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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

“Ethical shades of gray:” 90% of researchers in new health field admit to questionable practices – Retraction Watch (Alison McCook | March 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on July 9, 2018

It’s always interesting to know how many researchers in any given field engage in so-called questionable research practices that don’t rise to the level of out-and-out fraud: honorary authorship, citing articles they don’t read, choosing reference lists that would please editors or reviewers, for instance. And when the researchers work in a field with potential health implications, the findings are even more compelling. Lauren Maggio and Anthony R. Artino, Jr. from the Uniformed Services University spoke to us recently about the findings from their survey (posted in bioarXiv) of health professions education researchers, a relatively new field that studies how future health professionals are trained.

This interview reflects on survey data that will be quite sobering for research office staff, health research leaders and publishers/editors. We have added a trove of related news, commentaries and other resource items.

Retraction Watch: You note that 90% of the people who volunteered to complete the survey admitted to at least one questionable research practice. Was that surprising?

Lauren Maggio and Anthony R. Artino, Jr.: Yes, we were quite surprised! We had an idea that many of these practices were happening, but we didn’t know the extent of the problem and weren’t sure if respondents would be honest about their practices. For example, one of our survey respondents said he was happy we were doing the survey, but he cautioned that respondents would not admit to these practices, even if they were doing them. It seems he was wrong, and we suspect that he too would be quite surprised by our findings.

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Europe’s biggest research fund cracks down on ‘ethics dumping’ – Nature (Linda Nordling | July 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on July 7, 2018

The practice of conducting ethically dubious research in foreign countries is under fresh scrutiny.

Ethics dumping — doing research deemed unethical in a scientist’s home country in a foreign setting with laxer ethical rules — will be rooted out in research funded by the European Union, officials announced last week.

A commendable move by the EU, which at least, in theory, is addressed by the provisions of national research ethics frameworks such as Australia’s National Statement, but peak research funding bodies should consider the merits a similarly clear statement in its funding criteria.

Applications to the EU’s €80-billion (US$93-billion) Horizon 2020 research fund will face fresh levels of scrutiny to make sure that research practices deemed unethical in Europe are not exported to other parts of the world. Wolfgang Burtscher, the European Commission’s deputy director-general for research, made the announcement at the European Parliament in Brussels on 29 June.

Burtscher said that a new code of conduct developed to curb ethics dumping will soon be applied to all EU-funded research projects. That means applicants will be referred to the code when they submit their proposals, and ethics committees will use the document when considering grant applications.

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Can soil science research dig itself out from a citation stacking scandal? – Retraction Watch (Alison McCook | April 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on July 2, 2018

Last year, the soil science community was rocked by reports that an editor, Artemi Cerdà, was accused of citation stacking — asking authors to cite particular papers — boosting his profile, and that of journals where he worked. (Cerdà has denied the allegations.) The case had some major fallout: Cerdà resigned from two journals and the editorial board of Geoderma, additional editors resigned from their posts, and a university launched an investigation. In the midst of the mess, a group of early career scientists in the field released an open letter, urging the leaders of the community “to establish a clear road map as to how this crisis will be handled and which actions will be taken to avoid future misconducts.” Today, Jan Willem van Groenigen, Chair of the Editors in Chief of Geoderma, along with other editors at the journal, published a response to those letter-writers — including a list of the 13 papers that added 83 citations the journal has deemed “unwarranted.” The editorial includes a list of “actions we have taken to prevent citation stacking from recurring and to further strengthen the transparency of the review process” — including monitoring editors and showing authors how to report suspicious conduct.

A reviewer systematically required authors to include references to his articles and/or journals. Even though the decision has been to treat the authors as not culpable this might be an opportunity to observe they could have been treated as partly responsible and so institutions should provide advice/assistance to help ECRs respond appropriately to any such pressure. Having said that, the instructions of the reviewer appeared to have the support of the editors and you have to feel for the ECRs who found themselves subject to such apparent coercion.

Retraction Watch: It’s been nine months since the young researchers released their open letter — why respond now?.

Jan Willem van Groenigen: This is not our first response. We already responded early March 2017 to this case by online publishing a “letter to the Geoderma community” in which we stated that citation stacking had taken place in our journal. We also stated the number of affected articles and the approximate number of unwarranted citations, although we did not provide details on them like we do in our current editorial. We also announced that Prof. Cerda had withdrawn as member of our Editorial Board. I think that, after the [European Geosciences Union] journals who detected and published this misconduct first, we might have been the first journal to respond.

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Weakened code risks Australia’s reputation for research integrity – The Conversation (David Vaux, et al | June 2018)0

Posted by Admin in on June 29, 2018

In 2018, Australia still does not have appropriate measures in place to maintain research integrity. And recent changes to our code of research conduct have weakened our already inadequate position.

We agree there needs to be strong central facilitation of both good practice and oversight of the substance of review decisions. There is no clear way for issues to be shared across the sector. Within the national framework we have, institutions must establish robust arrangements that are transparent and effective – there must be an investment in the culture of research practice.

In contrast, China’s recent move to crack down on academic misconduct moves it into line with more than twenty European countries, the UK, USA, Canada and others that have national offices for research integrity.
Australia risks its reputation by turning in the opposite direction.|
For science to progress efficiently, and to remain credible, we need good governance structures, and as transparent and open a system as possible. Measures are needed to identify and correct errors, and to rectify misbehaviour.
In Australia, one such measure is the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research. But recently published revisions of this code allow research integrity to be handled internally by institutions, and investigations to be kept secret. This puts at risk the hundreds of millions of dollars provided by the taxpayer to fund research.


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