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Contract cheating will erode trust in science – Nature (Tracey Bretag | October 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on November 13, 2019

To combat academic dishonesty, focus on educational systems and not just individual offenders, says Tracey Bretag.

Stories of students paying others to do their work come from all around the world. In the 2015 MyMaster scandal in Australia, hundreds of students who were enrolled in more than a dozen universities paid a total of at least Aus$160,000 (US$108,000) to a ‘service’ that provided ghost-written essays and responses to online tests. In 2018, YouTube stars on more than 250 channels received money for promoting a cheating service called EduBirdie. Similar companies have been uncovered in the United States and elsewhere. Scientists should not deceive themselves: they are not immune.

Part of a series that we call “KPI=Key Perverse Incentives”. Our current system aids and abets the worst behaviour rather than promoting scholarship for improving the world.

Academics call this ‘contract cheating’. My colleagues and I have assembled what is, to our knowledge, the largest data set on the topic — with responses from some 14,000 students and 1,000 teachers across 8 Australian universities. We found that roughly 6% of students have engaged in the practice; that most who cheat do so more than once; and that both post- and undergraduate students engage in it. Cheating is not new, but the proliferation of commercial, online services in the past 5–10 years has made it easier than ever.

And cheating is becoming increasingly normal. Since the 1990s, universities around the world have reimagined themselves as commercial enterprises that promote educational ‘products’ to student ‘consumers’. In 2017, a commentator likened the brash marketing strategies of some UK universities to the advertising of shampoo, and hundreds of academic papers have openly criticized the ‘marketization’ of higher education. It’s no wonder students opt to take the most convenient route to an academic credential — just as they would shop around for any other deal. In our survey, more than one-third of teachers specifically blamed contract cheating on the commercialization of higher education.

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Citation Contamination: References to Predatory Journals in the Legitimate Scientific Literature – Scholarly Kitchen (Rick Anderson | October 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on October 31, 2019

(This post is based on a presentation given at the 6th annual World Conference on Research Integrity, in Hong Kong, June 2019.)

My objective with this small research project was to get an idea of whether (and, if so, to what extent) articles published in predatory journals are being cited in the legitimate scientific literature.

To that end, I identified seven journals that had revealed their predatory nature when they were exposed by one of four different “sting” operations, each of which had clearly demonstrated that the journal in question will (despite its public claims of peer-reviewed rigor) either publish nonsense in return for payment of article-processing charges, or take on as an editor someone with no qualifications.

I then searched for citations to articles published in these journals in three large aggregators of scientific papers:

  • The Web of Science, a massive index of scholarly journals, books, and proceedings that claims to index over 90 million documents
  • The ScienceDirect database of journals and books published by Elsevier, which claims to include over 15 million publications
  • PLOS ONE, an open-access megajournal that has published roughly 200,000 articles in its history

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Enhancing the Taxonomies Relating to Academic Integrity and Misconduct (Papers: Loreta Tauginienė, et al | October 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on October 27, 2019

A clear understanding of terminology is crucial in any academic field. When it is clear that complex interdisciplinary concepts are interpreted differently depending on the academic field, geographical setting or cultural values, it is time to take action. Given this, the Glossary for Academic Integrity, newly developed by the European Network for Academic Integrity project, served as the basis for compiling a comprehensive taxonomy of terms related to academic integrity. Following a rigorous coding exercise, the taxonomy was partitioned into three constituent components – Integrity, Misconduct and Neutral terms. A review of relevant literature sources is included, and the strengths and weaknesses of existing taxonomies are discussed in relation to this new offering. During the creation of these artefacts the authors identified and resolved many differences between their individual interpretative understandings of concepts/terms and the viewpoints of others. It is anticipated that the freely-available glossary and taxonomy will be explored and valued by researchers, teachers, students and the general public alike.

Academic integrity, Academic misconduct, Taxonomy, Research integrity, Research misconduct, Qualitative content analysis, Concept analysis

Tauginienė, L., Gaižauskaitė, I., Razi, S. et al. Enhancing the Taxonomies Relating to Academic Integrity and Misconduct. Journal of Academic Ethics.
Publisher (Open Access):

(Australia) UNSW skin cancer researcher Levon Khachigian hit with string of retractions – ABC News (Elise Worthington and Kyle Taylor | October 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on October 20, 2019

Levon Khachigian cuts an imposing figure in the hallways of the UNSW School of Medical Sciences.

This disheartening case isn’t the first time it has been suggested an independent national body should investigate allegations of research misconduct, that Australia’s approach has an inherent conflict of interest problem and something needs to change.

The 55-year-old cell biologist rose to the top of the university’s academic hierarchy, on a salary package once worth more than $250,000 a year.

In the elite world of academia, where prestige is driven by publication in top scientific journals and research funding is scarce, Professor Khachigian has been a big earner, bringing more than $23 million in funding to the university over his three-decade career.

The cancer and cardiovascular researcher was once regarded as a rising star on the brink of a breakthrough treatment for skin cancer.

Professor Khachigian is the winner of multiple Eureka prizes, widely regarded as the “Oscars” of Australian science, and once told a newspaper that the toughest part of the job was “when a research paper is rejected for publication on whimsical grounds”.


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