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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

The Retraction Watch Database has launched. Here’s what you need to know0

 

We’ve been anticipating the launch of the Retraction Watch database because we’re often asked by HDR candidates and other early career researchers how to determine if a paper has been retracted. The database is a great (and free) service for the research community.

What are your hopes for the database?

As a number of studies have demonstrated, retracted papers continue to be cited as if they had never been retracted. That’s a problem, because it suggests there’s far more wasted effort going into dead ends than there needs to be. And it’s a fixable problem, because one hopes scientists wouldn’t knowingly reference retracted papers.

That’s where the database comes in. We know that many publishers aren’t very good about marking papers as retracted, nor about alerting databases about retractions. By including all retractions, including those that aren’t well-marked on publishers’ sites, or in databases, we hope to make it difficult, if not impossible, to read a paper without knowing whether it was retracted. For that to happen, what’s in our database would have to make it into libraries and reference management software, and that’s a next step.

How do you hope the database will inform researcher practice?

We hope that researchers who study retractions, scientific integrity, and related issues will make use of the database for their work. Since we launched in October, we have had a few requests per week, on average, from such scholars. Here’s one paper using the beta version to see which kinds of peer review are best for catching fraud. We’re happy to provide the dataset subject to a simple data use agreement.

How do you hope the database will inform institutional endeavours?

Publishers, funders and institutions may find it worthwhile to use it for a sort of “background check” of authors and applicants. At least two publishers already check authors against posts on Retraction Watch.

Do you think there is any prospect that the database might be misused?
Like any data, retractions can be misused, particularly if someone doesn’t pay attention to nuance or denominators. A retraction doesn’t necessarilynmean misconduct happened, which is why we categorize each entry according to reason for retraction. And a high number of retractions from a country,institution, or journal may mean more due diligence, not sloppiness.

What might RW do to educate users of the database?

We hope that the package of stories we worked on with Science to highlight findings in the database was a good first step. We published an extensive user’s guide — along with three appendices — when we launched. That guide will evolve as users contact us with more questions. And we encourage would-be users to contact us so we can walk them through issues they’re having, or how to do particular searches. We’re also out on the road a fair amount giving talks, and would be happy to do more, along with workshops on the database itself.

Contributor
Ivan Oransky. Retraction Watch – Retraction Watch profile | team@retractionwatch.com

This post may be cited as:
Oransky, I. (24 December 2018) The Retraction Watch Database has launched. Here’s what you need to know. Research Ethics Monthly. Retrieved from: https://ahrecs.com/research-integrity/the-retraction-watch-database-has-launched-heres-what-you-need-to-know

AHRECS Human research ethics workshop in Thailand0

 

One of our consultants (Dr Lindsey Te Ata o Tu MacDonald) recently facilitated a seminar on research ethics in the department of politics and governance at Mahasarakham University, Thailand. After 5 minutes setting out the institutions and codes of Thailand, Lindsey’s session was a practical ‘how to guide’ on research ethics for students and staff. Lindsey has often been called on to give such talks as Chair of the New Zealand Ethics Committee (see nzethics.com) and in his earlier role as Chair of the University of Canterbury Human Ethics Committee. Interestingly, the way in which Lindsey asks researchers to ‘imaginative engage’ with the ethics of their project by asking them how they would design their project if their Grandmother wanted to participate, and it was a stranger doing the research – what Lindsey calls the ‘grandmother test’ – translated directly in to Thai, as the ‘Yai test’.

For more on ‘imaginative engagement’ see Guillemin, M., Gillam, L., Rosenthal, D., & Bolitho, A. (2008). Investigating human research ethics in practice: Project report. Melbourne, VIC, Australia: Centre for Health and Society, The University of Melbourne. , and For Lindsey’s first paper setting out the ‘grandmother test’ see. MacDonald, L. T. A. O. T. (2018). Ethics and Politics. In M. Tolich & C. Davidson (Eds.), Social Science Research in NZ (4th ed.). Auckland: University of Auckland Press.

