ACN - 101321555 Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)
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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

NSF tallies 16 cases of alleged harassment by grantees in first year of new rules – Science (Jeffrey Mervis | October 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on March 25, 2020

It’s been 1 year since the National Science Foundation (NSF) implemented a new policy governing when universities must tell it about possible sexual harassment by grantees. Despite adopting a narrow definition of who is covered, agency officials say they are surprised by how many notifications—16 to date—they have received.

Let’s be clear, such harassment is completely unacceptable and cannot be tolerated.  It is also vitally important to pick up that institutions promote a culture that prevents this, but also that allegations need to substantiated as campuses could become rife with the so-called ‘cancel’ culture that could see false allegations due to competition for funding.

The rules apply only to researchers who received an award after 22 October 2018 or a recent amendment to an earlier award, and kick in only when an institution takes what is called an “administrative action.” That could range from monitoring someone’s behavior to banning the alleged perpetrator from campus. Institutions must also notify NSF of the final decision in a harassment investigation involving an NSF grantee, the end of a process that can drag on for years.

If followed by institutions, the notification rules should reduce the chances that the agency is blindsided by media reports of current grantees who are found guilty of harassment. But the rules will not create a database of all sexual harassment investigations at NSF-funded institutions, nor was that NSF’s intention. Rather, the rule addresses NSF’s obligation to ensure a “safe and secure” research environment at places where it is spending money.

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A randomized trial of a lab-embedded discourse intervention to improve research ethics – PNAS ( Dena K. Plemmons, et al | January 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on March 4, 2020

The ethical practice of research requires researchers to give reasons and justifications for their actions, both to the other members of their research team as well as to external audiences. We developed a project-based training curriculum intended to make ethics discourse a routine practice in university science and engineering laboratories. Here, we report the results of a randomized control trial implemented among science and engineering laboratories in two research-intensive institutions. We demonstrate that, compared with the control laboratories, treatment laboratory members perceived improvements in the quality of discourse on research ethics within their laboratories as well as enhanced awareness of the relevance and reasons for that discourse for their work as measured in surveys administered 4 mo after the intervention.


An interesting, hands-on and open access discussion about research integrity training in laboratory settings.

We report a randomized trial of a research ethics training intervention designed to enhance ethics communication in university science and engineering laboratories, focusing specifically on authorship and data management. The intervention is a project-based research ethics curriculum that was designed to enhance the ability of science and engineering research laboratory members to engage in reason giving and interpersonal communication necessary for ethical practice. The randomized trial was fielded in active faculty-led laboratories at two US research-intensive institutions. Here, we show that laboratory members perceived improvements in the quality of discourse on research ethics within their laboratories and enhanced awareness of the relevance and reasons for that discourse for their work as measured by a survey administered over 4 mo after the intervention. This training represents a paradigm shift compared with more typical module-based or classroom ethics instruction that is divorced from the everyday workflow and practices within laboratories and is designed to cultivate a campus culture of ethical science and engineering research in the very work settings where laboratory members interact.

research ethics, randomized trial, authorship, data management

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Is research integrity training a waste of time? – Nature (Gemma Conroy | February 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on February 24, 2020

Building good research practices begins before entering the lab.

More training and clear guidelines are favoured as fixes for bad research practices, but a new study suggests that these efforts are wasted if researchers are inherently dishonest.

A well-balanced view that articulates that good behaviour is bred early and can’t rely on compliance training too late in the trajectory of researcher training. There is value in professional development focussed on resourcing practice and discussing missteps+traps, but we shouldn’t deceive ourselves about their transformative powers.  Our focus must be on research practice and rewarding good practice, not volume.

The study published in BMC Medical Ethics revealed that childhood education and personality traits have a greater influence on how researchers conduct their work than formal training in research integrity.

The authors write that while it is possible to teach professional scientists the rules of rigorous research, “it might be far too late to imbue them with integrity that they do not already have.”

Institutions around the world are grappling with how to best tackle the problem of research misconduct.

But even after two decades of mandated training in responsible conduct for researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation in the US, “the evidence on effectiveness of these trainings in changing behavior of researchers remains inconsistent and weak”, according to the paper.

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Opinion: Exorcising Ghostwriting from Peer Review – TheScientist (James L. Sherley | January 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on February 15, 2020

Training young scientists to review submitted manuscripts should be an academic exercise, not a facet of professional scientific publishing.

On November 4, 2019, The Scientist ran a revealing Q&A highlighting a recent survey published in eLife. Responses from early career researchers (ECRs) and other scientists drew attention to a widespread, unethical practice to which academic scientists have too long resigned themselves—peer review ghostwriting (8:e48425, 2019).

A member of the AHRECS team has the experience of being told, as an RA, to do this.  We won’t identify who did the asking, but they should be ashamed of themselves.

As defined in that paper, peer review ghostwriting occurs when scientists hand over manuscripts that they have agreed to review for journal editors to graduate students or postdocs in their research groups. The involvement of the junior scientists is not typically disclosed to the journal, so editors work under the impression that the invited reviewer developed and wrote the resulting manuscript review themselves.

Survey results reported in the eLife paper provided the first quantitative evidence for the prevalence of this practice, as well as for the practice the study authors refer to as co-reviewing. In a strict sense, co-reviewing happens when a trainee is involved in developing and writing the review and their contribution is disclosed to journal editors. Some consider this transparent form of collaborative peer review a valuable part of scientific training, and the eLife study authors even argue that journals should codify co-review. But in my experience, the involvement of co-reviewers is sometimes not disclosed to the journals, just as is the case with ghostwriters.

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