Good Research Practice - What is it? By Gustafsson et al.
In this book, the authors discuss ethical issues in research.
Initially, the authors discuss the general meaning of "good research
practice". They remind us that science develops through steps in new
directions, or "paradigm shifts" an idea credited to Thomas Kuhn.
There are certain demands on the researchers, such as honesty.
Researchers should "seek to adopt a critical stance towards their own
expectations". Personally, I would consider the latter as golden rule
for researchers; you shouldn´t have any expectations at all whatsoever
prior to an experiment, but on the other hand it is hard as a human to
not have prejudges and expectations.
Furthermore, the authors mention Merton´s CUDOS, four principles
presented by the American sociologist Robert Merton, which
"constituted moral consensus in science":
o Communism, i.e., no IP (intellectual property), e.g., everything
should be public,
o Universalism, i.e., only scientific reference should be taken into
account and no personal qualities.
o Disinterestedness, i.e., researcher should not be biased, and not
have any motives other than generate new knowledge.
o Organized skepticism, researchers should be skeptical and constantly question.
These are difficult to implement. For example having an industrial
research institution with no IP involved is rather infeasible. The
researchers who solely research for the increase of the knowledge are
not so common and the authors agree. Very often there are private
motives combined with some level of altruism.
The role of a researcher is discussed. Some examples of ethical
dilemmas are presented in the book. What would you do if you are doing
research on prison inmates and find out that prisons are abused, but
are asked to not reveal it by the inmates? Researchers, as the authors
suggest, expected to contribute to the discussions in the society, but
what are their responsibilities? To generate results and draw
conclusions from then or do they have moral responsibilities for
"their field" beyond other citizens?
Furthermore the authors discuss validation of results. Suppose your
research has generated results. How much can you trust these results?
They claim a common mistake among researchers is to "overestimate the
importance of the results". I believe this problem is typical for the
humanistic fields, such as social science and psychology, in which the
authors are active. In the technical field, one presents the results
and verifies it using a certain method. Given these premises, it is up
to the reader to judge the significance of it. The importance is
pretty much subjective.
One interesting issue, discussed by the authors, is "Multiple
authors". I believe a number of academic fights started here.
Gustafsson et al suggest straight-forward methods. If the individual
has contributed to the paper and takes responsibility for it, add him
or her. Alternatively, list everyone involved and simply state what
they have done (film-industry style). The latter seems to be a very
fair way of including authors and appeals to me although it seems to
be a rather uncommon manner (upon my knowledge).
The compendium Good research practice - what is it? by Gustafsson et al. gives a practical guide line for ethics in research. The authors are all members of the Ethics committee in the Swedish research council. A lot of the information is thus biased towards Sweden. Focus in the compendium lies on postgraduate students and covers the most important areas that you will encounter as a postgraduate student, from how to publish the results to the role as a teacher. But it also covers to some extent a higher academic level such as the role of the supervisor and the researcher´s role in a scientific board. Some of the information is universal no matter what academic level, such as research misconduct and how you should present the results to the media/society. For every issue it gives some fictional but realistic examples that well illustrate each problem. I found the part in the compendium that covers the postgraduate student very familiar, I can honestly say that I recognized all of it from my postgraduate studies. (The author also points out that it might be the case). Other parts were new to me such as the responsibility of the publisher and editor in Scholarly journals. One part I found very interesting; what to think about when you apply for a grant and how the Grant-giving bodies thinks and validate. But I guess this part suits me since it correspond to my academic phase. Another point I found very interesting is the author´s (Swedish research council) view on quality of the published paper. That they emphasize that quality is much more important than quantity. Something the research society should listen more to. My clue is that not everyone follows that now, both researcher and Grant-giving bodies.
As I see it, different part of this compendium suits different academic levels. The part of postgraduate studies should be mandatory to read for every new Ph.D student in e.g. an Introduction course. Thus this compendium could well have been split into several parts with different target groups.
Some thoughts on one of the issues raised in the book by Gustafsson et al.
"What would you do in the following situation?
As a journal editor, you have received a manuscript from a very well-known, older researcher.
You see that he has published over 50 articles in your journal, long before you became its editor, and that many of them are now classics. But his new article seems to be mostly a rehash of old material, and what is more is quite poorly structured. The referee recommends rejection. You are considering giving him special treatment by going through his paper carefully and suggesting a number of specific changes, although even then you hardly expect the result to be very good."
