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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

‘Publish or Perish’ – The Wicked Problem Threatening Academic Research – The Ethics Centre blog (Virginia Barbour 2016)0

Posted by Admin in on June 11, 2016
 

Academic publishing is more ethically complicated than you might think. From plagiarism to fraud and the ‘publish or perish’ culture at universities… Virginia Barbour thinks these are wicked problems with no easy solutions.

What do you do when a crucial knowledge system is under-resourced, highly valued and having its integrity undermined? That’s the question facing those working in academic research and publishing. There’s a risk Australians might lose trust in one of the central systems on which we rely for knowledge and innovation.

It’s one of those problems that defies easy solutions, like obesity, terrorism or a tax system to suit an entire population. Academics call these “wicked problems” – meaning they’re resistant to easy solutions, not that they are ‘evil’.

Read the full blog post

Interventions to prevent misconduct and promote integrity in research and publication (Review) (Papers: Ana Marusic et al 2016)0

Posted by Admin in on May 26, 2016
 

A B S T R A C T

Background Improper practices and unprofessional conduct in clinical research have been shown to waste a significant portion of healthcare funds and harm public health.

Objectives Our objective was to evaluate the effectiveness of educational or policy interventions in research integrity or responsible conduct of research on the behaviour and attitudes of researchers in health and other research areas.

Search methods We searched the CENTRAL, MEDLINE, LILACS and CINAHL health research bibliographical databases, as well as the Academic Search Complete, AGRICOLA, GeoRef, PsycINFO, ERIC, SCOPUS and Web of Science databases. We performed the last search on 15 April 2015 and the search was limited to articles published between 1990 and 2014, inclusive. We also searched conference proceedings and abstracts from research integrity conferences and specialized websites. We handsearched 14 journals that regularly publish research integrity research.

Selection criteria We included studies that measured the effects of one or more interventions, i.e. any direct or indirect procedure that may have an impact on research integrity and responsible conduct of research in its broadest sense, where participants were any stakeholders in research and publication processes, from students to policy makers. We included randomized and non-randomized controlled trials, such as controlled before-and-after studies, with comparisons of outcomes in the intervention versus non-intervention group or before versus after the intervention. Studies without a control group were not included in the review.

Data collection and analysis We used the standard methodological procedures expected by Cochrane. To assess the risk of bias in non-randomized studies, we used a modified Cochrane tool, in which we used four out of six original domains (blinding, incomplete outcome data, selective outcome reporting, other sources of bias) and two additional domains (comparability of groups and confounding factors). We categorized our primary outcome into the following levels: 1) organizational change attributable to intervention, 2) behavioural change, 3) acquisition of knowledge/skills and 4) modification of attitudes/perceptions. The secondary outcome was participants’ reaction to the intervention.

Main results Thirty-one studies involving 9571 participants, described in 33 articles,met the inclusion criteria. All were published in English. Fifteen studies were randomized controlled trials, nine were controlled before-and-after studies, four were non-equivalent controlled studies with a historical control, one was a non-equivalent controlled study with a post-test only and two were non-equivalent controlled studies with pre- and post-test findings for the intervention group and post-test for the control group. Twenty-one studies assessed the effects of interventions related to plagiarism and 10 studies assessed interventions in research integrity/ethics. Participants included undergraduates, postgraduates and academics from a range of research disciplines and countries, and the studies assessed different types of outcomes. We judged most of the included randomized controlled trials to have a high risk of bias in at least one of the assessed domains, and in the case of non-randomized trials there were no attempts to alleviate the potential biases inherent in the non-randomized designs. We identified a range of interventions aimed at reducing research misconduct. Most interventions involved some kind of training, but methods and content varied greatly and included face-to-face and online lectures, interactive online modules, discussion groups, homework and practical exercises. Most studies did not use standardized or validated outcome measures and it was impossible to synthesize findings from studies with such diverse interventions, outcomes and participants. Overall, there is very low quality evidence that various methods of training in research integrity had some effects on participants’ attitudes to ethical issues but minimal (or shortlived) effects on their knowledge. Training about plagiarism and paraphrasing had varying effects on participants’ attitudes towards plagiarism and their confidence in avoiding it, but training that included practical exercises appeared to be more effective. Training on plagiarism had inconsistent effects on participants’ knowledge about and ability to recognize plagiarism. Active training, particularly if it involved practical exercises or use of text-matching software, generally decreased the occurrence of plagiarism although results were not consistent. The design of a journal’s author contribution form affected the truthfulness of information supplied about individuals’ contributions and the proportion of listed contributors who met authorship criteria. We identified no studies testing interventions for outcomes at the organizational level. The numbers of events and the magnitude of intervention effects were generally small, so the evidence is likely to be imprecise. No adverse effects were reported.

