Institutionen för informationsteknologi

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

Stavros Aronis,


Good research practice is a general term that collectively describes guidelines
that can and must be applied to all the different aspects of the professional
life of a scientist. The ethics of research draw attention to how a researcher
must take care to maintain honesty and integrity in his pursuit of knowledge,
judging his results with a critical mind and revealing any and all information
that will allow others to evaluate, replicate, extend and benefit from their
research. Such guidelines apply to all the phases of research, from planning a
project and securing funding, to documentation of methodology, data collection
and progress and finally dissemination and publication.

As collaboration is inherent to the human pursuit of knowledge, whether active
in the form of a joint work or passive in the form of extension of some existing
knowledge, scientists should focus their judgments and efforts on the content
of the research and ignore political, social or other irrelevant factors.
The Principle of Universality embodies freedom of movement, association,
expression and communication for scientists as well as equitable access to data,
information and research materials.

Pursuing truth instead of publishability is a very interesting concern and point
also made in the literature. Modern research happens in such a fast pace and on
such a colossal degree that it is often the case that results are not replicated
independently and methodology is not always described in sufficient detail to
allow judgement on its validity and suitability.

In the rest of the literature, attention is being drawn to some surprising and
not so well known points of view on the use of forensic DNA analysis techniques
and 'lying detection'. Both methods are presented as highly uncertain, contrary
to popular belief. Another surprising news story regards the conviction of a
group of seismologists for failure to warn about an earthquake. It is not
certain whether the decision makers and the scientists themselves were aware of
the risks they were taking by assessing the situation before the deadly

David Klaftenegger,


Academic responsibility and academic freedom

The sources deal with various ethical issues affecting researchers and effected by researchers.
Here, I will focus on the aspects of academic freedom and academic responsibility.
As for the responsibilities of researchers, some general guidelines have been established.
These may be different in their details depending on research subject and field,
but generally include certain principles, that have been intuitively summed up by Robert K. Merton in the CUDOS rules.
These are
C - communism (or communalism), meaning research results belong to all members of the scientific community and therefore must be shared with them.
U - universalism, which means that anyone can contribute to scientific research.
D - disinterestedness in personal gain, requiring contributing new knowledge without ulterior motives.
OS - organized skepticism, commanding to question one's own research, and gather sufficient evidence before putting forward a claim.
While these principles sound convincing, they also have their limits in how far they can apply, according to [1]:
When employed by industry, researchers also have to protect the interest of their company, even if that delays publications;
and disinterestedness is almost impossible to achieve in pure form, as of course the researcher have many motives for their work.

These can be considered the duties scientists have in exchange for academic freedom, but other than following these rules there are still challenges to academic freedom.
In the case of [2] the paper was removed by the publisher for non-scientific reasons. In this case the authors of the attacked work were not asked for a comment directly before publication. While this can be considered bad manners, it should probably not lead to withdrawal of a publication:
It can lead to valid criticism being suppressed and also it is questionable whether such comments are always appropriate: When criticizing a whole class of things by an example, it may not be appropriate to get comments from the authors of the examples only, which quickly leads to situations where asking for comments can hinder voicing valid criticism. Therefore, publications should not be withdrawn for non-scientific reasons, even if someone feels misrepresented. Especially in online publications, an additional comment could easily be attached to the publication later on, therefore giving the possibility to defend one's work in a way that reaches the recipients of the criticism.
In the L'Aquila case [3], scientists have been criminally prosecuted for reporting their best knowledge about the likelihood of earthquakes, which they considered low. A quake happened anyways, and they were convicted of manslaughter. While most likely this conviction will not uphold in appeals, the chilling effect of these convictions must also be considered: Scientists who want to be on the safe side might not issue any statements, or always warn of dire consequences to protect themselves, which hurts all of their scientific reputation, public security, and the advancement of science as a whole.

