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Detta är en kopia av grad/courses/gc1012/TRE12/abstracts3 (Mon, 21 Jan 2013 20:45:03)

Abstracts IIIa, 21 January; Good research practice: What is it?; Good research practice; Freedom, responsibility and universality of science




Good Research Practices - What is it? (89 pages) was published by the Swedish Research Council in 2006. The authors Gustafsson, Hermerén and Pettersson have their background in theoretical astrophysics, medical ethics, and political science respectively. In 2011 a thorough revision Good Research Practices (129 pages) was published with Hermerén and Pettersson as authors.

The authors´ approach is to discuss good research practices as a matter of ethics where the term ´ethics´ is used as a type of theory on the area of morals [1]. While morals manifest themselves in a person´s behaviour, and not necessarily reflected upon, ethics refer to precisely formulated norms. Another distinction is made between internal and external research ethics, where `internal´ refers to `professional´ ethics (Sw. Forskaretik); that is, issues related to the task, to co-workers, fellow researchers and funding agencies. By `external´ ethics is meant relations to participants, informants, subjects and others affected by the research. The corresponding Swedish term is Forskningsetik [1], [2].

The books give a systematic overview of the research scientist´s typical activities in conjunction with examples of situations where conflicting interests might appear and where the reader is encouraged to reflect upon possible actions. One observation I made is that a disproportional number of the examples refer to the field of medical research, often where important commercial interests are indicated in a more or less direct way. For the ordinary researcher in social science or arts and letters, similar temptations to unethical behaviour are regrettably absent most often.

The second observation is that the majority of those conflicting situations is not confined to the field of research activities but are likely to occur in most contexts of professional life. In particular this is the case in the earlier version [2], which to a high degree resembles any of those guides to enhanced corporate behaviour which at least some decades ago were considered a `must´ in any major organisation, private or public, of which few of the employees were aware, and still less had read.

What I consider specific for the academic environment is its claim for `disinterestedness´ (the Swedish Jäv), in situations of peer review or assessing applications and proposal. In this respect I consider the revised version [1] an improvement, with a stronger focus on what is particular for academic research, and less of accumulated trivialities. In any case I find it a sign of our time, that the Swedish Research Council is publishing handbooks on how to behave for educational purpose to a social category that at least some decades ago was regarded as an intellectual elite.

A third observation is that the text transpires a positivistic world view although the authors claim that the same considerations of what constitutes good research practices - and thus what is ethical or not - are to be applied independently of philosophy of knowledge.This is exactly the core idea of positivism, that all scientific endeavours should be subject to the same quality criteria. What is here included is the disregard of contextual matters as critical for what kind of validity claims should be addressed.

Finally, what I find most interesting from an practical-ethical point of view is how to protect the integrity of those individuals who are providing their personlised data for the empirical research; what is termed external research ethics. This topic is discussed on 4 of the 129 pages, in general terms and with references to other documents for the researcher´s further reading. And of course, with the discussion in terms of medical research. This could be compared with the Forskningsetiska principer inom humanistisk-samhällsvetenskaplig forskning (2002) from 1990, with 17 short pages with clear and concise instructions how to do. Published by the Swedish Research Council as well. Many things do not improve with time.

[1] G. Hermerén and B. Petersson, Good Research Practice. Stockholm: The Swedish Research Council, 2011.
[2] B. Gustafsson, G. Hermerén, and B. Petersson, Good Research Practice - What Is It?: Views, guidelines and examples. Stockholm: Vetenskapsrådet, 2006.
[3] Forskningsetiska principer inom humanistisk-samhällsvetenskaplig forskning. Stockholm: Vetenskapsrådet, 2002.









Good research? Bad research?
When I start thinking what is a good research, the first thing comes to my mind is the good output of the research, which is indicated to maybe lots of published papers or shocked scientific results. What else then? A good research should be a moral research. In this abstract, I will summarize the book "Good Research Practice- What is it?" from VR[1], and try to relate some examples to the issues. The book mentioned "Merton's CUDOS norms", which corresponds to communism, universalism, disinterestedness and organized scepticism. Although it´s quite obvious and clear, but personally I think it could be quite hard to adapt it into real-life research, for one thing, there are different types of researches. There´s a news from uppsala university about the fired professor in Math department[2]. Although it´s still unclear for me about all the details in the news, but I think the conflicts reflected to the difficulties of CUDOS.
Regarding to the paper publishing problems, the book notes that "Researchers are generally considered to have a duty to publish their results ... Researchers must be careful therefore make no undertakings to refrain from publishing their results, to restrict their publication..." Here is an example of bad publishing, a Dutch professor called Diederik Stapel in social psychologist faked data for years, he said he had succumbed to competitive pressures and the need to publish. So the number of papers couldn´t be the only measurement of a research.
I don´t do any animal experiments, all things I deal with are from computers. In section data handling and archiving, it declared that there are several things to consider about the data. Verification of data, secondary use of data, investigating allegations of research misconduct. I am thinking about issues in publishing data together with paper. It could be nice to have the data, while reading the papers and it´s easy to reconstruct and test the methods, but whether publish the data or not should depend on what kind of data is. There are also problems with publishing paper and share source codes. I have one friend works also with computers. It´s traditional that they shared their codes in internet. The thing is he shared the code before he wrote the paper, then he could not publish any more, and he complained why they have to share the codes.

The book also talked about research planning, fundings, collaborations and roles in research. It also gave tips (or guidelines) to different types of researches and talked about research misconduct.