During the past year, I encountered a situation such as this one during a conference that our division arranged in Uppsala. A paper by a very famous researcher X in my general field was accepted for publication in the conference proceedings, although the paper was of very low quality. At the same time, the work of other (predominantly younger) researchers was given room only as posters, which was of lower status at this conference.
I was not in charge of determining what papers should be accepted to be presented, and I had no say in the decision to include the paper by X. But I was a co-organizer of the conference, and as such felt that I hade a general responsibility for the outcome. Of course, my share of the responsibility was small, but it still left me feeling uncomfortable. After the conference was over, I went through the feedback from the participants. There was one person who hade pointed out the issue of researcher X´s paper, and who was very disappointed (likely he/she was one of the researchers that had been moved to the poster session).
This made me think again of the issue. At first, I had only thought of it as a matter of right/wrong, where the right thing to do would have been to reject the paper by X. I was not naïve, and I did realize that it would have negative effects, as the (probable) disappointment (and obstruction) of X might have made the conference more difficult to arrange. However, it was not until after the conference that I realized all the negative output of making the wrong choice.
The credibility of the entire scientific community (which was pretty much represented in the steering committee of the conference) was actually challenged by their decision. This must be considered to be a much greater negative outcome than it would have been to upset X. Everyone who had come to know if the issue must have come to the same conclusion as I: that keeping the senior researchers happy was of greater importance than to keep a high scientific level at the conference. Likely, such a conclusion also spreads very quickly among the participants, even though only a few knew of it primarily.
I´m not saying that it would have been an easy choice to do the right thing. I fully realize that it is difficult to go against established authorities in one´s field. But I do think that if the possible consequences would have been properly analyzed, the choice might have been made differently. It takes courage to take tough decisions to be able to claim scientific integrity.
This text is not a set of rules, but is intended as a set of guidelines for good research practices. Reality has a habit of changing gradually, and accordingly the guidelines must continuously be subject to discussions and changes. These guidelines attempt to reflect common sense in an environment where the truth and the quality of research are prioritised heavily. In this sense, most of the advice encountered should appear to be obvious. But the text also illustrates, through examples, that real world issues are not always so clear cut that you can just refer to a set of guidelines. Through no fault of your own, you may find yourself in the middle of a dispute with with no "right" or satisfying solution. Your actions in such cases will still have to depend on your own judgment. And even if a "right" solution is arrived at, reality is not always so kind as to reward you with a happy ending.
So yes, sometimes you will not be able to act for the sake of a satisfying solution, but will have to contend with acting for damage control. For the sake of yourself, and for the sake of science.
Even if these guidelines are derived from a branch of obvious common sense, you will find people, research groups and entire departments breaking them with blatant disregard. This does not mean that they are all bad people, but it is a symptom of the fact that it is just as easy for a group of people as it is for a single person to fall into bad habits. And so, though we may scoff at the writing down of common sense, it is sometimes good to have such guidelines in textual form. And disagreements about what constitutes common sense should be brought into the open.
The text is broad, and treats a wide range of issues. From basic good practices, through conduction of research, publishing, collaboration and planning, all the way to to actual research misconduct.
To take up one issue I found interesting in particular, the interaction with the general press. The text of course advices researchers not to purposely misrepresent their own research in such a way that it can be easily interpreted in a sensational manner. Unfortunately, there exists far too many examples in real world journalism that suggests that many journalists do not need any help to be able to distort and slant perfectly good research into sensational, and in many cases untrue headlines. It would appear at times that journalism is sorely lacking in comparison to the level of ethics and common sense found in this text. So to get a good picture of what research might look like without all these annoying ethics, you may not need to look any further than the tabloids and certain other newspapers.
Good research practice - what is it? (Gustafsson, Hermerén and Petersson, 2006)
A honest book of questions, rich of hands-on examples, "Good research practice - what is it?" introduces the reader to the non-linear world of ethics in an academic environment.
In the first part of this book, the authors describes the roles of the researcher and the aims of the scientific research, focusing on quality, honesty and integrity; where can we draw the border between the scientific interest of the researcher and the integrity of people involved in the research, or the people in someway affected by the results of this research? Can the researcher be a sterile observer of the reality, or should she act as a round human being? How personal believes of a researcher should be accounted for in her work?
