Latest Contributions

Jul 312016
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Christina Pahl,a Igor Cavalcanti da Silveira,b Armando Dias Duarte,c Arleson Kennedi Franca dos Santosb

aTechnische Universitaet Ilmenau, Ilmenau, State of Thuringia, Germany

bFederal Institute of Education, Science and Technology of Pernambuco, Caruaru, Brazil

cFederal University of Pernambuco, Caruaru, Brazil

Received 14.03.2016, accepted 25.04.2016, published 26.07.2016

JUnQ, 6, 2, 1–6, 2016

The continuous growth in human population implicates an increasing need for water. This demand encloses especially industrial structures. The federal state Pernambuco is one of the leading textile producers in Brazil. Although, the dry sub-humid state represents less than 5% of its national population, it covers approximately 20% of nationally manufactured jeans. Its high water consumption exacerbates the environmental situation during the actual strong drought which continues to impact the entire

northern part of the South American continent. One main factor is the emission of chemically contaminated effluents from industrial laundries to Ipojuca river, being the third most contaminated river in Brazil. In this study, we analyse impact factors contributing to anthropogenic environmental damage in one of Pernambuco’s main jeans producing region, Caruaru, and provide a sustainable solution towards waste water treatment. The methodology encloses a comparison of the exemplary sewage water management in the city Hof, Germany. Our results enclose parameters responsible for the damage to the fragile environment in Pernambuco and the Ipojuca River as well as a model for a sustainable infrastructure of the intended expansion of the industrial park in Caruaru.

Download the article here: Sustainable Processing

Jul 312016
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Alexander F. G. Goldberg,a Klaus Roth,b,1 CJ Chemjobberc

a Department of Organic Chemistry, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel

b Institut für Organische Chemie und Biochemie, Freie Universitaet Berlin

c 3170 Road 40 1/2, Shell, WY 82441, USA

Adapted and translated with permission from A. F. G. Goldberg, K. Roth, CJ Chemjobber, Chem. unserer Zeit 2016, 50, 144–145.

© 2016 Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co KGaA, Weinheim.

JUnQ, 6, 2, 8–9, 2016

Household products from the food and cosmetics industry are advertized as “chemical free” in a nearly inflationary way. This declaration is mostly incorrect and it suggests that the products are produced from natural products, are extremely healthy, or completely free of artificial ingredients. We have investigated these labels for a broad variety of such products, including herbal supplements, processed food and beverages, next to cosmetic products and cleaning agents. As a result we were able to compile a complete list of all “chemical free” domestic products.

Download the article here: Chemical Free Household Products

Apr 142016
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M. Dornbusch, T. Biehler, M. Conrad, A. Greiwe, D. Momper, L. Schmidt, M. Wiedow

University of Applied Sciences, Adlerstraße 32, 47798 Krefeld, Germany

Received 12.06.2015, accepted 29.02.2016, published 14.04.2016

JUnQ, 6, 2, 1–7, 2016

The formation of a conversion layer for corrosion protection based on phytic acid (PA) solutions is described several times in the literature. The promising results induced us to verify the performance of PA based conversion layers as pre-treatment for organic coatings. The spectroscopic and optical analysis with infrared spectroscopy, atomic force microscopy, and scanning electron microscopy of the generated layer strengthened the hypothesis of a corrosion protective layer. Furthermore, the electrochemical analysis with cyclic voltammetry supported it but the results of the electrochemical impedance spectroscopy provided a first hint of an instable layer. Unfortunately, all kinds of tested conversion layers based on PA with and without a combination with molybdate increased the delamination of an applied coating and accelerated the corrosion process in the salt spray test. Therefore, all investigated PA based conversion layers are not suitable as pre-treatments for organic coatings.

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Jul 162015
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M. Gommel, H. Nolte and G. Sponholz

Team Scientific Integrity

JUnQ, 5, 2, 11–16, 2015

In 2009, a good scientific practice curriculum was developed and published on behalf of the “Ombudsman f?r die Wissenschaft”. Soon after we had started giving courses for doctoral students that follow this curriculum, we listened to many stories about scientific misconduct – related by the participants. Since these stories were far more numerous than we had expected from the published literature, we decided to ask the participants about their experience with malpractice with the help of a short explorative survey.

387 doctoral students returned our questionnaire after participating in a two-day good scientific practice course between November 2011 and December 2012. 76 students – about one in five – admitted to have been involved in one of six forms of severe scientific misconduct with consequences upon their work: plagiarism; data manipulation, fabrication or theft; honorary authorship; duplicate publication.

