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Sage Methods Minute. January Spotlight: Research Ethics0

 

January’s Methods Minutes, a monthly newsletter produced by Sage Publishing, is a special issue focused on social research ethics. It reviews two articles and one book from Sage’s extensive collection on research ethics and also links to an article by Janet Salmons on the importance of research ethics in an ethics-challenged world. Finally, it introduces a video of Mark Israel (AHRECS) discussing the importance of integrating ethical principles in the design of the project from the outset.

The full page can be seen at http://info.sagepub.com/q/1fcUbqkq9C2tGu15bd0Q65f/wv

Contributor
Dr Mark Israel. Senior Consultant AHRECS
AHRECS profilemark.israel@ahrecs.com

This post may be cited as:
Israel, M. (26 February 2019) Sage Methods Minute. January Spotlight: Research Ethics. Research Ethics Monthly. Retrieved from: https://ahrecs.com/human-research-ethics/sage-methods-minute-january-spotlight-research-ethics

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

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

Release of the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research 2007 (updated 2018) – With interview0

 

The revised National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research 2007 (updated 2018) was released on 9 July 2018.

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Content of the updated National Statement

The National Statement consists of a series of guidelines made in accordance with the National Health and Medical Research Council Act 1992 and is subject to rolling review. This means that parts of the National Statement are updated as needed, in accordance with strategic planning, or in response to user feedback or national or international developments in research or ethics.

Since 2007, Section 3 of the National Statement has addressed ethical considerations specific to research methods or fields. The 2018 revision provides a new structure for Section 3, based on the elements of a research project (from conception to post-completion). The revised Section 3 begins with a chapter that addresses ethical issues in all research, followed by specialised guidance for research involving human biospecimens, genomics and xenotransplantation.

This approach emphasises that researchers, Human Research Ethics Committees (HRECs) and other users of the National Statement must take account of the principles and major themes in research ethics addressed in Sections 1 and 2 of the document as the foundation of the guidance in Section 3 and then, in turn, consider the guidance provided in Chapter 3.1 as a base for the guidance provided in the other chapters included in this section.

While significant changes have been made to all aspects of the guidance provided in Section 3, we note, in particular, the additional guidance that has been provided in relation to collection, use and management of data and information and to management of the findings or results arising from genomic research.

As part of this update, changes have also been made to Chapters 5.1, 5.2 and 5.5 in Section 5, the Glossary and the Index as a consequence of the revisions to Section 3.

Revisions to the National Statement were informed by working committees and through public consultation in accordance with requirements of the National Health and Medical Research Council Act 1992.

Currency and effective date

All users of the National Statement, including HRECs, research offices and researchers are expected to ensure that the current version of the National Statement is being used in developing research proposals, making submissions for ethics review and undertaking ethics review. However, as a consequence of the scope of the revisions to Section 3, we expect that users of the National Statement will gradually integrate these revisions into their proposals, submissions and review over the period from July to December 2018, with full implementation expected by 1 January 2019.

This timeline is intended to give researchers and HRECs an opportunity to familiarise themselves with the new guidance prior to the revocation of the version of the National Statement updated, most recently, in 2015. To facilitate this transition, both the current version of the National Statement and the updated version are available on the NHMRC website at http://nhmrc.gov.au/guidelines/publications/e72.

Use of the National Statement is also linked to the Human Research Ethics Application (HREA), released in December 2016 to replace the National Ethics Application Form.

To coincide with the release of the revised National Statement, questions in the HREA will require revision and users of the HREA will be advised when the revised HREA is online.

Institutions and HRECs are encouraged to allow a transition period for researchers while the revisions to the HREA take effect. The provision of a transition period, how it will be managed and its timeframe are at the discretion of individual Institutions/HRECs.

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Context

Australia’s research integrity framework is underpinned by three national standards developed by NHMRC and its co-authors, the Australian Research Council (ARC) and Universities Australia (UA). Together these three standards provide guidance on responsible and ethical research conduct for both humans and animals.

The overarching document is the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research, 2018. The Code is the leading reference for researchers and institutions across all disciplines about the expectations for responsible research conduct and the handling of investigations into research misconduct. After 10 years in operation, the Code has been reviewed and the 2018 edition was released in June 2018. The other two documents are the National Statement and the Australian code for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes (also endorsed by CSIRO).