The authors cite the Uppsala Code of Ethics for Scientists, published in 1984; this code recommends that researchers should discontinue their work if they would judge this to bring more harm than benefits. However this self-assessment is often difficult since economical interests are more and more involved in today´s academic research. Should a researcher, whose salary is dependent on his work, value her own good more than the harm given to others?
An interesting question is what is the real purpose of the research done by a scientist? Do scientists investigate nature for the good of humanity or for their monthly salary, i.e. for the good of their own families? Is it more ethical to care for the humanity of for your own children? For example, if the research is financed by the state or by a private industry for weapon applications? Should the researcher do his best to achieve the maximum deathly effects? Or is it more ethical to secretly boycott the project? Integrity or honesty? And does it change if it is a private industry project or a state financed one?
Publishing is the soul of science. This is the reason why conflicts and ethical issues are growing fast around this subject. The Swedish´s Higher Education Act request the universities to inform the public about research. Is it all research publishable? Should the researchers discriminate what to publish and what to retain? What a researcher should do if her research would prove a socially-unacceptable, not-politically-correct theory? If the researcher would prove that female human beings are better in math than male human beings, she will probably publish her research in Sweden. And receive great honors. But if the result of the study was the opposite, and the researcher a man? Would he be allowed to publish his results? Would he risk to publish his result in a feministic society? And is it acceptable, for me, as a PhD student, writing this essay on ethical issues, to raise this question? What are the limits of publishing?
The book by Gustafsson deals also with several practical issue, as the role of supervisors, the relations between researchers, the responsibility of teachers, and the problems associated to research misconduct.
Providing questions rather than answers, "Good research practice - what is it?" is a good stimulus for discussion.
There are many written handbooks, guidelines, rules and discussion material in the subject of research
ethics. However, in the end it is the researchers own responsibility to make sure the research is ethical
and that his or hers professional conduct is morally acceptable, as stated on the website "CODEX -
rules and guidelines for research" as well as in the book "Good research practice - what is it?".
One attempt of a moral consensus in science was made by Robert Merton, an American sociologist, in
the 1940s. His idea of moral norms were gathered in four principles called the CUDOS-norms. C for
communism, U for universalism, D for disinterestedness and OS for organized scepticism. They have
been and are still essential parts in the debate of research ethics although they can be hard to follow at
all times in reality.
When reading the book "Good research practice - what is it?" a set of moral rules can be summarized
from the thoughts brought into consideration in the different chapters e.g. be honest about your
research, examine assumptions and be open in presenting your research as well as to criticize others'
work fairly. However, as in the case of theories of moral philosophy where cases of conflict arises also
these moral rules concerning the moral life of a researcher might get into conflict. Depending on the
view of how e.g. the process of research development take place, the priority to the different moral
conducts will diverge.
The website "CODEX - rules and guidelines for research" writes about a trend to find common global
ethical norms in research ethics. A tendency mainly driven as a reaction against misconduct such as
plagiary or cheating with data sets. Whether ethical misbehavior within research is getting more
common or not is hard to say but I don't think it would be very surprisingly if so with the large access
to reports and data on internet. To this question of misbehavior comes the important responsibility of
an author of research material concerning all different steps involved in the research work such as
methods used, evaluation and reliability of results, inspection of references and to make sure not to hide
if there are any arguments against the results. Hence, when putting your name on an article or book
you accept the responsibility of the content of it and that you have followed the ethical rules within
science. What happens then, as brought up in the book from the Swedish research council, in the case
when a researcher involved in a research project dies and after her death is an article published with her
name as one of the authors since she was involved in the project before her death. Since she died before
the manuscript was ready, I would say that it would not be ethical to put her name on it since she has
no chance to object to its content. Putting her name there would be to force her into an acceptance and
responsibility of something she has not agreed upon. Therefore, I would suggest in such a case to give
her profit of her part in the project in some other way than addressing her as one of the authors.
In the booklet Good research practice: What is it? Gustafson et al. aim at discuss the professional
ethics of the researcher.
Research is considered the search for new knowledge and may be valueble in different ways. Research
could give the answer to a specific question, e.g. finding a treatment to a common disease, but may also
give new insights, although we don't know how to make use of them, as in the case of basic research.
