases
    we’ve got a fairly good deal from one of our suppliers. In accordance
    with the comments above this “bulk price discount” is unethical and
    should be clearly declared so our research can be disregarded as biased
    industry funded results-for-cash. I’ve also gotten hefty discounts on
    lab equipement when up-grading costly machinery – should that also be
    constantly declared in my papers?

    I think we’ve lost sight of the issue when we need to start taking stock
    of what commercial services, animals, cell-lines, solvents, specialty
    chemicals and utensils cost and whether commercial discounts have been

    The question must be if economic transactions have influenced the choice
    of transgenic strain, cell-line, chemical and assay and thus affected
    the experimental protocol or presentation of results – not the actual
    price or discount on these things.

  12. Zac Thompson said,

    August 15, 2015 at 7:58 am
    I’m not in academia or the medical industry; I do internet software
    development. But as I mentioned on Twitter when I saw this, it just
    looks like the bad search engine optimization “games” that plagued our
    industry a decade ago. Companies would pay people (perhaps with “just a
    discount”) to mention certain products on their websites. Search for
    “link spam”, “blog networks” … the apologia posted by the marketers
    could even have been written in that era with slightly different text.
    Replace “Impact Factor” with “incoming links” and it’s almost funny.

    But the bottom line is that all these actions just end up polluting
    the graph and obscuring any real signal, and that happens by increasing
    the amount of bad content in the pool.

  13. Jon H said,

    August 15, 2015 at 8:14 am
    On a related note I notice that some companies selling reagents for
    research offer points schemes for reviews of their products. The points
    can then be redeemed for vouchers.

  14. Richard Poynder said,

    August 15, 2015 at 9:54 am
    Austin Jelcick: “Please see below for a link to our FB page with
    some answers to questions we have encountered regarding the promotion.
    We hope this helps to clarify the promotion as well as the situation.”

    Cyagen forgot to cite me!

    The full Q&A is here:

  15. Susan Green said,

    August 15, 2015 at 8:47 pm
    Cyagen Biosciences are not doing anything illegal – it’s business.
    However, the research community might consider it to be more of a
    ‘massive scandal’ than a ‘seedy curio’ if looked at in the context of
    what is already known about the preclinical animal research industry.
    Please see my article:

  16. Kate W said,

    August 15, 2015 at 9:10 pm
    i’m surprised that my opinion, Puritanical though it may also be,
    is not everyone’s. I’m not a scientist but a librarian, and in my field
    we often come up against softer sorts of biases – a salesperson who
    brings coffee cake or promo items that give you a sense of obligation to
    purchase even when you don’t realize it. But this offer smacks of what
    I call (Bowlderdized version) “Selling Yourself for Pie.” You, the
    scientist, offer advertising and your imprimatur for a product, they
    give you a cheap gift. You think “well, I would have mentioned them
    anyway, I like their product, anyway It’s not much money, my boss thinks
    it’s ok, I’m in a field where everything is underfunded and we need to
    get money wherever we can, this is really a responsible way to save
    taxpayer money.” In reality, this is a company using you for cut-rate
    advertising and acting like they’re doing you a favor. Heck, they
    believe it! This is the Campbell’s Soup Label, School Points for
    Products model of charity/advertising. If you’re going to advertise for
    a company, you ought to get more than a rebate, and you ought to
    acknowledge you are doing it.

  17. Abbie said,

    August 16, 2015 at 6:04 pm
    I used to work for a small company which made specific epitope
    detectors. We were REALLY explicit when research groups ordered from us
    that if they cited us in papers we would send their group a bottle of
    ~£50 champagne. I guess this was even better from a
    not-being-held-accountable point of view as it was then totally a “gift”
    which would be sent direct to the group head, bypassing the institute

  18. Fredd Schwartz said,

    August 17, 2015 at 7:36 am
    “Did you use Cyagen’s animal models in your latest study?”

    The more I thought about this issue, the more confused I get as to how anybody would object to saving a buck.

    I’d read your article, Ben, but I could have had a clearer
    understanding of the true intent presented by Cyagen had you included
    the sentence preceding it, rather than just the, “We are giving away
    $100 or more in rewards for citing us in your publication!”.

