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Ethics Panel

(L-R) Duncan MacRae, Director, Open Access, Editorial, Wolters Kluwer; Barbara Epstein, Director, University of Pittsburgh Health Sciences Library System; Jenny Lunn, Director, Publications, American Geopohysical Union (AGU); Jayne Marks (VP, Global Publishing, Wolters Kluwer, Moderator)

Jenny Lunn presented the association perspective on ethics. Associations want to be a credible voice and be trusted by both scientists and the public. They must set standards for the behavior to be followed by their members. Harassment by bullying in the workplace,has become a big issue, especially when directed at women.

in the publication area, questionable practices extend from ignorance to outright fraud; the roles of the association include:

  • Provide guidelines to authors,
  • Check incoming manuscripts to ensure they conform to standards,
  • Mediate and try to resolve disputes, and
  • Oversee self-policing by the community.

Questionable practices

Experience suggests that most questionable practices arise from author ignorance, so we must keep educating them. Every situation is unique, but some cases are like the tip of an iceberg and may point to something deeper. For example a request to remove a co-author from an article may be a red flag (the author must have a very good reason). A plagiarism match of over 15% will trigger a manual check of the article, as will a refusal to share the raw data (many journals make data sharing mandatory and will not accept a statement that the data is only available from the author). Most cases are handled internally by the editorial staff.

AGU is committed to scientific integrity and tries to lead by example.

Duncan MacRae said that new developments have occurred in academic fraud, and it has become a business model for some companies. For example, here are some activities that have been observed.

Academic Fraud

There were hundreds of retractions of papers by authors in 2015, and there were some cases of falsification of suggested peer reviewers so that authors could review their own manuscripts. Such actions used to be fairly rare, but they are becoming much more common.

Why did this happen? The New York Times has accused China, which rewards authors financially for getting published. Undue emphasis has been placed on journal impact factors, and there is a lack of education on standard ethical practices. In response to these problems, journals have changed some of their practices. They no longer will accept suggestions of reviewers, and stricter policies regarding authorship have been instituted (author changes after acceptance are not allowed), the role of each co-author in the research must be clearly stated, and anti-plagiarism software is routinely used.

Publisher and industry responses include increased outreach to editorial offices, authors, and institutions in developing markets. Many publishers work with the Coalition for Responsible Publication Resources (CRPR). The think, check, submit website has some useful advice for authors: they should have checklist to follow before submitting a manuscript to a journal.

Here are some government responses to the problem of academic misconduct.

Government responses

It has become clear that misconduct no longer solely the province of individuals; we are now combating organizations.

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