Finally, the process of research itself may be of value, both the the indivial and the for society as a
To secure these values, the society puts a number of expectations on the researcher. Among others to
guarantee the quality and integrity of the results. Data must be treated with care and the experiments
well planned and documented so that later verifications of the experiments can be done. Research fraud
and plagiarism must be avoided. The researcher may have different personal purposes for doing
research, but ideally it should only be the search for new knowledge. If there are conflicting interests
the researcher should be aware of these and clearly declare them when appropriate.
There have been multiple attempts to formulate what is good ethics, and one such attempt are the
CUDOS norms, stated in the 1940s. According to these, the results should be shared (Communism) and
judged by scientific criterias and not irrelevant characteristics like age and sex of the author
(Universalism). The researcher should not have any conflicting interests (Disinterstedness) and should
question others' results, but only when there are good reasons (Organized Scepticism). Other critera has
been formulated as well, and Gustafsson et al. give their own description which is summarized into
honesty, openness, orderliness, consideration and impartiality.
More complicated than the formulation of good ethics is how to follow it. There are lots of situations
where the moral norms come into conflict with each other. Moreover, there are situations in which it
could seriously harm the career or the relations to other researchers if you stricly follow the rules. In
almost every section of the booklet the authors describe a situation in which the moral norms must be
weighted against harm done to a particular person or group.
In one of the last chapters the authors discuss research misconduct and how it should be dealt with.
Research misconduct could happen both with and without the intention to deceive, and the authors use
the term "deviation from good research practice" to describe situations in which there might be no bad
intentions. Intentional misconduct may include theft of methods or manipulation of results, bad
publishing practice like dublicate publishing or division of a greater work into multiple papers and bad
behaivor as sexual harassment or sabotage of collegues' work. Unintentional misconduct may be
caused by carelessness, incompetence, rushed work or poor research methodology in general.
It is important to work against scientific misconduct as it undermines the trust in scientific results. If
the researchers cannot trust each other, all experiments will have to be re-done again and again and the
implementation of faulty results could lead to serious harm.
Today more and more people work as professional researchers. As a researcher you need to get external financial support, for instance, from government funding agency, or from company through collaboration. Then you need to write proposals, tell your sponsor what you are going to do, why you want to do, what is the significance and how about the potential applications of this technology.
Nowadays, it is quite common for research groups in universities to receive funding from non-profit organizations for project focusing on technology development. Basically it starts from a nice idea proposed by several senior researches. Then they start to find some scientific arguments to support this idea. Once they find the scientific ground for the idea, the researchers started to discuss the potential application of this idea, and finally a proposal comes out.
In case the research is run as a project, it is important to calculate the cost and gain. Unfortunately, for many cases, millions of money has been invested, and the outcome of the project is just a few scientific papers and it is still far from what the researchers have promised in their proposals. There are several reasons for this phenomenon. The most important points are that the many researchers lack the capability of project management, and they have no motivation to run the project in an efficient way. On the other hand, the selection and evaluation process also has its own defects. This might be because that most of the referees have limited time to do this job, and they just want the things to be simple. The more publications you have, the higher impact factors your publications have, the more chance you have to get the funding. Of course it is important that the applicant should portray a nice future picture in their proposal in order to convince the referee. However, the referee´s decision is normally based on what you can promise.
Actually the publications cannot prove the capability of a research group especially when it comes to project. In a project, all the resources should be carefully controlled and reasonably dispatched. At the same time, the project schedule should be highly respected, and project goal should be achieved in time. This is something difficult to achieve when the project is run by researchers from universities.
The university should focus more on fundamental researches. The professors should spend more time to understand scientific problems and to supervise students. Their thoughts should be free and shouldn´t be economically and politically directed by the external environment. The development of technology is a complex problem. First you need to find a solution to the problem, then evaluate the cost of your solution and compare with other existing technologies. In addition, you also need to consider if people can accept your solution. The company is more credible to do this kind of work.