More than half of the respondents stated that they were involved in, or had witnessed problems with unclear data ownership or honorary authorship. In the courses, many participants told us that data management and authorship issues had never been addressed thoroughly prior to the course, although they are important aspects of the scientific process. This leads to several unsolved questions concerning the supervisors’ role in the fostering of good scientific practice, and to an assumption of “inherited unawareness” and systematic non-communication. We suggest that the issue should be tackled by educating all members of the scientific institutions, accompanied by structural changes.

The article we originally posted was missing two entries in table 3.

Find the corrected version here: [download id=”109″]

The original article can be found here: [download id=”108″]

Jul 142015
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W. Seuntjens

Dutch Academy of ‘Pataphysics, Amsterdam

Received 21.05.2015, accepted 30.06.2015, published 14.07.2015

JUnQ, 5, 2, Views, 17-21, 2015

Collections of quotations are popular because they serve wisdom and wit in condensed form. Sometimes, though, their selected quotations are not quite understandable. Especially quotations from some German authors in a particular German collection seem to suffer from this false air of deep thinking and great intelligence. Is this an incidental one-off or is this a symptom of a general phenomenon?

[download id=”96″]

Nov 112014
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Wolter Seuntjens

Dutch Academy of ‘Pataphysics, Amsterdam

Received 09.10.2014, accepted 03.11.2014, published 11.11.2014

JUnQ, 5, 1, Views, ### (not final page numbering), 2015

Sexual promiscuity can be studied quantitatively as a behavior. The qualitative study of the emotions and motives associated with promiscuity is secondary. When heterosexual behavior is studied quantitatively promiscuity is necessarily equal among males and females. In other words, contrary to contemporary popular opinion, the group of human males and the group of human females have the same average number of sex partners.

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Oct 232014
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Raphaël Lévya

aStructural and Chemical Biology, Institute of Integrative Biology, University of Liverpool Biosciences Bldg, Crown Street, L69 7ZB, UK

Received 17.10.2014, accepted 21.10.2014, published 23.10.2014

JUnQ, 5, 1, Views, XXX, 2015

In the last couple of years, partly because of my involvement in the stripy controversy (more below), I have thought a lot about publishing… and concluded (along with many other people) that the system is absurd, worse, toxic. Public funds are paid to commercial publishers to put publicly-funded research behind paywalls. The (unpaid) hard work of reviewers (which may or may not have led to improvements in the article) remains confidential and does not benefit the community. Publicly-funded researchers waste their time reviewing articles which have already been reviewed several times by other researchers for other journals. Researchers are evaluated on the impact factor of the journals in which they publish even though this is not at all a mea- surement of the quality of an article.[1,2] There is a serious reproducibility crisis[3] but no incentive to reproduce or criticise published work. Those flaws and their consequences can be illustrated by briefly looking at two recent controversies.

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The Article (and much more) is also available on Raphaël Lévys Blog

Sep 022014
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Natascha Gastera, Jorge S. Burnsb, Michael Gastera

aLaboratory of Molecular Physiology, Departments of Pathology and Endocrinology, Odense University Hospital, 5000 Odense, Denmark

bLaboratory of Cell Biology and Advanced Cancer Therapies, Department of Medical and Surgical Sciences for Children & Adults, University Hospital of Modena and Reggio Emilia, 41100 Modena, Italy

Received 09.07.2014, accepted 05.08.2014, published 02.09.2014

JUnQ, 5, 1, Views, XXX, 2015

Over the last years the number of manuscripts published by single authors has diminished. This is despite single author articles having qualities unattainable in multi-author-papers. They present an opportunity to publish opinionated and creative thoughts unbound by compromise. Moreover they represent a unique vision of the research process. This being said they may be undervalued, as they are appraised similarly to the multi-author manuscripts and this might call for a change in evaluation metrics.

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Aug 252012
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Guest article by Konradin Metze

Journal of Unsolved Questions, 2, 2, Preface, XV-XVII, 2012

[download id=”41″]

Konradin Metze , MD, PhD,  pathologist,  is leader of the research group analytical cellular pathology, member of the  National Institute of Science and Techonology on Photonics Applied to Cell Biology (INFABIC) , professor at the postgraduate courses of Medical Pathophysiology and Medical Sciences at the University of Campinas, Brazil and academic editor of the scientific electronic journal Plos One.

e-mail: kmetze at

The evaluation of science is currently a highly debated matter at universities and research institutions, in scientific journals, and also in the media in general. Researchers want to produce science of high impact. The aim of this essay is to make some critical reflections on the impact of science and especially its evaluation.