    Cyagen Biosciences makes their offer as an after action to the use of
    their services, rather than the “Say the secret word and receive a
    hundred bucks!” Their offer is made to those who have already purchased
    their products.

    For those who feel they are standing upon bio industry moral high
    ground in their condemnation of the Cyagen promotion, take a long look
    at the “samples” offered to you the next time you visit your personal
    physician. Do you have any “samples” provided by your suppliers in YOUR
    supply cabinet? Do you take the “sample” of the food d’jour offered to
    you in COSTCO?

    Would you refuse the discount offered to you on your next vehicle
    purchase? Do you clip coupons to use at IHOP, or your local grocery
    store? Of course you will take the discount. You’d be a fool not to.

    Bottom line here is, will you jeopardize your efforts and research
    for the sake of purchasing a product based solely upon the discounts
    offered by a vendor? No.

    From what I’ve read, Cyagen has provided a reliable service to a wide
    spectrum of customers, without issue. If you are not willing to accept
    those discounts offered by “vendors” that you have already been relying
    upon to provide your company or institution with quality products and
    services, then you are simply wasting an opportunity to save a buck. And
    you know what they say about a buck saved, eh?

    If someone truly objects to discounts for goods and services and
    would rather pay full MSRP, they probably have all the research funding
    they could possibly need and donate their wages to their favorite
    charities, and are to be commented.

    Sorry, but I just had to post script my earlier comments, cuz the
    naysayers seem so silly. And obviously have no concept of bottom line
    budgeting. Sorry naysayer, but in the end, it IS about the money and the
    billions of it which is necessary to produce results we all rely upon
    to improve life as we know it.

  19. Pharmacist-in-Exile said,

    August 17, 2015 at 9:52 am
    @Kate W – when I describe my work in a scientific paper one of the
    primary aims of that paper is to make sure that someone else can redo my
    experiment. One criteria for enabling this is to report which
    chemicals, equipements and subjects (animals, patients, bacterial
    strain, etc.) I have used – this is not advertising even if I have got a
    discount on my bulk chemical order, loyalty points for reimbursement on
    the animals or what ever. I need to state these things whatever price I
    have paid for the “utensils” since repeated experiments can show that
    the results were purely due to that contamination in the buffer, splice
    variant in the bacterial strain or what ever.

    This discussion seems to me to be just another thread in the popular
    discussion implying that scientist have no integrity, are always bought
    off by someone, and that all science done is wrong and corrupt. The
    economic reality of buying chemicals, equipment and experimental units
    (animals, patients etc.) is that you cannot be extremely loyal with
    restricted funds, and if you can buy a baker’s dozen of suitable
    transgenic mice for the price of an ordinary dozen by doing what you are
    scientifically obliged to do – I don’t see the slippery slope and
    disappearance of the bill for the pie. The problem arises if you
    compromise the choice of animal/bacterial strain/patient characteristics
    due to financial reasons or to skew the results of your study – but
    that is a question of scientific misconduct (as it has always been) and
    not of fiscal ethics.

  20. Peter Ashby said,

    August 17, 2015 at 10:04 am
    @Susan Green

    Having read your paper your misunderstanding of animal research licensing is concerning. you say:

    ” The inspectors rely on the accuracy and honesty of the answers given by the applicant on the forms.”

    No they do not. They rely on the researchers’ knowledge (given in
    graphic warning on the notes and forms around animal licensing) that
    failure to give complete and detailed information could result in
    prosecution. Prosecutions under the Act are subject to a £5,000 fine
    and/or 6 months imprisonment. Anyone subject to such sanctions is also
    highly likely to be sacked by their employer for gross misconduct.

    Inspectors are permitted to and do make unannounced visits to animal
    research facilities. The people who run such units are also very aware
    of the Act and the sanctions and act as local enforcers. In any decently
    run unit or any I have ever worked in you are in danger of being
    reported to the inspectors by others if you exceed your permissions or
    plan to do so. No animal tech will agree to a procedure that is not
    expressly licensed under your permissions.