Noor Azlinda Ahmad
For researchers, it is a great honor to have their research published. It is an effective way to announce and inform people about the outcome or findings of their research work, which has been accomplished. By publishing the results, it will largely contribute to the enhancement of knowledge of the society, creates an awareness and discussion among the scientific community and thus helps the researcher to critically develop a new idea / method for their future work. However, conducting a research is not just a matter of writing a scientific paper and sent it to prestigious, well-known journal for publication. Other aspects of the research world such as the ethical issue in research should also be considered and therefore it is essential to know and understand `What are the ethics in research?´. It is very important to adhere ethical norms in research for several reasons. According to David B. Resnik (http://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/resources/bioethics/whatis.cfm) ethical norms is important because it can:
a) promote the aims of research
b) promote values for collaborative work
c) help to ensure that researchers can be held accountable to public
d) built public support for research
e) promote moral and social values.
As an example, we can think of this situation, using an inappropriate statistical technique in order to enhance the significance of our research. Of course to some people they might think that there is nothing wrong with it and this is what you should do to get a better result. However, to researchers this is an unethical, immoral way of analyzing and presenting the result. As a researcher, it is essential to gain trustworthiness from public, because whatever the findings or the results of our research work will be delivered to the public. One should not lie or adjusting the result if the result is not as what he or she expecting it to be. Similarly, one should not just quoting or copying previous work without even citing them in the reference (plagiarism). It will be more polite if one can provide a firm argument in order to defense the result and discuss scientifically why the results differ from the previous studies. A detailed and thorough explanation as the aim of the study, how the work has been done, the equipments used, methods and what are the criteria used for data selection should be provided so that the results could be reproduced or expanded by other researchers as well. In this situation, it is important to always have our work checked and reviewed by collogues, co-authors or supervisor (for instance in case of a Phd student) before the finalized result can be published. Therefore, by understanding and knowing the good research practice, it will help the researcher to successfully deliver the results of their research work to the society in a more moral and ethical manner.
I read the electronic version of this book and found some things that interest me. The authors started explaining what the basic requirements of a good research practice are. To do so they focus on the value of research, researcher´s demand and talk about research ethics. Then they talk about how to practice for planning a good research which involves exploring the purpose of a research, managing and using the funding and also describing and documenting the project. The next chapter talks about conducting a research work. Which method to choose and what should be the concern for a researcher to choose a method is focused here. While handling data and validating results, the suggestions provided by the authors, in chapter 4; is interesting. Even as the role of a researcher is focused on chapter 7 that talks about other different roles of a researcher than the basic roles chapter 5 talks about how to publish research results. An important issue is focused here in the section reviewer or referee in chapter 5. The connectivity with this course while reading this book became quite prominent in this section for me which also became much clear while reading chapter 8 that talks about misconducting research work. How to prevent it, what are the adverse effects of doing such and how to define something to be misconduct of research were discussed here. Finally the section where the authors describe some key document researchers should get familiar with is also very important. Some legislation terms, some Swedish research council´s guidelines for different types of research conduct were also interesting to learn here.
When thinking of ethics, people are talking about the rules for distinguishing between right and wrong. Many different disciplines, institutions, and professions have norms for behavior that suit their particular aims and goals. In scientific research, particularly, the norms help the researchers to coordinate their activities and to establish the public's trust of the discipline.
What is Research Ethics? It's a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty − a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if you're doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid − not only what you think is right about it: other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things you thought of that you've eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked − to make sure the other fellow can tell they have been eliminated.
It is important to add to ethical norms in research and there are several reasons. Firstly, ethics prohibit against fabricating, falsifying, or misrepresenting research data and thus promote the aims of research, such as knowledge, truth, and avoidance of error. Secondly, research activities often involves a lot of cooperation and coordination among many different people in different disciplines and institutions, ethical standards promote the values that are essential to collaborative work, such as trust, accountability, mutual respect, and fairness. For example, many issues in research, such as guidelines for authorship, copyright and patenting policies, data sharing policies, and confidentiality rules in peer review, are designed to protect intellectual property interests while encouraging collaboration. Third, many of the ethical norms help to ensure that researchers can be held accountable to the public. For instance, federal policies on research misconduct, conflicts of interest, the human subjects protections, and animal care and use are necessary in order to make sure that researchers who are funded by public money can be held accountable to the public. Fourth, ethical norms in research also help to build public support for research. Finally, many of the norms of research promote a variety of other important moral and social values, such as social responsibility, human rights, and animal welfare, compliance with the law, and health and safety.