[1] Vetenskapsrådet, Good research practice, 3:2011. Stockholm, CM-Gruppen AB; 2011. Available online: [Downloaded 20 Jan. 2013]

Johan Östlund,


Fredrik Wahlberg,


Omer Ishaq,


While reading the material for this presentation, I was particularly struck by the case of the Italian scientists (and their erroneous prediction of the earthquake) and the unfair judgment by the Italian court. It appears that scientists are judged according to a different standard and set of rules as compared to everyone else. A case in point would be the debate on a single-payer health care system in the United States. According to the U.S. bureau of census, 50.7 million people in the U.S. are without healthcare, this includes 7.5 children. Every year as many as 45,000 deaths can be prevented by providing a single-payer health care system at a projected cost of just 122 billion dollars per year or just 0.8 percent of the GDP. It sounds reasonable that if scientists are to be punished for deaths resulting from their actions then the politicians should also be judged by the same standard and held accountable for actions which result in such a negative impact on the society.
Similarly, if one looks at the sovereign-debt crises, i.e., the euro zone crisis, one finds that for almost 2 years the economists have been insisting on draconian austerity measures such as cutting down of social services as well as the increase in working hours and the retirement age. These measures have severely impacted multiple countries in Europe both politically and socially. These measures have resulted in increase in unemployment and consequently crime. These measures have been based on the economic predictions that such measures will improve the economies of the affected countries. However, a new report by the IMF has cast a shadow on these predictions with the conclusions that these measures have had a more degenerative impact of the said economies. Therefore, in view of the Italian example it may be fair to demand that economists should also be tried for their failure in providing accurate economic predictions and policies.

Malin Källén,


The CUDOS norms

The CUDOS norms were formulated by Robert Merton in the 1940's, and stand for:

  • Communalism: Research results are not owned by the researcher, and should be made public.
  • Universalism: A researcher's gender, nationality and so on should not matter when research is assessed.
  • Disinterestedness: Research shall be conducted only in order to gain new knowledge.
  • Organized Scepticism: Researchers should never stop scrutinizing and questioning, and never express a conclusion without evidence.

Although these norms do no longer give a complete description of what can be considered good research practice, it still clearly influences the view of the research community. In a book by Vetenskapsrådet [1], a description of good research practice and researcher practice is given, and much of what is stated in the text builds on the CUDOS norms. The book also discusses other issues, for example researchers' responsibilities towards research subjects (humans as well as animals).

The responsibilities of researchers

As stated in a boolet by ICSU [3], scientists are gatekeepers of new knowledge. Moreover, people generally put high faith in statements made by researchers. The latter becomes clear in the article about the Italian scientists who were condemned to prison for having stated that the L'Aquila quake was unlikely to occur. They were considered having put the population in a false sense of security and thereby caused peoples' death. [4]

These facts bring responsibility (although it can be discussed how much). Therefore, it is worth to put som attention on different factors may affect researchers' tendencies to cheat or choose which research they will conduct.

Publishing and cheating

In a paper by Nosek et al. [2] it is explained why researchers have higher incentives for trying to publish positives rather than negatives, and why it is more interesting to try to make new discoveries instead of reproducing previous results. This leads to a smaller partion of reproducting research, and may even make researcher cheat (e.g. hide data or make incorrect statistical analyses) in order to obtain publishable results. The authors present a number or suggestions of solutions to this problem. They also stress the importance of openness in data, methodology and work flow in order to make it possible to scrutinize and reuse the result of other researchers.

An example of scientists cheating can be read in an article in the Economist [5]. It describes how climate researchers have used tricks to make their research give stronger support for the global warning.

Legal security

The literature for the seminar also discusses the connection between legal security and peoples' faith in science.

When a crime is committed, DNA from the scene is often used as evidence. However, it is stated in an article by Frumkin et al. [6] that it is relatively easy to fabricate DNA which the "current" (2009) forensic technology cannot distinguish from real DNA. In other words, innocent people can be easily "proven" guilty if someone so desires.

In a paper by Eriksson and Lacerda [7], it is stated that the marketing of the studied lie detectors contain lots of false information, which additionaly have no scientific support. The authors conclude that the lie detectors can impossibly work as stated.

However, the lie detectors seem to make people being more truthful. The authors attribute this to the "Bogus Pipeline Effect" -that people are more inclined to tell the truth if the think that their lies will be detected. They also raise the question whether it is ethical to lie (give people the false illusion that you are able to discover their lies) in order to find the truth.

