IndiaBiostreams: Webinar on Research Ethics

Research Ethics

A moderated discussion with leading researchers on ethical practices in academic research. The topics covered include purity of data, publication ethics and plagiarism. This discussion is broadly based on the National Policy on Academic Ethics”, a document that was issued by the office of the Principal Scientific Advisor (PSA) to Government of India in the year 2019.

Content Annotations

0:00 Welcome

1:07 Audience Poll (Getting to know you)

2:05 Introduction

2:36 Message from Prof. K. VijayRaghavan

7:59 Topics of the Webinar

9:20 Audience Poll (Purity of data)

10:26 Address by Dr. Mukund Thattai

18:42 Discussion (How do you label, track and store the vast amount of data that you generate in your lab?)

21:37 Audience Poll (Publication Ethics)

23:04 Address by Prof. Sunil Mukhi

30:42 Discussion (Do you discuss authorship criteria and publication ethics with your students?)

32:40 Audience Poll (Plagiarism)

34:02 Address by Dr. Saman Habib

46:25 Discussion (How do you teach your students about plagiarism? Do you encourage the use of text-matching software?)

48:09 Questions & Answers

48:35 If you are a student and are under an obligation to add your supervisor’s name on a paper, do you have an option?

50:18 In the light of recent occurrences of retractions and pub-peer flaggings, what can the community do collectively towards any resolution?

52:08 Is the two hour course on ethics, which covers plagiarism, announced by UGC for students a good systemic solution to fix the problem?

55:46 Is legal interventions a good way to help curtain predatory journals and thus protect the community?

57:51 What is the role of whistleblowers in addressing plagiarism and reporting data manipulation and what procedures can one follow in doing this?

59:41 Is it and if yes, why is it wrong to repeat one’s own work (self-plagiarise)?

1:01:25 Conclusion

1:02:50 Curated resources on research ethics from India and around the world

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Should someone who has contributed samples, done a small experiment for someone else’s project, participated in data collection, or worked as a short-term trainee be given authorship if the results so gathered lead to a paper?

This depends on the standard in the field. It is not possible to address this type of question without knowing whether we are talking about Biology, Chemistry, Physics or some other area, and even then the community standard in the relevant sub-field would apply. It is advised that PI’s discuss such questions with all members of their team well in advance of any publication coming out. This way no one will have incorrect or unreasonable expectations.

What can a researcher do if they find out that their name was added to a paper without their consent? Conversely, what can they do if they find out they have not been given authorship for a paper they have contributed to?

For the first case they can contact the corresponding authors to see if there was some misunderstanding. If the corresponding authors do not respond and cooperate, the aggrieved party may write to the journal stating that her/​his name was used without consent. The second case is more tricky. In this case it is best to contact the PI (who may also be the corresponding author, though not necessarily). This would be the person who has decided on the author list. Disputes about this due to differing perceptions are not unusual. If someone feels aggrieved at being excluded and strongly believes this was inappropriate, even after hearing the PI’s point of view, then she/​he may file a formal complaint with the relevant institution. In these situations journals are unlikely to do anything given that they have no way of determining who deserves to be an author.

What are the ethical obligations one should follow while presenting someone else’s work (e.g. a colleague’s or a student’s) at a conference? (Publication/​Citation)

It should be clear to the audience that the work being presented is not that of the speaker but that of the other person. How it is made clear can vary, but every effort must be made to avoid giving a misleading impression that it is the speaker’s own work being discussed.

How can one avoid unintentional plagiarism while writing (1) scientific statements of fact, or (2) materials and methods?

    f the scientific statement of fact falls in the purview of common knowledge”, citing is optional and plagiarism is not a major issue. Any other idea being taken from a published or online source should either be quoted verbatim (with quotation marks) and cited, OR paraphrased so as to differ substantially in word usage/​sentence structure accompanied with citation of the source.

    Materials and methods are trickier. Things like buffer composition and straight sentences are often picked up by plagiarism detection software. Try and rephrase methods as much as possible and always cite the published reference(s) from which the method has been taken.

    What are the rules for plagiarism when you are citing someone else’s ideas in your paper? i.e. Can one use the same words, or is it necessary to rephrase the ideas (this is assuming that the original source is being duly cited)?

      If someone else’s idea is being cited and you want to use the same words, please put quotation marks and cite verbatim, citing and referencing the original source. If you are changing even a single word and therefore not putting quotation marks, you must rephrase carefully and cite the original source of the idea.

      Can a student reuse text between their paper and thesis, or while writing a proposal?

        If you are using text from your published papers in your thesis or proposals (this is fairly common practice), you must cite your paper every time you do this. It is best to re-phrase as much as possible.

        Should universities make plagiarism-checking software available to students for free? Do the panellists know of any completely open-source or free plagiarism checking software, as most require payment beyond a certain number of words?

          Yes, they should. JNU had made plagiarism software available to all its faculty and associated institutes for PhD programs for 3 – 4 years and it was very useful for checking possible plagiarism issues in student reports and PhD theses.

          The quality of detection by plagiarism software depends on the number of databases accessed by them. Better softwares (Turnitin, iThenticate) are available at a price.