October 12, 2020

Ilya Casanova Romero

Skipping unethical conduct in research

Afew years ago, we joined a group of researchers around an uneasiness, good research practices, at that time we were struck by how some researchers increased the number of articles and the number of citations in such a disproportionate way that they could not be awarded to any collaborative work, much less, that its results were associated with research projects. This led us to ask how much of this was beyond the ethics of science? How many bad practices were developing in research? What is the motivation of some "researchers" that leads them to turn their backs on their ethics?

When we began to investigate, we found an underworld that still amazes us, the behind the scenes of science is complex, but, above all, it has a black veil that many know what is happening, but few want to speak out because of the reprisals that this would entail for his academic career. In such a way, that, at first, most of what we found was more anecdotal, we learned of some positions where researchers viewed some bad practices favorably and that they should be taught, this in particular worried us, since a generation of novice researchers were being trained under these unethical principles.

PhD. Wileidys Artigas and myself, through the experience of PhD. José Padrón Guillén† we saw certain situations that could have almost involvement with bad practices, among them we find: ghost authorship (unacceptable in science) , gift authorship (whose initial motivation in some cases was to stimulate a novice researcher), change the order of authorship or exclude a colleague, however, plagiarism is the one that has affected science the most, appropriating the idea of another has many edges, which in some cases leads to the falsification of figures, of course, these are not the only ones.

At present, the generation of new means of dissemination without control or with dubious intentions has taken advantage of people who use science for particular purposes, extreme ideologies, changes in cultural patterns or make something that may be against society look scientific because research has the purpose of solving problems necessary for that society, not of fabricating investigations to favor their personal, political or economic desires, we could see this as a penalty for science.

Going into these situations led us to another question, which has the compass been lost, in what it means to generate knowledge and the responsibility of science towards society? This has undoubtedly influenced the training of researchers, where some consolidated, instead of teaching what should be, or what is the purpose of research, or where the generation of knowledge should be directed, some are being instilled in them. Vices that respond more to the increase in its global indicators or its visibility, regardless of the means to achieve it. We understood that motivation is diverse and depends on the level at which it is taking action: political, economic or personal, but that, in short, we cannot call it academic ... at this point, we assumed that the north had been definitively lost.

The truth is that not everything has been bad news, science is responding to this escalation of unethical behavior, we received a boost in an editors' congress, when we were called to write about this topic in a journal of Academic Integrity, It was a great satisfaction, beyond thinking about indexing orcitations, we are comforted to know that ethics continues to move and that we are not alone. Know that various movements are being articulated around where scientific production should be turning and expose those who try violating its aims to academic derision.

We have seen how scientific journals adapt their policies and how the indexes/databases where they aspire to be included already demand to show their ethics and anti-plagiarism policies. The responsible practices movement continues to grow, researchers and editorial committees have resources for self-evaluation and certification of these. One of the organizations that stands out is COPE (Committee on Publication Ethics) who is committed to education, supporting editors, publishers and all those who are involved in the issue of ethics in publications.

In different instances we try promoting from our spaces the training of researchers through good practices, in the end, it is the main motivation, we are weaving networks and this space is also an opportunity to communicate that there is hope.

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