Participants in the seminar on Ethics in human subject research at the College of Politics and Governance, Mahasarakham University, Thailand

Prof Cherngcharn Chongsomchai, Dean and Head of the College of Politics and Governance, debating a point with students and staff during the seminar.

Contributor
AHRECS Team | Our Services | engage@ahrecs.com

This post may be cited as:
MacDonald, L. T. A. O. T. (22 December 2018) AHRECS Human research ethics workshop in Thailand (2018). Research Ethics Monthly. Retrieved from: https://ahrecs.com/ahrecs-admin/ahrecs-human-research-ethics-workshop-in-thailand

Ten ways of ensuring affordable professional development in your institution0

 

Research institutions have a responsibility under the Australian Code to ‘Provide ongoing training and education that promotes and supports responsible research conduct for all researchers and those in other relevant roles’ (Responsibility 4). Among other things, the National Statement requires that each member of an HREC (National Statement 5.2.3c) receives professional development.

Some institutions may feel that this places a significant burden on the staff responsible for and the funds available for human research ethics and integrity. It won’t surprise you to hear that AHRECS thinks it can help.

1. We have created an expanding suite of professional development resources for subscribers in Patreon. Many of our clients are happy for us to share materials that have been developed for their specific needs once they have had first use, knowing that they will also benefit from the generosity of our other clients as part of a community of practice. A subscription of USD15 per month (approx. AUD20) enables access to all materials; these can then be shared across your institution. You can see two examples of the resources here. See https://www.patreon.com/ahrecs  for more information and to subscribe.

2. AHRECS runs free webinars of panel-based discussions on pressing matters of general interest. Over the last year, speakers from the NHMRC, AHEC, AHRECS and various HRECs have spoken about how to respond to the new Australian Code and the changes to the National Statement.

3. AHRECS can provide face-to-face workshops of up to a day for HRECs, research ethics advisors, groups of researchers and professional staff. We’ve been doing this for CSIRO for over a decade. We also pre-record in-meeting professional development for HRECs across the country, supplementing these video resources with video-conferenced question and answer sessions. Our offerings in this regard start from $900 for the in-meeting activities to $2300 for a full day on-site workshop. Contents and format can be tailored to your institution’s specific needs.

4. AHRECS publishes the free Research Ethics Monthly. As readers know, REM includes topical items relating to human research ethics and research integrity. Your staff could also draw on their experience to contribute to REM as a way of engaging with and receiving feedback from the broader Australasian research ethics community.

5. Institutions could make greater use of their researchers who engage thoughtfully with research ethics matters. HRECs could invite them to speak about ethics at one of their meetings, and record this to create a library of video materials. AHRECS would be happy to host and share these materials across the sector.

6. AHRECS can provide either mentoring or on-call advice to human research ethics/research integrity officers, secretaries, chairs or senior research leaders via email, phone or video-link (this complements in-house expertise and provides affordable access to decades of human research ethics/research integrity experience)

7. We are happy to recommend purchasing the Griffith University Research Ethics Manual which, at $10,000 allows you to gain access to about two years-worth of resource development in human research ethics. AHRECS doesn’t receive any financial benefit from this#, but we can covert the GUREM to a resource that reflects the jurisdictional and institutional contexts within which your researchers operate. Over the last year, we’ve completed this work for ECU and have created video resources to help researchers make best use of the research ethics manual.

8. AHRECS can run a full Masters unit on social research ethics. We deliver this as an intensive each year in Perth in partnership with the University of Western Australia.

9. Institutions can designate a policy officer responsible for reviewing and disseminating relevant news, industry and professional websites, using Google alerts and research output monitoring to collect material of potential interest/value to the University’s research ethics reviewers, REAs and/or researchers. Some of this work is already done by AHRECS for anyone subscribing to its free news service. The vast majority of links are either directly relevant to Australia or are otherwise of interest to the Australian research ethics community. When items are added, an alert+link is posted to our social media pages (LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook).