Pseudo science

Obviously, not only the legal services are easily mislead by "science". In his homepage, Dan Larhammar [8] provides several examples of pseudo science, from homeopathy to dowsers.


[1] Vetenskapsrådet, Good research practice, 3:2011. Stockholm, CM-Gruppen AB; 2011. [Online] Available: [Downloaded 2012, Dec., 17]
[2] B. A Nosek, J. Spies and M. Motyl, "Scientific Utopia: II - Restructuring Incentives and Practices to Promote Truth Over Publishability" (May 25, 2012). Perspectives on Psychological Science, Forthcoming. Available: [Downloaded 2013, Jan., 3]
[3] International Council For Science, "Freedom, Responsibility and Universality of Science". 2008. [Online]. Available: [Downloaded 2012, Dec. 17]
[4] BBC News. (2012, Oct., 22). "L'Aquila quake: Italy scientists guilty of manslaughter". [Online]. Available: [Downloaded 2013, Jan., 7]
[5] The Economist. (2009, Nov., 26). "Mail-strom Leaked e-mails do not show climat scientists at their best". [Online]. Available: [Downloaded 2012, Dec., 20]
[6] D. Frumkin, A. Wasserstrom, A. Davidson, A. Grafit, "Authentication of forensic DNA samples" Forensic Science International: Genetics, vol. 4, issue 2, 2009. [Online] Available [Downloaded 2013, Jan., 4]
[7] A. Eriksson, F. Lacerda, "Charlatanry in forensic speech science: A problem to be taken seriously", The International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law, vol 14.2, p 169-193, 2007. [Online]. Available [Downloaded 2012, Dec., 20]
[8] Dan Larhammar. (2012, Jan., 11). "Dan Larhammar's links with critical views on pseudoscience and mysticism". [Online]. Available: [Downloaded 2013, Jan., 4]

Marcus Björk,


VR´s report on good research practice deals with both ethical and leagal issues in research as well as more practical tips for how to handle collaborations, publishing, supervision etc. The report also refers to an extensive literature of declarations and acts treating research ethics and legislation.
As a starting point, ethics, laws and the Merton CUDOS norms are used to approach the topic in a more general sense. CUDOS stands for Communism/Communalism, Universalism, Disinterestedness and Organized Scepticism, and are a set of norms that, although not without problems, make up one of the cornerstones when judging misconduct or what good research practice is. Communalism states that research results should always be made public. Universalism states that everybody should be treated equal when research is assessed, regardless of ethnicity, gender etc. Disinterestedness means that the main reason for all research should be to merely gain new knowledge. Organized Scepticism means that you as a researcher always should be critical and question information given to you, as well as support all conclusions you make by rigid evidence.
The second chapter of the book talks about the purpose, usefulness, quality and reliability of research. Issues like conflicts of interest are treated. As an example, when the research funds are coming from a profit driven organization which would like to see a certain outcome of your research. How do you then handle negative results? How much influence can you let the funding agent have when it might conflict with good research practice? It is concluded that openness is one of the key concepts for good research practice. Any conflicts of interest should be clearly stated so that this is taken into account when reviewing the results.
A large part of the ethical discussion is with regard to medical trails with human or animal subjects as well as the handling of personal information. This is clearly one of the biggest and most evident areas in which ethical problems can arise in research. If one is dealing with research that is sensitive from an ethical perspective, an ethical review needs to be done. In the medical field it is even quite common that approval from an ethics committee is needed to conduct the research, since the use of humans and animals are regulated by law. Generally the judgment of approval is made based on weighing the benefit and harm that comes from the research in question. The report also states several open questions what can be used as a basis of discussion, and also lists problems with our current system of ethical evaluation or review.
Research misconduct is a big topic today when material is rapidly made available electronically. Controlling this flow of information to prevent plagiarism is difficult, but the digital era also brings new tools to prevent this, such as plagiarism detection software combined with databases. There are also several other types of research misconduct as fabrication of data. This is however not as easy to detect and prove and can cause big problems and even harm.

Andreas Sembrant,

Very interesting book about research practices. Nothing spectacularly new, but nicely summarized. And, I especially liked the "What would you do?" questions. Some, were very tricky.