    That you either do not understand this or choose to elide it by
    omission makes me doubt the objectivity of the rest of your report which
    constantly conflates medical trials based on animal models and the
    wider research effort. Basic research is necessary because we do not
    understand much of biology. Again that you either do not understand this
    or choose to conflate these things to mislead leads me again to doubt
    the objectivity of your paper. By all means make your argument. But your
    paper skates very close to being a polemic.

  21. Ed Post said,

    August 17, 2015 at 11:53 pm
    This practice is identical to “payola” in the music industry and
    “product placement” in the movie biz. If you accept the deal but don’t
    disclose it, it’s simply not ok.

    There is quite a research showing the power of even small gifts to
    influence behavior. If you accept the voucher, acknowledge it on the

  22. Sean Patrick Santos said,

    August 18, 2015 at 9:31 am
    Perhaps my reaction is partly due to the fact that I work in
    climate science in the USA, where funding still seems to be harder to
    come by than in medical research (per researcher), while scrutiny
    regarding sources of funding is higher. Regardless, my first two
    reactions to this were “Is this legal?” and “Probably, according to
    their legal department, for some scientists, but this is unethical

    I’m not directly interested in the “Is this evil?” question. Part of
    the reason is that I’m sure that most researchers who mentioned Cyagen
    products did so either without being motivated by a reward (since this
    program is new), or with some clear justification in their own minds
    about how this was just a matter of truthfully reporting their materials
    in a way that just incidentally assisted future research. Another
    reason is that heading straight for black-and-white moral terms can be
    counterproductive by putting people on the defensive. (Though sometimes
    it is well worth it; I’m comfortable going on the record as saying that
    intentional snake oil salesmanship is evil.)

    That said, there are three things that for me seem to really close
    the case on whether or not this is an ethical problem, at least as long
    as researchers are not disclosing this source of funds:

    1) In science, medicine, and journalism, among other spheres,
    funding sources should always be disclosed to the greatest extent
    practical, even with some bending over backwards. If someone hands me
    money, no matter how innocent their intentions (or mine) may be, and no
    matter how much I may feel like it does not bias me, I am neither
    ignorant nor foolish enough to be certain that it will not impact my
    current or future actions.

    The principle that financial entanglement is *always* a potential
    source of bias is well-recognized in law, and it is absurd that any
    scientist should think themselves *more* objective while being *less*
    principled in this respect.

    Judges are expected to recuse themselves from a case if there is
    any reasonable appearance of bias, not simply when they personally feel
    that they are being fair to the parties involved. We scientists may not
    be judges, but surely, if any professions focus on objectivity above all
    other virtues, judges, scientists, and journalists should be near the
    top of the list. It may be impractical to “recuse” ourselves from all
    commentary regarding matters that relate to funding, since if nothing
    else there are some entities who economically impact all of society. But
    it is certainly a professional obligation to at least mention what that
    funding is.

    It is disturbing if that obligation is seen as optional, but outright obscene when it is seen as “puritanical”.

    (While exceptions are sometimes made for small gifts, we are way
    above the line with anything in the hundreds, or certainly thousands, of
    dollars US. Setting aside the common breaches and loopholes in
    practice, this is well above the limits in theory for unacceptable gifts
    for most government and corporate rules in the US.)

    2) “Defenses” of practices like these seem to rephrase one of two
    propositions, which are “Everyone in the field is doing this.” and “This
    is often the only way to get funding.” To paraphrase Charles Babbage, I
    am not able rightly to apprehend the confusion of ideas according to
    which this should provoke less, rather than more, outrage.

    If the accusation at hand is that certain sources of funding are morally compromising, consider these two thoughts:

    – Everyone in the field is morally compromised.

    – Making moral compromises is the only way to get funding for important research.

    At most, the second point might be effective as utilitarian
    argument that certain decisions are ethically acceptable on a personal
    level. But if true (and they aren’t), both points are strong
    indictments, not defenses, of the status quo for modern research, and
    the people who support it. It is a contradiction to say that we can
    utterly depend upon certain sources of funding, and yet not be unduly
    biased by them.