As a ph.D student in science and technology, there are a lot of ethics cases in real life. We might heard or are familiar with the situations like this. The busy professor tells her group over coffee one afternoon: "Well, you know that I will be terribly busy writing this book over the next two years. So, considering all my other obligations, I will have no time to do regular research. But you know that our funding depends strongly on my research record and publication list. So I suggest that you will put my name on every paper that you write in the coming two years.″ If you are the student who have this conversation, how could you proceed? I think after learning the knowledge related to research ethics, you will have your own ethics decision.
A good research practice shall be carried out with the flavors of honesty, openness, orderliness, consideration and impartiality. There involves the qualities of either the researcher and of course the research topic. For the roles that the researchers themselves shall be qualified for will be 1) the quality control of the research work; 2) collaboration with other researchers and interaction with other body; 3) capable of coordinating and if necessary supervising. For a good research topic it shall consist of 1) Preparation of the research including detailed planning and consolidate funding; 2) conducting the research including screening of the methods, documentation and validation of the result; 3) deliverables.
It is likely that a qualified researcher would be able to carry out a research work with all the quality mentioned above when we talked about should and shouldn´t. Still things can go wrong? We can then rephrase the question to be, how "wrong" could a research be? "Good research practice should promote high-quality research and, partly with that end in view, both foster good relations among researchers and between researcher and the general public, and counteract and prevent research misconduct."(Good Research Practice - What is it?) When rationale could be as easily as evolving into a written guideline, it could become even self evident. However, situations could be much more complicated when handling some specific research topic. A scientific research could be equipped with interesting ideas, capable researcher, splendid funding, and great consideration but still turns out to be `wrong´ if the value of the research is not profoundly appreciated. One can argue some research is worthless or useless to people other than the scientists themselves.
Academic philosophers may be well aware that an academically defined "good research" is not equivalent to a "universal good" as philosophically understood. The former, not necessarily limited to right and wrong, is the ethical principal that restricts the research itself of which the motivation is to unveil the unknown; while the latter is about the common welfare that satisfies almost everyone. Some interesting research topics are covered in the discussion. The idea here is trying to picture the `wrongness´ of a research by looking into the examples while further attempting to illustrate what is requested for a good one. The findings for the discussion could be summarized as: 1) it is distinguishable that the researchers / scientists are handling problems in a way different from non-science people; 2) noticeable difference exists in value for different researches topics, nevertheless the value itself is hard to be determined; 3) it is not easy to bridge the understanding of researchers / scientists and non-science people so as to come to the point of "what is good".
Good Research Practice - What Is It? discussed the ethical issues that arise in research. The main aim of this book is to encourage a debate on ethical issues in research and to provide basic material for the debate. The book shows us the existing system of rules in research and inspires a lot of thinking of us on the ethical principles that are applied in research. The focus of attention in this book is the conduct of the research in relation to the standards normally directly associated with science. The conduct rules can be summed up in words like Honesty, Openness, Orderliness, Consideration and Impartiality.
In the book the overall meaning of the concept of good research practice is discussed and the issues of how to do research in good practice are also discussed. These parts of the book supply a lot of useful information for us with planning research, conducting research, publishing research results and research collaboration. In the end parts of the book fostering good relations among researchers and between researchers and the general public and prevent research misconduct are discussed.
For a PhD student I think to be a reader of this book is a good choice. We can learn more from the materials and discussion in the book that how to do better in our research.
In the preface of the booklet of the Swedish research council the authors say that "Ethics is not about statutory rules and regulations." Sometime I wish it was! It would make many problems go away if there was no room for feelings, different interpretations or simply choosing sides. Since we cannot have rules we can all agree on, I find the idea of set ethical guidelines quite pleasing. It gives the opportunity for those who doubt their ability to make a moral decision to actually do it.
The two most commonly discussed ethical problems in the academia I have become aware of in the short time of my PhD studies are those of co-authorship and exploitation of foreign students. The first problem encompasses many different things from the disagreement on the number of authors, their order of appearance in the article, contributors and honorary authors, to wrongful citations and plagiarism. I have been told of a few instances dealing with quarrels between groups, professors and international collaborators about who should or should not be included in a given article. I have also received complaints from PhD students and post doctoral fellows who were coerced into including people into the author list who did not make any contributions to the article. An unfortunate reoccurring theme at the university is the double standard in treating researchers from different countries. Many of a debate have been trying to illuminate the problems of students coming from poor countries, who under the promise of permanent employment are exploited to do work both related and unrelated to research. Somehow I expected this booklet to talk solely about these two topics. They are indeed important, but I came to realize that there are far greater ethical concerns at stake when talking about science.