First, we have to define the concept of impact of science. It is necessary to think about who or what will be influenced by science. According to this question we can stratify impact in science in four types:

1.The intellectual impact, as the degree of changes of scientific concepts caused by the development or improvement of theories or hypotheses based on observations or theoretical reflections.

2. The social impact, as the degree of changes in life or environment of individuals or groups of people caused by scientific theories or hypotheses.

3. The financial impact as the degree of economic changes of “corporations” supporting scientific activity, such as companies, universities, or governmental departments due to the activity of scientists.

4. The media impact as the degree of the presence of research or researchers in the media.

A strong intellectual and social dimension of science has always been present. Its financial and media impact, however, got an increasing importance in the last decades.

Regarding the question of measurement, the financial impact can easily be defined as a variable proportional to the money spent for research or earned by patents, newly developed products etc. Financial impact includes nowadays also changes of share values at the stock exchange due to new inventions or product recalls (for instance pharmaceutical drugs). We are also able to estimate the media impact in a relatively easy way, for instance by quantifying the number or extent of reports on scientific discoveries or research groups in the lay media or by public opinion research.

Whereas the measurement of the financial and media impact is to some degree easy, this is not true for the intellectual and social impact, since this cannot be done in a direct way. For this purpose we have to look for “substitute variables” (proxys), which can give only rough estimates in an indirect manner. The lack of a generally accepted way of measurement provokes a continuous broad discussion, of course.

One of the main problems is that an impact can only be seen from a historical point of view, that is, we need some observation time in order to know how the community was influenced  by a publication, if this ever happened.  For the intellectual impact, the method to count only the number of publications of a researcher, unfortunately still in use, but must be considered inadequate, because it does not measure the reaction of the community.

A better proxy for the intellectual impact is the number of citations in other scientific contributions to the previous paper. This concept was introduced by E. Garfield in the sixties of the last century. Today there are several data sources, for instance Web of Science, produced by Thomson-Reuters. There we can find citations to scientific contributions published as early as 1898  within a selected pool of journals, with  about 8000 journals in the Science Edition and  about 2700 journals in the Social Sciences edition of 2010. Books and proceedings are becoming to be included recently. Citation counts cited in this essay come from this data source. A similar service is offered by SCOPUS (Elsevier), where the screening for citations of a paper is done in a considerably larger pool of periodicals. This system, however, includes only citations from 1996 on. A freely available, web-based program created by Harzing, lists citations of former publications in web sites [1].

The main question is, whether we can consider the number of citations as a reliable estimate of the intellectual impact of a publication. Generally, the majority of the researchers believes in this. Without any doubt it is better to use the number of citations to a publication than only the impact factor of the journal, where it was published,

The impact factor of a journal is somehow an estimate of the “mean citedness” of an article in this periodical [2].  Its uncritical use for the evaluation of individual manuscripts, single researchers or reseach groups is detrimental to science, because a vicious circle between bureaucrats, researchers, editors, and the impact factor itself will be created [2] . Furthermore, from the point of view of scientific methodology it is nonsense, to use the proxy of a proxy in order to measure something.   Therefore for the evaluation of the intellectual impact the number of citations to a work under discussion is without any doubt better than the use of the impact factor. Some criitical remarks have to be done, however. It is well known that pure methodological papers or technical notes, which do not create or modify hypotheses or theories, may get very high citation counts.  Here are some examples: A meeting abstract written by Karnovsk [3], with a short description of a fixative for electron microscopy was cited 7470 times since 1965. A method for quantifying proteins, described by Lowry and co-workers [4] , has been cited 299.360 times since 1951. An interesting phenomenon was caused by a publication in a crystallography journal in 2008. In this review paper [5], G.Sheldrick described a computer program for the analysis of molecular structures. Furthermore, a link to its open internet access was given, and the phrase added: “This paper could serve as a general literature citation when one or more of the open-source SHELX programs … are employed in the course of a crystal-structure determination.” In about four and a half years after the publication the paper accumulated 26.660 citations. In this case, the citations can be seen as a kind of payment of the free use of a computer program for scientific analysis.  Since the beginning of 2009, all manuscripts accepted by the International Journal of Cardiology must contain a citation to an article on ethical authorship [6]  written by the editor in the same journal in January 2009. Up to the present date 1976 citations can be counted.