Authors’ conclusions The evidence base relating to interventions to improve research integrity is incomplete and the studies that have been done are heterogeneous, inappropriate for meta-analyses and their applicability to other settings and population is uncertain. Many studies had a high risk of bias because of the choice of study design and interventions were often inadequately reported. Even when randomized designs were used, findings were difficult to generalize. Due to the very low quality of evidence, the effects of training in responsible conduct of research on reducing research misconduct are uncertain. Low quality evidence indicates that training about plagiarism, especially if it involves practical exercises and use of text-matching software, may reduce the occurrence of plagiarism. P

Marusic A, Wager E, Utrobicic A, Rothstein HR and Sambunjak D. Interventions to prevent misconduct and promote integrity in research and publication. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2016, Issue 4. Art. No.: MR000038. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.MR000038.pub2.
Publisher (Open access): http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/store/10.1002/14651858.MR000038/asset/MR000038.pdf?v=1&t=ioor0uoj&s=85b587eebf3924145a138768208a6530a569012e

EDITORIAL: Organised crime against the academic peer review system (Papers: Adam Cohen et al 2016)0

Posted by Admin in on May 25, 2016
 

Great but disturbing read about how a journal was persuaded to publish a poor meta-analysis as a result of fraud in the peer review system. We applaud the decision of the editors to lay bare their decision-making so that others may learn from the failure to identify the fraud prior to publication.

“Editorials are generally about what we did right in our journal and we do not often publish about our failures. Yet, in this Editorial we feel we have to convey the full story of how we went entirely off track with the publication of a paper.
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In 2015, we published a paper in our journal [2] that we retracted last month. The peer review process of this paper was compromised, but, in addition, our careful editorial process did not function. In this Editorial, we would like to describe this whole case, with the aim of learning from this and of drawing attention to a serious breach of the trust between scientists,which is the basis of our peer review system (see box 1).”
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Cohen A, Pattanaik S, Kumar P, Bies RR, de Boer A, Ferr A, Gilchrist A, Isbister GK, Ross S and Webb A (2016) Organised crime against the academic peer review system. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. 81(6), pps 1012–1017
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Publisher (Open Access):  http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/bcp.12992/epdf

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Read The Watchdogs Retraction Watch reports about this retraction.

Handbook of Academic Integrity (Books: Tracey Bretag ed 2015)0

Posted by Admin in on May 17, 2016
 

“The book brings together diverse views from around the world and provides a comprehensive overview of the subject, beginning with different definitions of academic integrity through how to create the ethical academy. At the same time, the Handbook does not shy away from some of the vigorous debates in the field such as the causes of academic integrity breaches. There has been an explosion of interest in academic integrity in the last 10-20 years. New technologies that have made it easier than ever for students to ‘cut and paste’, coupled with global media scandals of high profile researchers behaving badly, have resulted in the perception that plagiarism is ‘on the rise’. This, in combination with the massification and commercialisation of higher education, has resulted in a burgeoning interest in the importance of academic integrity, how to safeguard it and how to address breaches appropriately. What may have seemed like a relatively easy topic to address – students copying sources without attribution – has in fact, turned out to be a very complex, interdisciplinary field of research requiring contributions from linguists, psychologists, social scientists, anthropologists, teaching and learning specialists, mathematicians, accountants, medical doctors, lawyers and philosophers, to name just a few. Despite or perhaps because of this broad interest and input, there has been no single authoritative reference work which brings together the vast, growing, interdisciplinary and at times contradictory body of literature. For both established researchers/practitioners and those new to the field, this Handbook provides a one-stop-shop as well as a launching pad for new explorations and discussions.”

Bretag, T (Ed.) (2016) In  Handbook of Academic Integrity. Springer. ISBN 978-981-287-097-1
Publisher: http://www.springer.com/gp/book/9789812870971

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