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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

Fighting Fiction with Fiction: A novel approach to engaging the public in bioethics of medical research0

 

Cathal O’Connell
Centre Manager, BioFab3D, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne.
About the laboratory discussed in this post

(Video credit: Benjamin Sheen)

To the surprise of its inventors, the cochlear implant was greeted with protest by some in the Deaf community in the 1980s and early 1990s. This well-known story underlines how important it is for developers of new medical technologies to discuss the potential impacts from all possible angles, and in advance.

As a researcher, I am concerned by the public misconceptions around new technologies which might hamper meaningful conversation.

My field of research is biofabrication, where the goal is to build new tissues to treat or model disease and injury. I have written before about how media sensationalism has distorted the public’s perception of this technology, and how ultimately this may have negative effects on patient consent and other impacts.

Here, I want to focus on another kind of distortion of technology: science fiction.

Public lectures by experts in my field often open with videos cut from science fiction movies and TV shows: Luke Skywalker’s robotic hand, the extruded sinews of an artificial horse from Westworld, the 3D printed heroine from The Fifth Element.

These examples can be effective devices to engage with the public: they provide a familiar touchstone while also generating excitement about how technology is propelling us towards that exotic ‘Future’.

But science fiction can also cast a shadow across active research. It can define how an issue is first framed in the public consciousness and influence the public’s perception and expectation around new technologies. This is most obvious in how the monsters of the Terminator and the Matrix haunt almost every discussion about artificial intelligence.

Recognising the striking power of fiction to frame debate, we at the BioFab3D lab based at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, have recently taken a ‘fight fire with fire’ approach: we have collaborated with artists to create science fiction which realistically portrays the issues around our research.

Last year, BioFab3D teamed up with a local playwright, Rohan Byrne, and theatre production company Playreactive to develop a new science-fiction play, RUR_2020, which explored potential dangers and ethical questions around biofabrication.

Byrne’s play is a reimagining of a sci-fi classic; Rossum’s Universal Robots (or R.U.R) by Karel Čapek. First performed a century ago, R.U.R is famous for being the origin of the word ‘robot’ in English. It might surprise you that Čapek’s robots were not mechanical; they were flesh and blood facsimiles of people. The play is largely set inside a factory where these ‘robots’ are fabricated.

Now with labs like ours being created specifically to build new body parts, actual science research is catching up to this classic sci-fi vision. This motivated us to update RUR for a modern context.

To conceive and write his adaptation, Byrne visited BioFab3D to be immersed in the science; he interviewed lab researchers about the current state-of-the-art and the future of the technology, and studied the bioethical literature on the subject. He also consulted with BioFab3D researchers as the play took shape. The resulting science fiction story was grounded in reality; it was born, in a sense, in a real lab.

And that’s also where it was performed. In August 2018, BioFab3D was transformed from a working laboratory by day into a theatre venue by night. Researchers were always on hand to answer audience questions after each show. The lab thus became a platform for introducing a burgeoning technology, and a forum for discussing the direction this new technology might take in the future.

By all accounts the play was a great success: well received and well attended, across eight sell-out shows (and by a diverse audience of artists and nerds alike; many had never visited a research lab before, some had never attended a live play).   For us researchers, the play had a lasting impact in how it encouraged us to think about the bigger bioethical questions around our work.

Using dystopic fiction for the purpose of science outreach does carry risks, perhaps, of framing the technology in a poor light. We argue that it is critical to be transparent about the disruption that new medical technologies may cause.

In our case, the story was developed in consultation with real biofabrication researchers. The concerns discussed were thus genuine, the fiction itself a springboard for a needed conversation.

As is the nature of performance art, the play lived its moment and was no more. But the conversation lives on.

This post may be cited as:
O’Connell0, C. (31 October 2019) Fighting Fiction with Fiction: A novel approach to engaging the public in bioethics of medical research. Retrieved from: https://ahrecs.com/human-research-ethics/fighting-fiction-with-fiction-a-novel-approach-to-engaging-the-public-in-bioethics-of-medical-research

BioFab3D is Australia’s first hospital-based biofabrication lab dedicated to researching the artificial generation of living human tissues for implantation and medical research. It hosts collaborative efforts between researchers, clinicians, engineers, and industry partners to deliver therapeutic outcomes from cutting-edge science and technology. BioFab3D is a collaborative facility shared by St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, the University of MelbourneRMITSwinburne University and the University of Wollongong. Read more about BioFab3D on their website, biofab3D.org

 

Pondering on whether to submit your research output to a journal?0

 

The significance of how we talk and think about the pachyderm elephant mammoth in the room.