In contrast to that, we can demonstrate that highly relevant, revolutionary and paradigm changing publications may have relatively low citation counts. Einstein was honored with the Nobel prize in physics for his work on the photoelectric effect, but his publications on this topic were rarely cited. His main publication on the photoelectric effect from 1905 [7] got 695 citations, which is equivalent to a mean of less than 7 citations per year. Only 89 citations to a subsequent paper on radiation [8] can be found in Web of Knowledge. Georges Lemaitre, a theoretical cosmologist, created the theory of the expansion of the universe, which is also called the “big bang theory”. In 1927, he published his principal ideas in a paper in French, which was cited only 177 times (including 21 erroneous citations)[9]. Four years later he summarized his theory in a communication to Nature [10]. According to Web of Science there are only 24 correct citations, (and additional 21 incorrect ones) to this paper. Finally the revolutionary description of the DNA structure by Watson and Crick [11] has been cited 4065 times since 1953. In other words, there are less citations to the first description of the DNA helix than to Karnovsk’s abstract with a short description of a fixative solution.

Citations are mainly found in papers published in the same area of knowledge or an adjacent field. If the community of researchers is large and very active, the chance of citations of a paper published in the same field is increasing. This can be easily seen when we compare the impact factors of journals of different subject areas. Thomson-Reuters groups journals together according to their fields of knowledge. Table 1 and 2 show the median values of the impact factors of some selected categories. Looking at these data, it is obvious that the probability of a publication from mathematics to get cited is considerably inferior to that of a paper from medicine and that the curriculum of an “average” tissue engineer or molecular biologist will probably contain more citations to his papers than that of a world class mathematician. Therefore, different scientific areas should never be compared by the number of citations to their publications.

This is sometimes also true inside a scientific discipline. The average citations to papers in the field of tropical medicine are much lower than that in oncology or cardiovascular medicine.  How can we interpret these data? One main reason is that there are less researchers who would potentially cite an article in the field of tropical medicine, than researchers working in the field of oncology or cardiovascular medicine. Moreover, companies from the pharmaceutical industry are generally not interested in developing new drugs against tropical diseases for economical reasons. In this case the lack of economic impact reflects negatively on the development of science and the increase of intellectual impact.  The example of the “neglected diseases” illustrates well the existence of important conflicts between the intellectual, social and financial impact of science.

University and governmental bureaucrats might be seduced to misuse the citation numbers of the work of research groups in an uncritical way for the decisions on the distribution of support. As an example, the personal and financial resources for mathematics or history might be reduced and transferred to molecular biology, tissue engineering and other new technologies. Unfortunately, this just happens all over the world with increasing frequency. The consequences will be disastrous on the long run.  A vicious circle may be created: some scientific disciplines, the strongest ones, will drain more resources, get more researchers and in consequence produce more papers. This increases the number of citations to their work and the impact factor of the journals where they publish, and thus the possibility to get new resources. In that way, smaller scientific disciplines might collapse. The ecosystem university, with its plurality of thinking will loose some of their species. Academic life will be more monotonous, but this is not the main problem. We will be unable to reply to the challenge of the social impact on the long run. Science will not be prepared to face relevant problems of mankind in an adequate way and to develop solutions in time. The world population is still increasing, natural resources such as clean water or food are getting scarce. Environmental pollution and global warming continue to be unresolved problems.  Many social, ethnic and religious conflicts generate violence. Therefore, the study of culture, criminology, political sciences, international relations, water resources and food science will probably get increasing importance in the future. If anyone would only look at the impact factors as demonstrated in table 1and 2 , certainly these areas of knowledge would not get priority at the universities. This would be a fatal error for the society.

In summary, although the measurement of the intellectual impact of science by counting citations to publications seems to be the best proxy available at the moment, this procedure should be seen with great caution.  For a global evaluation of science its social impact must be evaluated together with the intellectual one.

Continue reading “Impact of science – some critical reflections on its evaluation” »

Jul 022012
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Sascha Henninger, University of Kaiserslautern, Kaiserslautern, Germany

Journal of Unsolved Questions, 2, 2, Open Questions, 10, 2012 (Received 29.05.2012, accepted 22.06.2012, published online 02.07.2012)

The initial research objective was to capture the metabolic heat flux, the heat given off by people’s bodies, in order to determine if it exerts a lasting influence on the air temperature of a space crowded with people comparable to a sold-out stand of a football stadium. …

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