I find that most of the practices has an underlying target for what is best for society (as it should). For example, why should a researcher be honest?

- Wastes money/time if someone base a new project on a flawed idea.

- Research becomes inefficient, since everything needs to be double checked (preferable by some other research group).

It also reminds me that I have different responsibilities depending on who I am talking too. If I present my research to:

- A fellow researcher: We have a common background and we hopefully make the same assumptions and have the same precondition. It is still important to present a clear picture about my research, but I do not have to careful about the consequences (just make sure that he/she does not steal my ideas :)).

- A reporter: I need to be more careful. For example, make sure that the importance of the findings is not exaggerated, since it can take a long time between basic research and an actual product. Furthermore, I also need to make sure that my contributions are clear. Research is usually a collaboration and based on previous work. It would not be fun to be contributed for something I did not do.

- For decision making: I can also have an role as an expert in my field of study. For example, to help politicians make well founded decisions. In such a role, it is not only my reputation that is at stake, but I the scientist field in general. I should therefore not make biased decisions and promote a solution that has been work out in my research group, but based my suggestion from insights in the whole field.

Overall, an interesting text that more PhD students should read.

Mahdad Davari,

International Council for Science (ICSU) [1] founded in 1931 is a NGO comprising of national scientific bodies and international scientific unions. Main activities of ICSU spin around a) planning and coordinating research, b) science for policy, and c) strengthening the universality of science.

Freedom in traveling within international scientific communities around the world and expressing ideas regardless of ethnic origin, religion, gender, etc. is referred to as "Universality of Science" and is an essential means for scientific progress. ICSU, as a part of their activities, provides mechanisms to ensure compliance with this principle.

What distinguishes a scientific method from other methods is the systematic research approach, based on gathering verifiable evidence from experiments built upon formulated problems. To promote science as a valuable global virtue and human's legacy which brings about technologies affecting the global society, free communication in the global scientific community, i.e. Universality of Science, is a necessity. On the other hand, this freedom should accompanied by responsibility and there should be a policy in scientific community to define a binding shared responsibility to use scientific observations and the resulted technologies in a direction towards the benefit of mankind and environment. ICSU defines and promotes Universality of Science through the below mentioned four factors.

Freedom of movement grants scientists the right to travel internationally without restrictions to interact with scientific communities; however, this is not always the case for some countries, generally referred to as exit/entry visa problem. As an example, some governments might prevent their citizens to leave the country due to political policies, or on the other hand, some countries might deny reception of foreign scientists due to security reasons.

Freedom of association in scientific communities defines the right for it members to free associate with all the scientific communities globally; however, boycotts is an example of an obstacle to this end, imposed by some governments who see contact with foreign scientific bodies as an attempt to espionage and treason.

For similar reasons mentioned above, scientists might be prevented from their right of freedom in expression and communication.

Finally, improper communication infrastructures and access fees might prevent researchers in some countries to access the latest publications and limit their right to access knowledge.

Concerning their research, scientists are required to be responsible for providing honest and accurate high quality research which is reproducible and verifiable. Towards the society, scientists are responsible for contributing to the growth of human knowledge and maintaining a sustainable growth, and also minimizing risks and dangers of the resulted technologies.

[1] Freedom, responsibility and universality of science:

Muneeb Khan,


Research of good quality is of prime importance when it comes to good research practices. Good researchers, in the presence of experimental results/proofs, should not avoid objecting to contemporary/well-accepted scientific ideas and beliefs. It is of prime importance for good researchers to pose such questions when the need arises. This is the only way research and innovation can progress. The requirements for orderly research (as per the Swedish research council) can be summarized as 1) Honesty - Be truthful about your research ideas, results, reasoning and conclusions; and don´t steal results from colleagues, 2) Openness - Methods and results should be openly reported without withholding any part important for the understanding of others. It is extremely important to be precise about how general the research idea and results are, 3) Orderliness - research should be conducted in a ways such that the research method´s procedure should be recorded (in a stepwise fashion) and should be reproducible when required by others, 4) Consideration - All people involved in the research should be given due recognition and acknowledged for their contribution to the work, 5) Impartiality - when assessing someone else´s work researchers should be impartial, and acknowledge the other party´s contribution in a fair way.