Dr Gary Allen
AHRECS Senior Consultant

The names we give things matter. The Bard may have been willing to allow a rose to stand in place for any noun, but he hadn’t encountered unscrupulous publishers.

Thanks to Beall’s List, over the last few years we may have been ready to declare that an unscrupulous journal was predatory. Prior to early 2017, many of us defaulted to Beall’s List to label a journal and its publisher as being naughty or nice.

In general, a predatory journal is one that claims an editorial board, impact factor and quality assurance process it doesn’t actually have and is far more focussed on fast profits than a meaningful contribution to scholarly wisdom. Often predatory journals come within suites belonging to a predatory publisher. Other dubious behaviours of these unscrupulous publishers include:

  1. Listing eminent/influential editors who don’t actually have any involvement or association with the publication (and refusing to remove names when challenged).
  2. Styling their website after a reputable publisher or using a very similar journal title in the hopes of tricking the unwary.
  3. Offering to add undeserving co-authors to a publication… for a price.

Chances are our professional development workshops during this time would have been loaded with tips on how to spot a predatory journal, to be suspicious of unsolicited emails from publishers, and to be aware publishing with a predatory publisher could be a costly mistake (Eve and Priego 2017).

But credible voices started to ask whether we should pay heed to blacklists (Neylo 2017) and that Beall’s List hadn’t been without its problems (Swauger 2017). The difficulty is that blacklists tend to be conservative and can privilege established ways of doing business. There are quality open access publishers using non-traditional editorial and author-pays models and ‘traditional’ publishers whose business practices may not be that friendly to good academic practice.

After Beall’s List disappeared, we were all given good reason to reflect upon where not to publish. I was co-author of an earlier post on this topic (Israel and Allen 2017).

Over the last few years, it has become clear the relationship between questionable publishers and researchers was more complex than a predator/prey dichotomy where hapless authors were being tricked by unscrupulous publishers (submitting a paper to them because they were fooled by the false claims of peer review/editorial processes).

In this context, we saw: commentary that pointed to researchers publishing with predatory publishers was not limited to the global South (Oransky 2017); educational materials produced by the Committee on Publication Ethics; peak funding bodies urging grant-recipients to stay away from illegitimate publishers (Lauer 2017); the growth of predatory conferences (Cress 2017), and institutions treating as fraud the use of such publications in applications (Campanile & Golding 2017). I wrote about this shift in an earlier post in the Research Ethics Monthly (Are we missing the true picture? Stop calling a moneybox a fishing hook).

Recently we have been noting how ‘junk science’ disseminated by questionable publishers is hurting research (Gillis 2019), is undermining public trust in research (Marcus 2019), is underpinning claims by climate change denialists and the anti-vaccine movement based on ‘alternative facts’, and is something selection committees should be aware of (Flaherty 2019). The toxic effects of dodgy publications have been described as citation pollution (Hinchliffe & Michael Clarke 2019, Beach 2019).

AHRECS recommends professional development efforts be updated again. The content discussed above should be retained but added to it should be a call for us all to safeguard the integrity and trustworthiness of science by creating an environment within which the incentive for our colleagues to use dodgy publication outlets is diminished.

In the subscribers’ areas you will find a short template ppt about this topic (which you can modify and use) and an AHRECS branded version with embedded audio by Professor Mark Israel. To access the subscribers’ area for institutions go to https://www.ahrecs.vip and for individuals go to https://www.patreon.com/ahrecs

References

Allen, G. (26 October 2018) Are we missing the true picture? Stop calling a moneybox a fishing hook. Research Ethics Monthly. Retrieved from: https://ahrecs.com/research-integrity/are-we-missing-the-true-picture-stop-calling-a-moneybox-a-fishing-hook

Beach, R. (2019  28 October) Citation Contamination: References to Predatory Journals in the Legitimate Scientific Literature. Scholarly Kitchen (Rick Anderson | October 2019). Retrieved from: https://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2019/10/28/citation-contamination-references-to-predatory-journals-in-the-legitimate-scientific-literature

Eve, P. M. & Priego E. (2017) Who is Actually Harmed by Predatory Publishers? Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society. 15(2)
Publisher (Open access): http://www.triple-c.at/index.php/tripleC/article/view/867/1042

Gillis, A. (2019 09 July) The Rise of Junk Science. The Walrus. Retrieved from: https://thewalrus.ca/the-rise-of-junk-science/

