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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

Publish and be cited! Impact Factors, Open Access, and the plight of peer review – OUP Blog (Catherine Cotton September)0

Posted by Admin in on October 8, 2016

This coming week (19-25 September) is Peer Review Week 2016, an international initiative that celebrates the essential and often undervalued activity of academic peer review. Launched last year by Sense about Science, ORCID, ScienceOpen and Wiley, Peer Review Week follows in the wake of two open letters from the academic community on the issue of peer review recognition. The first was from early career researchers in the UK to the Higher Education Funding Council for England in July, and the second from Australian academics to the Australian Research Council two years later.

Now in its second year, Peer Review Week is focusing on the issue of Peer Review recognition, its current coordinating committee including additional organisations such as AAAS, COPE, eLife, and the Royal Society and the Federation of European Microbiological Societies (FEMS). This focus stems from the fact that while perceived as important, peer review is often regarded as a secondary activity to publication by decision makers across the Higher Education and funding sectors. This is something that David Colquhoun, Professor of Pharmacology at the UK’s University College London, firmly attributed to the ‘publish or perish’ culture imposed by “research funders and senior people in universities” some years ago.

It’s a view echoed in the preliminary findings of one of two new surveys on peer review, the first released by FEMS as part of this week’s activities, which reveals that, at least among the global microbiology community, authors subject to peer review perceive greater professional development benefits from the process than do the people carrying out the reviews. And what lies at the heart of this – and is clear from Colquhoun’s comments – is the influence of Eugene Garfield’s infamous journal “Impact Factor”. For in practice it is not so much publications, as citations, that are held in such high regard. Indeed without citations, says Nature blog’s Richard van Noorden, a publication may be regarded as “practically useless”.

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This Rant is for Social Scientists – Inside Higher Ed (Barbara Fister September 2016)0

Posted by Admin in on October 5, 2016

Cognitive dissonance made me do it. If you want social justice, why do you let your research be locked up for profit?

I’m reading Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by urban ethnographer and extraordinarily fine writer Matthew Desmond. It’s a model of narrative non-fiction and ethical story-telling about people whose lives belong to them but whose stories reveal a lot about exploitation, poverty, and the complexity of untangling the multiple strands that go into a social problem. It’s hard to get Evicted that balance right – communicate stories without manipulating either the reader or the subjects. Desmond shows how to tell such stories respectfully and with empathy, somehow magically bringing us inside the circle of lives that are not ours, inviting us to do the work of understanding rather than telling us what to think. I’m not even halfway through yet, but it’s brilliant, and I love the way he weaves something of a journalistic sensibility (for example, pointing out that when he didn’t personally witness something, he confirmed it with multiple sources) with scholarship (e.g. “this experience I’ve just described is consistent with the findings of these studies”). My daughter, who recommended it to me, says she’ll have to read it twice. She knows the footnotes are valuable, but the narrative is so compelling she doesn’t want to break away and look at them this time around.

This book review manages in just a few paragraphs of entrancing prose to artfully make a powerful point about the ethics of conducting research about the poorest in our communities and then publishing in a place and manner accessible to only a lucky few.

It’s not easy to write this well, to combine edge-of-your-seat narrative momentum with scholarly rigor. Not only is it not easy, but we’re schooled to write in an inaccessible style, as if our ideas are somehow better if written in a hard-to-decipher script that only the elite can decode because if people who haven’t been schooled that way can understand it, it’s somehow base and common, not valuable enough. If you’re able to read this message, welcome! You’re one of us. The rest of you are not among the elite, so go away.
Even worse, we think our hazing rituals around publication and validation are more important than the subjects of our research, who couldn’t afford to read it even if we chose to write in a manner that didn’t require an expensive decoder ring with a university seal on it. We say “it’s for tenure” or “that’s the best journal” and think that’s reason enough to make it impossible for people without money or connections to read it.

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Ethical Regulation and Visual Methods: Making Visual Research Impossible or Developing Good Practice? (Papers: Rose Wiles et al 2012)0

Posted by Admin in on October 4, 2016


The ethical regulation of social research in the UK has been steadily increasing over the last decade or so and comprises a form of audit to which all researchers in Higher Education are subject. Concerns have been raised by social researchers using visual methods that such ethical scrutiny and regulation will place severe limitations on visual research developments and practice. This paper draws on a qualitative study of social researchers using visual methods in the UK. The study explored their views, the challenges they face and the practices they adopt in relation to processes of ethical review. Researchers reflected on the variety of strategies they adopted for managing the ethical approval process in relation to visual research. For some this meant explicitly ‘making the case’ for undertaking visual research, notwithstanding the ethical challenges, while for others it involved ‘normalising’ visual methods in ways which delimited the possible ethical dilemmas of visual approaches. Researchers only rarely identified significant barriers to conducting visual research from ethical approval processes, though skilful negotiation and actively managing the system was often required. Nevertheless, the climate of increasing ethical regulation is identified as having a potential detrimental effect on visual research practice and development, in some instances leading to subtle but significant self-censorship in the dissemination of findings.

Keywords: Visual Research; Visual Methods; Ethics Committees; Ethical Regulation; Research Governance; Qualitative Methods

Wiles R, Coffey A, Robison J and Prosser J (2012) Ethical Regulation and Visual Methods: Making Visual Research Impossible or Developing Good Practice? Sociological Research Online. 17(1)8
Research Gate:…

Please Share – Proto (Anita Slomski September 2016)0

Posted by Admin in on October 3, 2016

Troves of data are gathered during clinical trials, but most of it stays locked away. Could freeing it lead to new cures?

When Myra agreed to participate in a clinical trial testing an epilepsy drug, she understood that the medication might not help her and that its side effects could be harmful. But she figured that even if the treatment failed, she would be providing crucial information. The investigators running the trial would use the data they had gathered on her to develop a better drug or figure out why she and others didn’t respond to existing epilepsy therapies. What Myra didn’t know is that the results from her experiment—and those of hundreds of thousands of other people who participate in human clinical trials—are frequently buried, sometimes forever. Without those results, patients don’t benefit. Medical research doesn’t progress.

Data from a medical trial are a crucial resource that can potentially help many more people than the original trial envisions, says Harlan Krumholz, professor of medicine at Yale School of Medicine. “But results from half of clinical trials are not published within three years of the trials’ completion, and many are never published,” Krumholz says. A researcher might sit on that data because an experiment’s hypothesis didn’t pan out, or the new drug or medical device may have failed to work as planned. Negative trial results are difficult to publish in medical journals, and the data from those experiments may never see the light of day.

Read the full discussion piece