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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

Ethical considerations in naming authors of scientific papers (Papers: Sepideh Mohammadi and Tajmohammad Arazi 2015)0

Posted by Admin in on June 1, 2016

Abstract: Nowadays academic life is closely related to the issue of publication. Consequently, there are numerous challenges in naming authors of scientific papers and publication ethics in general, making it essential to identify the various problems in this area. The present article acquires a historical view to investigate the challenges and solutions related to this topic. This is a review article based on a search of scientific databases from 1985 to 2014. Honorary authorship, coercion authorship, ghost authorship and non-compliance are instances of ethical issues in naming authors. To solve these problems, several agencies have provided ethical guidelines in this respect including the International Council of Medical Journals Editors (ICMJE), contributorship, objective measurement tools and the National Directory of Ethics in Medical Research Publications. Nevertheless, studies point to the existence of problems in this area.In order to solve the existing issues, the evaluation system of scientific and research organizations should propel quantity-oriented evaluation over quality oriented criteria. We also believe that the educational system, specifically in the post graduate period, can affect scientific research and publication ethics to a great extent and thus promote ethical conduct in students and researchers.

Keywords: authorship, publication misconduct, publication ethics,

Sepideh M, Tajmohammad A (2015) Ethical considerations in naming authors of scientific papers. Iranian Journal of Medical Ethics and History of Medicine. 7(5):50-60
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Case Study Non-Mandatory Ethics Bodies at Austrian Universities (Papers: Erich Griessler 2015)0

Posted by Admin in on May 28, 2016

Abstract: This case study analyses all together nine non-mandatory organizations and sub-units of the Austrian university landscape that deal with questions of research ethics or – some of them, more broadly – with ethical questions of research. The paper studies these organizations’ tasks, organizational set-ups, modes of operation and the extent to which they are doing well in terms of “managing contestation” and “responsibilisation” of research. Moreover, the paper looks into factors that promote and inhibit their work.

The case study is based on document analysis (see Annex) and nine interviews with chairpersons or senior employees of ethics bodies. The interviews were conducted between April and June 2014; eight of them face to face at people’s workplaces and one via telephone. The interviews lasted between 60 and 90 minutes, were fully transcribed, paraphrased and analysed by thematic analysis. The sample includes six comprehensive and one technical university; one university specialized in veterinary medicine and one university specialized in agriculture and life sciences. It comprises different institutional responses to address the question of ethics in research and innovation. In five cases these universities established ethics commissions, other institutions are called “ethics platform”, “agency for scientific integrity”, “university commission for scientific integrity and ethics” and “advisory board for ethical questions in scientific research”. With the exception of one organization, which is a joint establishment of several member organizations comprising university and non-university research organizations, all other bodies are located within the university. This study concerns basic and applied research by Austrian publicly funded universities. However, it also touches upon issues of contract research from industry and the public sector which is carried out at public universities.

Griessler E (2015) Case Study Non-Mandatory Ethics Bodies at Austrian Universities. ResAGorA
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This paper will be presented at the 4S/EASST conference, Barcelona August 31-September 3 2016

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


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.
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