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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

2017 UK Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology POSTNOTE 544 January 2017 Integrity in Research0

Posted by Admin in on March 17, 2017

A  POSTnote that considers current approaches to promoting integrity in research.

Integrity in research refers to the behaviours and values that result in high quality, ethical and valuable research. This POSTnote considers current approaches to fostering an environment conducive to good research in the UK, and detecting and preventing practices that fall short of expected standards. It also examines the current mechanisms for supporting integrity in the UK, whether these are sufficient, or if another form of oversight, such as regulation, might be preferable.

Poor practice ranges from minor errors to serious misconduct. While deliberate fraud does occur, it is thought to be extremely rare. Questionable research practices are a more widespread concern, as they are thought to be more prevalent and have a greater impact on the research record.

There are concerns about how to maintain integrity in research, because of fears that the ‘publish or perish’ culture leads to poor or questionable research practices. While many mechanisms do exist for reducing poor practice, and these are thought to have a positive effect on reducing such behaviour, there remain concerns that the system is disjointed, lacks openness and transparency, and that the incentive structure is such that good practice is not recognised or rewarded. Strategies for tackling this therefore focused on reducing institutional pressures on researchers, through enhancing openness and transparency, improving oversight and training, and re-aligning incentives for researchers so that they are rewarded for engaging in rigorous and accurate research.

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Data Ownership Guidelines (Resources: Example from an Australian school of Applied Psychology | 2016)0

Posted by Admin in on February 15, 2017

The School Research Committee sought to deal with the potential for conflict related to data ownership and access that can arise in collaborative research.

The AHRECS team believes that this resource provides an excellent template for collaborating researchers reaching a shared understanding on key research integrity matters. Too often misunderstandings about such matters can become toxic and cause lasting harm for all concerned. Even though it was produced by one School at one Australian university we believe this resource is well worth emulating.

One member volunteered to guide the process and following discussion at a Research Committee, he started to consider the problem space from various angles. A second member shared some materials she had picked up from her own collaborations, which were a useful starting point but were very focused on specific projects. He also reflected on some of the unfortunate, negative experiences that he and others had had and on what might have helped to avoid those. He went with the idea of sharing data and ideas that occurred in the context of different types of relationships that were marked by players of varying statuses and who had different goals and requirements. Consequently, he tried to outline what the possible benefits and risks were for each person in one of these relationships. Rather than mandating a single “way to share data”, he tried to lay things out to help people to consider their own benefits and risks and those of the intended collaborator, so as to put things out transparently at the beginning. Much of this work was guided by the guidance and advice the committee had from the University’s Senior Policy Officer.
Produced by Griffith University School of Applied Psychology Research Committee. Contact Bonnie Barber with any questions or to discuss reuse.

Access the resource

What turned a cancer researcher into a literature watchdog? – Retraction Watch Interview (Trevor L Stokes | January 2017)0

Posted by Admin in on February 8, 2017

Sometime in the middle of 2015, Jennifer Byrne, professor of molecular oncology at the University of Sydney, began her journey from cancer researcher to a scientific literature sleuth, seeking out potentially problematic papers.

The first step was when she noticed several papers that contained a mistake in a DNA construct which, she believed, meant the papers were not testing the gene in question, associated with multiple cancer types. She started a writing campaign to the journal editors and researchers, with mixed success. But less than two years later, two of the five papers she flagged have already been retracted.

When asked why she spent time away from bench research to examine this issue, Byrne told us:

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Litmus Test – Maisonneuve (Miriam Shuchman | December 2016)0

Posted by Admin in on February 4, 2017

As Harriet Keck* registered the words on her screen, the first thing she felt was shock. The doctor and scientist at a major Canadian teaching hospital had received an email from her boss’s office stating that an allegation of scientific misconduct had been made against her. “I was trembling, I was out of my mind,” she says.

This is a fairly basic, but informative, account of research misconduct procedures from Canada

Feeling deeply ashamed, Keck tried to piece together what could have happened. She thought it might relate to research she’d collaborated on with a doctor at her institution. The project had required extensive time, often at night and on weekends, in her laboratory. Their studies were important related to developing better tests for diagnosing a disease that was the focus of their research but the relationship soured when they quarrelled over a journal article.
Journal articles are the currency of science. A discovery barely exists until it has undergone peer review a rigorous process of scrutiny conducted by other experts in the field and a journal has published the results. Furthermore, publications are essential for building a research career. For the article in question, Keck maintained forcefully that the prize position of last author, which signifies supervising scientist and confers a competitive edge in the high-stakes battle for research funds, academic promotion and prized appointments, was rightfully hers, as she’d done the work on the project in her lab. While she won the battle, she lost the research relationship, opting not to work with the senior doctor on future projects.

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