10. Ten sounds so much better than nine, doesn’t it? If you have a crash-hot idea about professional development that you want to share with other people in the sector, please suggest a piece for Research Ethics Monthly.

# Dr Gary Allen is the principal author of the GUREM so does receive a component of the license fee.

Contributor
Mark Israel, AHRECS Senior Consultant
Mark’s profilemark.israel@ahrecs.com

Israel, M. (21 December 2018) Ten ways of ensuring affordable professional development in your institution (2018). Research Ethics Monthly. Retrieved from: https://ahrecs.com/ahrecs-admin/ten-ways-of-ensuring-affordable-professional-development-in-your-institution

 

Beneficence as a Principle in Human Research0

 

Pieper, I. & Thomson, C.J.H. (2016) Beneficence as a Principle in Human Research. Monash Bioethics Review. 34: 117. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40592-016-0061-3

A Series on the Four Principles of the Australian National Statement on Ethics Conduct in Human Research

In this issue of the Research Ethics Monthly, Ian Pieper and Colin Thomson continue their series of short summaries of each of their four co-authored articles on the principles that underpin the Australian National Statement, namely, research merit and integrity, justice, beneficence and respect.

The articles were originally published in the Monash Bioethics Review and remain available to subscription holders to that journal. The publisher, Springer, has generously agreed to place each of the four articles on Free Access for one month after the corresponding short summary is published in the Research Ethics Monthly. Last month they revisited their paper entitled The value of respect in human research ethics: a conceptual analysis and a practical guide. This month they revisit the paper exploring the principle of beneficence in the context of human research. The full paper can be found here.

Beneficence is one of the four values and principles on which the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (National Statement) is founded. A requirement for beneficence to be demonstrably present in human research is not a uniquely Australian consideration but is found in many of the human research ethics guidance documents from around the world. Beneficence is an important consideration in that it mirrors the altruistic nature of the voluntary nature of participation in human research.

Being a positive virtue, beneficence is a moral ideal and considerations of it as a principle during the design and ethical assessment of a research project can be seen as subjective. This can make beneficence difficult to identify within research proposals. As a principle which promotes good or charitable outcomes, over and above those imposed by duty, it is not merely synonymous with non malfeasance. Beneficence is the provision of benefits over and above the costs associated with the burdens of research.

This paper provides some clarity for researchers and Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) members on the role that beneficence plays in discussions about human research ethics. While applying beneficence in human research does involve consideration of risks and benefits to participants, consideration should also extend to individuals, groups, and communities not directly involved in the research

This paper also provides both researchers and HREC members with practical guidance on the application of beneficence in the design, review and conduct of ethical human research. This guidance does not consider beneficence in isolation but places it within the context of the other principles and the National Statement as a whole.

Ian and Colin have produced an activity sheet to accompany this post. It can be found in the subscribers’ area (https://www.patreon.com/ahrecs). A subscription of only USD15/month (approx AUD21/month) provides access to a growing library of activity items, reflections on papers and news, and other resource items. At least two items are added to the library every month.  These are shared on a creative commons basis, so you are free to use them internally without otherwise engaging AHRECS. These items would ordinarily cost more than AUD500. So becoming an AHRECS patron not only helps AHRECS stay a constructive voice for change it’s a way to get access some terrific items for a great price.

Email gary.allen@ahrecs.com for further information.

Contributors:
Ian Pieper, AHRECS Consultant, Ian’s AHRECS profile
Colin Thomson AM, AHRECS Senior Consultant, colin.thomson@ahrecs.com | Colin’s AHRECS profile

This post may be cited as:
Pieper, I & Thomson C. (23  November 2018) Beneficence as a Principle in Human Research. Research Ethics Monthly. Retrieved from: https://ahrecs.com/human-research-ethics/beneficence-as-a-principle-in-human-research

We invite debate on issues raised by items we publish. However, we will only publish debate about the issues that the items raise and expect that all contributors model ethical and respectful practice.

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