Hinchliffe, L. J. & Clarke, M. (2019 25 September) Fighting Citation Pollution — The Challenge of Detecting Fraudulent Journals in Works Cited. Scholarly Kitchen. Retrieved from: https://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2019/09/25/fighting-citation-pollution/

Israel M. & Allen G. (2017 26 July) In a world of hijacked, clone and zombie publishing, where shouldn’t I publish? Research Ethics Monthly. Retrieved from: https://ahrecs.com/research-integrity/world-hijacked-clone-zombie-publishing-shouldnt-publish

Lauer, M. (2017) Continuing Steps to Ensuring Credibility of NIH Research: Selecting Journals with Credible Practices. Extramural Nexus. Retrieved from: https://nexus.od.nih.gov/all/2017/11/08/continuing-steps-to-ensuring-credibility-of-nih-research-selecting-journals-with-credible-practices/

Marcus, A (2019 09 January) Oft-quoted paper on spread of fake news turns out to be…fake news. Retraction Watch. Retrieved from: https://retractionwatch.com/2019/01/09/oft-quoted-paper-on-spread-of-fake-news-turns-out-to-befake-news/

Neylon, C. (2017 29 January) Blacklists are technically infeasible, practically unreliable and unethical. Period. LSE Impact Blog. Retrieved from: https://cameronneylon.net/blog/blacklists-are-technically-infeasible-practically-unreliable-and-unethical-period/

Oransky, I. (2017) Predatory journals: Not just a problem in developing world countries, says new Nature paper. Retraction Watch. Retrieved from: http://retractionwatch.com/2017/09/06/predatory-journals-not-just-developing-world-countries-says-new-nature-paper/

Swauger, S. (2017) Open access, power, and privilege. College & Research Libraries News. 78(11)
Publisher (Open Access): http://crln.acrl.org/index.php/crlnews/article/view/16837/18434

This post may be cited as:
Allen, G. (31 October 2019) Pondering on whether to submit your research output to a journal?. Research Ethics Monthly. Retrieved from: https://ahrecs.com/research-integrity/pondering-on-whether-to-submit-your-research-output-to-a-journal

Interest in ‘self-plagiarism’1

 

Mark Israel

Mark Israel’s article in Research Ethics Monthly on ‘Self-plagiarism?’ has been receiving a little interest outside Australia and New Zealand. It was reposted by the LSE Impact of Social Sciences Blog, and listed by Retraction Watch. Given that it offered guidance on the ethics of republishing in another language, it was nice to hear that the five pieces of advice had been translated into Mandarin by Zheng-Rong Gan for use at National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan (reproduced below with her permission).

  • Assess whether your reasons are ethically defensible; 評估這麼做的理由在倫理上是否站得住腳
  • Seek the agreement of those involved in your first publication – co-authors, editors and publishers; in some cases, publishers will want a specific form of acknowledgement; 尋求出現在第一次出版相關文章/文字者的同意,其中可能包含共同作者、編輯、出版商(有時會要求有特定的認可方式)
  • Seek the agreement of those involved in the new publication that will be reproducing material – any co-authors, editors and publishers; 尋求此次新出版相關文章/文字者的同意,其中可能包含共同作者、編輯、出版商等
  • Clearly acknowledge in the new publication that you are drawing on the earlier publication and do so with the agreement of the various parties, 在新出版品中清楚註記出處,且註記方式能被原出版者及新出版者所認可
  • Where it would be misleading not to do so, also note the relationship between publications in your CV and any job or grant applications在您的學術履歷、研究經費或升等之類文件,務必清楚註記這些前後出版品的關係,以避免被誤解或重複計算發表篇數等

There were a few responses to the LSE Blog. One respondent pointed out the concept of ‘self-plagiarism’ is self-contradictory as one cannot plagiarise one’s own work. Mark Israel agrees with this respondent, notes that the term is in wide use and recognises that its use should be challenged. The same respondent pointed to the Ingelfinger Rule which has been adopted by journals who refuse to publish articles that have already been published elsewhere. The Rule has been modified and challenged over time, most recently in relation to the use of preprint servers (see Resnik, 2018).