ICSU - The freedom of being able to express scientific opinions, access scientific data, research information and research materials is fundamental to the scientific progress. These freedoms are generally accepted by authorities and governments worldwide. As a results scientists freely travel the world over to express their opinions irrespective of age, sex, ethnicity, religious, personal and political beliefs. However, in some cases breaches of such understandings do occur and hence it is required that some impartial regulatory authority can intervene when required at local, national and international levels. Balancing of freedoms and responsibilities can become problematic especially when a research idea has a potential business value and the inventor wishes to withhold the idea for reasons of patenting/intellectual property. It can also be extremely difficult to define openness when research is conducted for state/global defence and surveillance systems, in which case maintaining secrecy is of utmost importance. Moreover,it must be recognized that at time research efforts can directly affect the wellbeing of humans, animals and environment. In such cases, scientific efforts that tend to misuse science deliberately, leading to harmful results, should be avoided. So, it is extremely important that scientists conducting research openly acknowledge the implications of their scientific efforts.

The paper titled "Charlatanry in forensic speech science: A problem to be taken seriously" shows a case study where two forensic lie detector devices (based on the idea of stress or deception detection in speech) are analyzed. It is found that the machines perform at chance level and its underlying principles are not supported by any scientific explanation. This is clearly a case of chalantary and responsible authorities are advised not to use it. The paper titled "Authentication of forensic DNA samples" raises the issue of DNA being faked (using standard procedures) and implanted into crime scenes. The paper claims that there is no method that is currently used by law enforcement agencies (globally) that can distinguish original from faked DNA. They propose a method that can successfully identify faked DNA and any attempt of misplay.

Nikos Nikoleris,


The article "Good Research Practice - What Is It?" explores some important
ethical issues that all researchers face while conducting their research
projects. The authors sum up their main requirements of good research in
words like Honesty, Openness, Orderliness, Consideration and

To analyze the moral implications of research it is important is to set
its goals. Therefore the authors start by identifying them as 1) the
tangible progress that it brings to our every day life, 2) the knowledge
produced and finally 3) the value of its process.

Although in most cases good research cannot be planned in detail it is
always a good idea to try to plan as much as possible and also keep a
regular record of how the work progresses. Although research by its
nature is the exploration of the unknown, planning helps to understand
better the steps that need to be taken. Keeping a record of the process
otherwise helps when in retrospect one wants to verify or defend the
produced results.

The method and the field of research are many cases tightly coupled in
certain areas. As it is with ideas it is also important to explore new
methods. It is usually easier to consider different methods when working
in collaboration with other researchers with different methodological
traditions. In many fields data handling and archiving is strictly
required as others can build on top of them without replicating the
effort. Also in cases where the results of the results of study are
questioned data may be needed to further investigate.

Research in many cases produce results that ideally bring changes to the
public life or at least can potentially be used by others to base their
research upon. Therefore results should be made public as soon as
possible but not before all possible sources of error have been
pragmatically considered. The authors make some remarks about the
reviewing processes for which their is an ongoing discussion trying to
improve it and limit its shortcomings. Special care should be taken when
results are popularized and possibly presented in the media.

The authors emphasize on the value of collaboration between researchers
and groups even across the boarders of a country. Coordinating becomes a
major issue in large projects where well defined roles and communication
channels is key to ensure progress. They also discuss the recent trend
to collaborate with entities in industry. They issues that usually arise
there in most cases have to do with non disclosing all the information
about the results or the processes that were followed and might limit
the potential profit of the companies involved.

Another important aspect that they try to analyze is research
misconduct, that in many cases steams from conflict of interest between
the researchers' and the society's benefit. They distinguish though
between misconduct and poor practices in research as it should be
distinguished by the intentions of the researcher.

Most of the points made in the paper are not new. The ethical guidelines
set for research are not produced in isolation, they rest on widely
accepted values of our culture. However most of these guidelines, and
that is shown very well in the examples, can be used as a reference in
many very hard to deal with problems while conducting research.

Uppdaterad  2013-01-21 10:01:15 av Omer Ishaq.