INTERVIEW

AHRECS (While we know it predated the recent work on s3) What drove the decision to conduct a rolling review, rather than a review of the entire document?

NHMRC During the revision of the National Statement that was completed in 2007, it was determined that a more flexible, more efficient approach to revising the document would be a good innovation. We wanted to be able to both respond to the needs of users for more limited changes – from a word, to a paragraph, to a single chapter – without having to review the whole document and to be able to integrate or modify the content in response to changes nationally or internationally in research, research ethics or government regulation. Review of the 1999 National Statement took three years from start to finish and we thought we could improve on that timeline! We have found that this approach has, in practice, enabled us to make both minor changes and significant changes to single chapters of the document, as well as to review one of the five sections of the document, as we have just done.

AHRECS Are there downsides to that approach?

NHMRC Yes, there are. The major downside is that the document is ‘of a piece’ and changes to any one part of the document invariably require consideration of changes to the other parts, not just in terms of cross-referencing, but in terms of the content itself. This issue of ‘consequential effect’ manifests itself in the need to ensure consistency in our guidance and to consider the impact on the whole document of more philosophical or conceptual changes that have been introduced by the changes. An example in the most recent revision of Section 3 is that our approach to interventional research in Section 3 had a ‘flow on’ effect to Section 5 in terms of where certain guidance belonged, how that guidance should reflect changes in the clinical research sector since 2007 and how it should reflect other guidance documents (e.g. related to safety reporting) that NHMRC has published in the last 12 months.

AHRECS What were you hoping to accomplish with the changes to section 3 (and Section 5 + the Glossary)? Was it achieved?

NHMRC Principally, we were hoping to facilitate a re-thinking on the part of users (researchers and HRECs, primarily) regarding how they conceptualise and address ethical issues in the design, review and conduct of the research. We began with a decision to abandon the idea of ‘categories’ or ‘types’ of research as the main way to package this guidance and to focus on the reality that most ethics guidance applies to ALL research, thereby requiring ALL researchers to consider it, rather than just going to their specialised chapter of the document and, potentially, ignoring the broader issues. We then settled on the ‘life cycle’ of a research project as the best structure – that is, from conception to post-completion stages of a research project. This also enabled us to see more clearly what was not general guidance and encapsulate that extra guidance in separate, specialised chapters that each required consideration of the general guidance as a prerequisite to fully understanding and implementing the specialised guidance content.

The changes that we made to Section 5 and the Glossary were a direct consequence of the revision of Section 3 and we purposefully did not introduce changes to those parts of the document that were independent of the Section 3 revision, even though it was pretty tempting to do so sometimes.

We do think that we achieved our objectives and we are very satisfied with the results of the review process.

AHRECS If you could say just one thing about the work to date what it be?

NHMRC Review of the National Statement, while challenging, involves very stimulating and satisfying dialogue with lots of researchers, reviewers and other users of the document. We are so committed to it that we are almost immediately taking on the review of Section 4 and Section 5 – so, watch this space!

AHRECS When someone says they would have liked examples to better illustrate the new concepts in the update how do you respond?

NHMRC A weaselly response would be: it depends on which new concepts you are talking about; but, to use one example, a good look at Chapter 3.3: Genomic research and the Decision tree for the management of findings in genomic research and health care that we included (on page 52) to address this complex issue provides just such an attempt to illustrate by example. The main impediment to using examples or case studies to illustrate concepts is the difficulty of deciding which concepts to illustrate and with how many examples, as well as potentially expanding the size of the document exponentially in order to do the examples justice.

AHRECS When will a html version be available online?

At present, the 2007 version of the National Statement (updated May 2015) is available in both PDF and HTML format; whereas the version updated 2018 is only available in PDF. We are not 100% sure when the HTML version of the National Statement (updated 2018) will be available, but we anticipate within the next two to three months. Please also note that the current address (https://beta.nhmrc.gov.au/about-us/publications/national-statement-ethical-conduct-human-research-2007-updated-2018#block-views-block-file-attachments-content-block-1) is only temporary, which means that you’ll need to update your bookmarks/links again when the final version of the new NHMRC website is released in late August or early September.


 

This post may be cited as:
NHMRC (31 July 2018) Release of the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research 2007 (updated 2018). Research Ethics Monthly. Retrieved from: https://ahrecs.com/human-research-ethics/release-of-the-national-statement-on-ethical-conduct-in-human-research-2007-updated-2018-with-interview

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