Contributor
Mark Israel, Senior Consultant AHRECS | Profile | mark.israel@ahrecs.com

This post may be cited as:
Israel, M. (27 March 2019) Interest in ‘self-plagiarism’. Research Ethics Monthly. Retrieved from: https://ahrecs.com/research-integrity/interest-in-self-plagiarism

 

 

 

Self-plagiarism? When re-purposing text may be ethically justifiable0

Posted by Admin in Research Integrity on January 19, 2019 / Keywords: , , ,
 

In an institutional environment where researchers may be coming under increasing pressure to publish, the temptations to take short cuts and engage in duplicate or redundant publication can be significant. Duplicate publication involves re-publishing substantially the same data, analysis, discussion and conclusion without providing proper acknowledgement or justification for the practice. Such behaviour is often condemned as ideoplagiarism or self-plagiarism, locating this practice as a parallel activity to that which appropriates other people’s ideas and words and reproduces them without due acknowledgement.

There are good reasons for censuring self-plagiarism – it distorts the academic record where meta-analyses are not aware of the duplicate publication, and provides an unfair advantage when academics’ track records are being compared. In an earlier publication (Israel, 2015), I detailed some examples of social scientists who engaged in self-plagiarism. However, I also argued that ‘It may be appropriate to publish similar articles in different journals in order to ask different research questions, link to different literatures or reach new and different audiences’ (p.163). I would like to explore some of the situations that I have encountered in the last few years where I believe re-use of text might not be inappropriate and, indeed, might actually be the ethical thing to do.

Global rankings and national assessments of universities are largely based on research inputs and outputs. Mostly, the output indicators privilege publications in international higher-ranking journals; the vast majority of those only publish in English. However, there are several good reasons why research outputs should also appear outside English-language journals. First, researchers may be funded by research councils from countries that are not Anglophone. Those research councils may indeed want to maximise their international impact by publishing in English. However, they may also recognise that they have an obligation to support researchers in their countries who are not fluent in English; indeed, they ought to be supporting the maintenance of their own languages and ensuring that scholarly discourse continues to be conducted in their native tongues. This is a policy supported by the National Committees for Research Ethics in Norway (2006), for example.

Second, researchers often have made a commitment to disseminate the results of their studies to participants or to policy-makers – where either of these communities are not English-speaking, republishing in a language other than English may be entirely appropriate.

So, revising a published paper and translating that into a language other than English might be a laudable way of preserving a research culture in a small language group, influencing policy-makers or returning a benefit to a low- or middle-income country (LMIC). This activity, of course, needs to be acknowledged and transparent and cannot be double-counted as a research output.

Following a roundtable discussion of social research ethics hosted by the University of Haifa, a chapter that I co-authored (Allen and Israel, 2017) was recently translated into Hebrew and published in an Israeli journal. Gary Allen and I a greed to do this in order to encourage further discussion of human research ethics in Israel. The decision was taken with the approval of our original editors and publishers.

In 2018, I co-authored an article on research ethics in Taiwan with a Taiwanese academic (Gan and Israel, in press). This will be published in Developing World Bioethics and we shall explore the possibility of modifying it for a Mandarin version aimed specifically at a readership of Taiwanese academics and policy-makers. While many senior Taiwanese academics are fluent in English, this is less likely to be the case among those who have not completed postgraduate qualifications in North America, Australasia or the United Kingdom. Publishing in Mandarin would extend access to our work (including allowing it to be found in a search using Traditional Chinese script), and may make it more readily available for undergraduate teaching. Sometimes, we can craft opportunities to help readers of other languages without translating the entire article. A recent article that I co-authored with Lisa Wynn (Wynn and Israel, 2018) took advantage of the American Anthropologist’s novel angle for each chapter when the briefs from commissioning editors are so similar policy of publishing all abstracts in both English and Spanish. At our request, the editors agreed to add abstracts in Arabic and French.

I wonder if fear of being seen as self-plagiarising also inhibits academics writing book chapters in research ecosystems where chapters do not count for much. I have repeatedly been invited to write chapters that give an overview of social research ethics. Initially, I tended to say yes. However, it is difficult to continually deliver a novel angle for such a chapter when the brief from the commissioning editor is so similar. I have collaborated with co-authors in order to develop new directions. However, sometimes this is not practicable and yet there may still be some value in repurposing existing text and tailoring it for a new audience. For a recent edited collection where I was invited to write a review of global regulation of human research ethics, the publishers as a matter of policy quite understandably challenged any article that relied on previously published work for more than ten per cent of its material. However, the editor had approached me looking for a synthesis of work that included, updated and condensed material that had already appeared in my single-authored book (Israel, 2015). I had raised the matter of overlapping text with him, and so he was able to persuade the publisher that a far larger fraction was warranted in this case. My book publisher also agreed.