    3) The express purpose of all marketing campaigns, including this
    one, is to sway the audience. Arguments from marketers (as well as
    lawyers, pundits, and essayists) can be ethically justified on at least
    two grounds:

    – A good argument enriches the understanding of those who hear
    it, i.e. it is educational, rather than pure propaganda or polemic.

    – One or more contrary arguments will be made, and thus it is in
    the interest of truth that the public, or juries or judges or panels or
    politicians, be made aware of the strongest arguments from all sides.

    These are the sort of justifications that are foundational for
    nations with an adversarial justice system, but none typically justify
    dishonesty, nor even omitting a mention of some potential conflict of

    The point of Cyagen’s marketing campaign, as with all such
    efforts, is to convince more researchers to use their materials. Not to
    use “the best” materials, or to be transparent, but to use Cyagen’s
    materials, and to encourage others to do likewise.

    As Cyagen and several commenters above have pointed out, this is
    similar to how coupons work (and to how many information age enabled
    promotions often work). The purpose of a coupon is, of course, to
    increase, not decrease, revenue for the company, usually through one or
    two methods:

    – The discounted price, paid by people who are attracted by
    coupons, usually still provides a profit for the company. Meanwhile, the
    “regular” price, paid by those who already prefer the product but for
    some reason lack a discount, is higher than it would otherwise be.

    – People who get a discount are expected to become attached to a
    product, or feel loyal to a company, or for other reasons “default” to
    it even on occasions when they don’t have the discount, and also to
    spread word about the product either explicitly by endorsing it, or
    implicitly by using it publicly.

    Just as casinos only host games in the house’s favor (or
    purposely lose money, on rare occasions, for good publicity), so
    coupons, “loyalty” programs, and sweepstakes are designed to improve
    profits for companies that host them. The explicit intention of such
    programs is to either get customers to use a product that they wouldn’t
    otherwise, or to pay more for it than they would expect to, or to
    provide some advertising or metric-related service.

    Sometimes, that’s OK! I don’t mind talking about whether my
    plumber or auto mechanic did a good job, or whether some restaurant was
    enjoyable, and sometimes I’ll mention such things whether I’m
    “incentivized” by some rewards program or not. I also don’t feel guilty
    about using coupons at the grocery store. (Though I am a bit bothered by
    some apps’ using social media to post an endorsement as “me”, even if
    they make a token fine-print attempt to ask permission first.)

    Regardless, we cross into questionable territory when someone is
    (a) acting as a public servant, or (b) an author producing ostensibly
    objective findings. Scientists are often the former, and almost always
    the latter. It is much worse when the discount is not merely a “coupon”,
    but actually dependent on a statement made in one’s public, or
    otherwise ostensibly objective, role. This is product placement in the
    most deliberate and obvious sense. In fact, this statement from Richard
    Poynder’s blog is puzzling nonsense:

    “The goal is not product placement but rather: (1) to increase
    the number of publications featuring Cyagen […] (2) to reward
    researchers for performing a task that is already required of them[…]”

    To an extent, I applaud Jelcick for doing very well in defending
    an otherwise baffling program, but he fell down here. The first of his
    two goals is almost literally the definition of product placement, i.e.
    to pay for placement of the name of a company or its products in certain
    media. The second goal makes no sense, rewarding researchers for
    something that, it is claimed, they would have done anyway.

    I may as well be bluntly puritanical here. Accepting a discount,
    coupon, voucher, or any other reward under these circumstances, even for
    one’s lab rather than oneself, is wrong. Specifically, acquiescing to,
    **while not reporting**, the terms of the reward is wrong. And I don’t
    want to be too judgmental of people who meant no harm, but they really
    should have thought this through better. And we should expect better in
    the scientific community, and make it clear what our norms really are.

    To be clear, I’m not against the transparency of talking about any
    arbitrary detail of your experiment. But taking significant money (or a
    “discount”) for some such detail, when your audience is not aware of
    that fact, is a definite problem.

So this company Cyagen is paying authors for citations in academic papers. – Bad Science

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