I dare to say that ethical conduct is not only more important in science than in any given life situation, it is critical to the survival of knowledge. White lies, harmless in day-to-day situations, can bring down any of or all of our achievements. It is therefore the utmost responsibility of any scientist to act as a moral agent. As logical as it sounds, it never actually occurred to me to think about the issues the authors of the booklet bring up. The importance of being honest with everything one does, from method development to result validation and the importance of self-criticism make me think of Aristotle and the virtue theory. I suppose this was a very clever way of tying together the three books used in this course. Thank you, Iordanis! I was a bit puzzled why we had to read a book on philosophy at the start of this course, but now I see the point. The moral of the story is, so to say, that a scientist must be virtuous! Now I do not claim that this was exactly what the professor intended, but I am happy to admit that this is what I will carry with me in my scientific endeavors.
Same question over and over again: "What is right and what is wrong?" And science in this sense is no exception, even if one might think that scientists are clever and should be capable of answering this question easily or after some thinking. But, it turns out that "Scientists are people too!" with all the implications, good and bad ones (which are also not so well defined). In this context, when I hear different examples of misconduct or "misbehavior" in science, I start thinking that maybe transforming humans into robots, with included ethic subroutines, would really be a "human enhancement". But they are not, and like other normal people they need, among other things, guidelines of what to do in order to have a good research practice. What does that mean? Here is one guideline: "Researchers must always be honest in their results. A research must never distort, falsify, mislead or plagiarise. Cheating in research - known as dishonesty in research - can lead to humans and animals being exposed to risk. This in turn can mean that confidence in researchers and research is damaged." But, is it really something new? Of course, no. But knowing rules doesn´t always mean following them. Like God commandments. If a believer breaks those rules, what does he/she do? Go to the church and pray not to be sent to hell after death. If someone breaks legal commandments, or the law, then he/she will be punished according to the law. And the same was needed in science: when misconduct is suspected, a group of experts will scrutinize the case. The "punishment" in this case is obvious: in the worst case jail, in the best case no one will ever trust his/her results and the chance of having collaborations, which in nowadays science are extremely important, will become close to zero. It means nothing but "scientific death".
In this publication, among guidelines and advises, there are also examples preceded by the question: "What would you do in the following situation?" assuming that the reader is a scientist. But, from my point of view, most of examples are general moral issues applied to anybody, from science or outside it. For example: "You have been given permission by the National Prison and Probation Administration to study the reading habits of prison inmates. You discover two shocking cases of physical abuse in the prisons you visit, but both the victims ask you not to raise the matter with the prison management, as they are afraid of reprisals. Do you as a researcher have any special responsibilities in this context?"
My answer: as a scientist you should "study the reading habits of prison inmates", as a human you should do what you consider right. It´s exactly like in the example from the Rachels´ book: to lie or not to the killer about victim´s position (Rachels&Rachels)...
Just having rules and guidelines is not a necessary and sufficient condition for a good research practice. The missing part is being a "good person".
But from what I learned in my life (including the scientific one), rules are written for good people, because any rule can be avoided, and any misconduct can be hidden, as long as the driving forces are power, fame, money, but not the gain of knowledge.
The book by Gustafsson et al. provoked my thinking about good research practice by providing guidelines, views as well as rich examples. It might be difficult to define good research practice by giving a set of fixed rules. As the authors wrote, the book is not a treatise in the theory of science, nor does it represent a clearly defined position in that regard. The focus of attention in this book is on the conduct of the researcher in relation to the standards normally directly associated with science.
In chapter 2 the authors discuss the overall meaning of the concept of good research practice which may be summed up in words like honesty, openness, orderliness, consideration and impartiality.
The authors formulate what good research practice requires in the contexts of planning, conducting and publishing research from chapter 3 through Chapter 5.
In Chapter 6 and Chapter 7 the authors address the question of research collaboration and education, and examine good research practice in relation to other individuals or groups interacting with the researcher.
Having discussed what we should do, in Chapter 8 the author shifted to an opposite angle `what we should not do´ or research misconduct. In a narrow sense, research misconduct includes fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism. It is also examined in Chapter 8 how instances of misconduct are to be handled in practical terms, and how we can seek to prevent them.