I have not encountered much discussion of these matters in the published literature. But, I spend much of my time running professional development in research ethics. In these fora, I counsel researchers that when confronted by an ethical issue they ought to attempt to discern what might be an ethical response, act on that analysis and then publicly acknowledge and, where necessary, defend their actions.

There are several principles that might in some circumstances provide support for the argument that I have traced here. Of course, any strategy needs to be guided by the requirements of research integrity and so we should be citing and acknowledging any other work to which we refer appropriately and accurately (Researcher Responsibility 27, Australian Code, 2018).

The Global Code of Conduct for Research in Resource-Poor Settings (TRUST Project,2018) considers that fairness in research in low- and middle-income countries requires that:

Feedback about the findings of the research must be given to local communities and research participants. It should be provided in a way that is meaningful, appropriate and readily comprehended. (Article 3)

Similarly, the 2018 Australian Code places responsibility on researchers to ‘Disseminate research findings responsibly, accurately and broadly…’ (Research Responsibility 23). Any strategy should also be tested in Australia against the principles adopted by the National Statement (2007, updated 2018). In this context, the most pertinent of these are integrity, which would require honesty and commitment to recognised research principles, and justice which would require a fair distribution of the benefits of research. None of these codes or guidelines explicitly considers repurposing existing text, nor do they focus their discussion of dissemination on academic publications. Nevertheless, they do require us to consider what dissemination strategy might be most appropriate and this may well involve adapting and translating material for academic publication in order to reach new audiences.

So, here is my advice for those who are considering re-using text that they have previously published:

  1. Assess whether your reasons are ethically defensible;
  2. Seek the agreement of those involved in your first publication – co-authors, editors and publishers; in some cases, publishers will want a specific form of acknowledgement;
  3. Seek the agreement of those involved in the new publication that will be reproducing material – any co-authors, editors and publishers;
  4. Clearly acknowledge in the new publication that you are drawing on the earlier publication and do so with the agreement of the various parties, and
  5. Where it would be misleading not to do so, also note the relationship between publications in your CV and any job or grant applications.

References

Allen, G & Israel, M (2018) Moving beyond Regulatory Compliance: Building Institutional Support for Ethical Reflection in Research. In Iphofen, R & Tolich, M (eds) The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Research Ethics. London: Sage. pp.276-288. Published in Hebrew as

גארי אלן ומארק ישראל 2018 מעבר לציות רגולטרי: בנית תמיכה מוסדית ברפלקציה אתית במחקר

The Study of Organizations and Human Resource Management Quarterly3(1). pp.16-30.

Gan, Z-R & Israel, M (in press) Transnational Policy Migration, Interdisciplinary Policy Transfer and Decolonization: Tracing the Patterns of Research Ethics Regulation in Taiwan. Developing World Bioethics.

Israel, M (2015) Research Ethics and Integrity for Social Scientists: Beyond Regulatory Compliance. London: Sage.

National Committees for Research Ethics in Norway (2006) Guidelines for Research Ethics in the Social Sciences, Law and the Humanities. Available at: https://www.etikkom.no/globalassets/documents/english-publications/guidelines-for-research-ethics-in-the-social-sciences-law-and-the-humanities-2006.pdf (accessed 15 January 2019).

National Health and Medical Research Council, Australian Research Council and Universities Australia (2007, updated 2018) National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research.Canberra. Available at: https://nhmrc.gov.au/about-us/publications/national-statement-ethical-conduct-human-research-2007-updated-2018 (accessed 16 January 2019).

National Health and Medical Research Council, Australian Research Council and Universities Australia (2018) Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research. Canberra. Available at: https://nhmrc.gov.au/about-us/publications/australian-code-responsible-conduct-research-2018 (accessed 16 January 2019).

TRUST Project (2018) Global Code of Conduct for Research in Resource-Poor Settings. Available at: http://www.globalcodeofconduct.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Global-Code-of-Conduct-Brochure.pdf (accessed 16 January 2019).

Wynn, LL & Israel, M (2018) The Fetishes of Consent: Signatures, Paper and Writing in Research Ethics Review. American Anthropologist 120(4) pp795–806.

Contributor
Dr Mark Israel, Senior Consultant AHRECS | Profile | mark.israel@ahrecs.com

This post may be cited as:
Israel, M. (20 January 2018) Self-plagiarism? When re-purposing text may be ethically justifiable. Research Ethics Monthly. Retrieved from: https://ahrecs.com/research-integrity/self-plagiarism-when-re-purposing-text-may-be-ethically-justifiable

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