Hereby I am thinking about could we taking our environment into account, which I don´t mean to the working environment. For example, personal computers should be shut down when it doesn´t work, or genetically modified plants (animals) should not hybridized with other plants (I am not sure about this).
[1] Good Research Practice- What is it? Views, guidelines and examples
Bengt Gustafsson, Göran hermerén and Bo Petersson



Benny Avelin,


In this abstract I will concentrate on ethics not involving what the research is about, but about the way we do research.

Quite interestingly it is noted in a book from VR [1], that "Merton's CUDOS norms provide the cornerstones for the present-day discussion about research misconduct". Even though CUDOS seems slightly obsolete, I am in general in sympathy with what it claims, however as examples show it is not always the best route to take in todays research climate. In the best of worlds (Merton's) one would always follow these guidelines, this would perhaps lead you to act disloyally against the department, as shown in the recent "scandal" at the Mathematics department in Uppsala [2]. Since in a sense, reading what the "fired" professors coworkers wrote about this one gets the picture that they where working for "the good of the community".
From a different side, one could say that the "publish or perish" mentality is hardly helping us researchers follow the CUDOS norms. It is a "not often talked about truth" that many of the published papers (in mathematics at least) contains serious errors, and that the level of most papers published is perhaps not as high as they could be. I am not claiming that people wilfully commit to publishing results with errors, I am merely stating that since we need to write papers all the time, it must reflect on the overall error-level and on the level of papers. Also one part of ones work as a researcher is of course to work as a reviewer, however this is not credited in any way, and it is supposed that everybody follows the CUDOS norms. This is not always the case, and one could wonder under how much scrutiny the paper under review actually is. However as it is stated in [3] the responsibility is always on the individual researcher.
In closing I would like to direct some attention towards the resent dispute agains Elsevier, "The cost of knowledge" [4], New york times [5], The guardian [6]. This shines the light on the responsibilities of publishing houses, now to drive a "profit machine" on research papers. Moreover it shows that we as researchers have a collective responsibility to address issues like this, since profit impedes dissemination of knowledge. It is not a surprise that the ERC (European Research Council) guidelines state that "The ERC requires that all peer-reviewed publications from ERC-funded research projects be deposited on publication into an appropriate research repository where available, such as PubMed Central, ArXiv or an institutional repository, and subsequently made Open Access within 6 months of publication.", [7].

[1] Good Research Practice, Vetenskapsrådets Rapportserie.
[3] Codex,
[4] The cost of knowledge,

Ruth Lochan,


Freedom, Responsibility and Universality of Science
From The International Council for Science (ICSU)

This is a reflection from the publication from the International Council for Science (ICSU) titled Freedom, Responsibility and Universality of Science. ICSU is a non-governmental organization founded in 1931 with the mission to ‘strengthen international science for the benefit of society’ . As at 2008 there are 114 members from 134 countries.
Facets and findings of the scientific community have an active and critical role in the society. Often developments have global effects and consequently it is necessary to have some framework and guidelines which could govern ethics and morality within the different scientific domains. This is necessary to avoid biases such as ethnicity, religion, gender, politics or age. The rights of Scientists engaging in research need to be protected as well as they need to honor the responsibility that goes along with their role.
Additionally, many research projects are funded by tax payers therefore any positive scientific discovery should eventually benefit the society and stakeholders as a whole. It is necessary for governing bodies to oversee that public funded projects are not used for commercial gains (profits). The same is true that discoveries such as cures for prevalent diseases should be readily distributed to those in need. Alternatively, it is important to have safeguards against the misuse of science which can result in dire consequences for example experimenting with humans or distribution of nuclear materials. It is not clear-cut where the scientists’ freedoms and rights end and responsibility begins and sometimes this can be controversial. As such, having an established and recognized governing body such as the ICSU is one way of ensuring there will be ethical and moral practices within the scientific community for the overall benefit of the society.

Tao Qin,








The International Council of Science (ICSU) and the Swedish Research Council´s expert group on ethics [1] have set some norms and prerequisites of good research. A respectable number of 134 countries are members of ICSU, which means that they formally approve the `Freedom, Responsibility and Universality´ document [2].
But formally accepting and applying these guidelines are two different things. Selling knowledge (or access to knowledge, which basically is the same); harsh completion between researchers´ groups for research grants and hindering each other´s progress; following and not criticizing a `scientific authority´ just out of the fear that one´s research career will be over if not playing according to some unwritten rules; conducting politically motivated research; these are just a few sad facts about the actual worldwide research environment.
There are also several guidelines introduced regarding the concept of a good researcher, independent of their pure contribution to science. These are characteristics referring to virtues that can be found in all people; it seems that a scientist is not `good´ unless he /she bears these virtues also. For example the virtue of honesty is usually used in order to identify `good´ and `evil´ scientists.
The tendency to fanatically support and idea, to blindly trust others´ opinion and research (e.g. because they are great and knowledgeable), to unquestionably reject other´s ideas because they belong to the `other´ stream are actions that resemble religion practice. To push research towards the direction of the most financial profit in the name of profit is closer to business. Consider as a small example the genetically modified plants and animals, that are designed to grow fast with the least production cost, and with the greatest net profit, whereas there are other plausible solutions in order to solve real hunger problems.
I think all of us would agree on two things: research is not religion and research is not business (although it can well be used for both purposes). Therefore the main habitual characteristics of both are to be avoided to achieve good quality research.

[1] The Swedish Research Council´s expert on ethics, Head: Göran Hermén (2011) Good research practice; ISBN 978-91-7307-194-9
[2] International Council for Science (2008) Freedom, Responsibility and Universality of Science; ISBN 978-0-930357-68-9

Uppdaterad  2013-01-21 20:45:03 av Håkan Selg.