Chapter 9 provides us a brief outline of a number of documents, including codes, guidelines and legislation, which as researchers should be familiar with.
The overall aim of this book is to discuss what can be considered to constitute good research practice. The authors mainly discussed the ethics of researchers´ behavior in the professional field or in the research community. Ethics topics in the researchers-society (or scientist-society) relationship are not much concerned. Nowadays science-related ethical challenges continue to emerge. Emerging scientific knowledge not only stimulates significant public interest but also public concerns. What if there is a conflict between the new scientific finding and the benefit of the society?
Mona Riza Mohd Esa
From the first glance, by only looking at it contents pages, book titled "Good Research Practice - What is it?", Gustafson et. al. seems to be a guideline or requirements on how to perform a good research plan up till publishing it as well as the proper behavioral of researchers must have in their attitude while performing research that somehow may lead to misconduct of research. Since the authors as well as the editors are or used to be members of the Swedish Research Council´s Ethics Committee this book also contained ethical in doing research and some documentation codes to be remembered for all researchers mainly in Sweden.
Highlighting researchers´ responsibilities in conducting their work that whether they like it or not, their outcomes are related to the society. So it is vital to produce a significant, high quality and integrity research and where to be applied in the society. So the very first step of the process is to really understand the main objective or the motive of carrying out the research itself.
In ethical manner, every research will not be able escape from referring other research works related to their study. At the same time they cannot deform or misinterpret the citation in order to stand strong with their findings. Therefore, it is essential to cite firmly without the intention of embellish the conclusions. In simple word, plagiarism is considered as crime while writing the report of any kind of research study.
Generally, this book is highly recommended to all the researchers which it able to describe all roles that a researcher can be from a major function to the least as well as a clear step by step illustration of realizing a good quality research and even a small matter (seem to be unimportant but not, indeed!), was how to apply for research fund. Moreover, by ending the research, does mean that he or she stop doing it (his/her research), but the onward responsibilities behind the research output will be a never-ending story.
What is considered good is necessarily a subjective judgment, and as such there might be slightly different opinions or even opposing beliefs for just about any standpoint. This holds for research and research practice as well. However, because knowledge and knowledge creation (or knowledge investigation), which might be considered what science and research is all about, is an inherently social activity, it is necessary to constantly debate and revise the “common-sense truth” of what should be considered good research practice. The book (text) at hand is, I think, a rather good overview of problematic areas and possible ethical dilemmas within research. I find it to be quite comprehensive and therefore very inspiring, perhaps especially because my own research is about “true” usefulness of advanced technology, a subject that is inherently subjective and therefore fundamentally burdened by subjectiveness. A re-occurring theme within my particular research is that the quality of technology quite often is measured with possibly irrelevant parameters, I sometimes call this exaggerated focus on performance measures “the technological hysteria”. The dilemma is that while increased technological performance rather often actually creates desirable effects, the blind hunt for it sometimes creates undesired effects that we unfortunately tend to disregard because of our preoccupation with impressive performance measures.
The arguably rather severe preoccupation with bibliometric measures that is prevailing within the research community, may be considered quite similar to the spell-binding effect of performance measures for impressive technology. The quantitative analyzes that today have such great impact may in fact be completely irrelevant figures, precisely as impressive but slightly irrelevant technological properties. Is it good research practice to exclusively strive for publication only in the highest regarded journals or does it rather produce increasingly streamlined conclusions? Is it beneficial to value research contributions by the number of citations it has or does that only create a shallower but more widely spread knowledge – i.e. tabloid science? Does achievement-based funding produce the most valuable knowledge for the society as a whole or does it only make science increasingly dependent on commercial aspects, which arguably tend to be rather short-sighted and cynical? The problem with ethics is that it most often raise more questions than it resolves. Simultaneously, my view is that because ethical dilemmas seldom have only one point of view, the discussion and raising of questions is an end in itself. As we've been constantly fed with during this course, the answer is not what matters it is how the conclusions are made that does! Good research practice may (perhaps) therefore be summarized as the strive to collect as many arguments, with as solid foundations, for as many (alternative) viewpoints, as possible, in order to at least be able to state “at my best knowledge...” with a healthy amount of confidence!