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No research is complete without publication. Publication facilitates the open exchange of information among researchers and exposes research methods and findings to the scrutiny of the larger scientific community. It allows us to differentiate what is and what is not credible in research. Publication also allows us to track new ideas or discoveries, to demonstrate productive use of research funds, and it provides a record by which a research career can be judged. Publication is a central part to the practice of science, and scientists are under considerable pressure to publish.
For much of the last century, peer review has been the principal mechanism by which the quality of research is judged. The peer-review process is based on the notion that, because much of academic inquiry is relatively specialized, peers with similar expertise are in the best position to judge one another’s work. On the one hand allows us to evaluate the quality of research, on the other hand it is a valuable tool to provide feedback that can be used to improve on a manuscript or otherwise. You can find more information on peer-reviewing here.
Between the different aspects of science, publication is handled in different ways. For example, for most medical journals, the guidelines for publication is a document from the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE). You can find these guidelines in this PDF. Journals often have their own rules and styles when it comes to publications, please make sure to look them up in advance.
Besides the formal requirements to publishing, there are some moral rules that are worth clarifying:
- Publications should present some substantive and new results or analysis, and should not serve merely to increase the author’s number of publications.
- Authors should seek to publish accurate, complete, clear and unbiased representations of their work. This includes the background, the methods used, the findings, the significance and contributions of the work, as well as a fair assignment of authorship and credit.
It might be possible that your research has not met the results you initially hoped for, and instead offering results that refute current ideas or carefully constructed hypothesises. These so called ‘negative results’ should not be viewed as a failure however, as they offer precious insight in the research subject. For example, the Journal of Negative Results in Biomedicine Journal offers means of publishing these results as well.
Publishing is an integral part of our scientific method, it should be done in a proper manner.
UMCG Research Code here.
Researchers talk about their passion for science.
Student’s Perspective: Iris de Jong on Scientific Integrity
Training students, both undergraduate and post-graduate, in the issues and importance of academic integrity is essential for the integrity of the research enterprise. Therefore, mentors, advisors and supervisors play a formative role in the ethical development of students and trainees, by conveying professional values and ethical standards to junior researchers, both consciously and unconsciously.
A junior researcher will be looking to answer questions such as why and how do we do research? Or, what challenges do you face as a researcher and how to face them? A mentor can provide advice and guidance when faced with these questions. In addition, mentors can provide information that is specific to the field, a particular individual, and a given situation. As a junior researcher you should seek out those with the experience to help. This goes both ways, those that have the research experience and insight should be seeking out to help those that lack the required means in their field of expertise.
Junior researchers usually carry out research under the supervision of a more experienced researcher, namely their supervisor (a postdoc, staff member or professor). There are often more formal, and various codes and guidelines regulate both the position of the junior researcher and that of the supervisor.
For example, the UMCG research code states that, in general, the supervisor of a junior researcher has the following tasks:
- teaching the junior researcher;
- enthusing the junior researcher and showing a keen interest in his or her work;
- (helping to shape or) shaping the desired activities of the junior researcher in concrete terms;
- supervising the junior researcher with an appropriate degree of intensity and respect.
These guidelines can vary between institutions, but often concern the same subjects.
Mentoring relationships are a fundamental obligation both for those who can serve as mentors because of their experience and insight as well as those who are in need of mentoring because they lack the requisite experience or insight.
- You can find the UMCG Research Code here.
For many reasons, science increasingly depends on collaborations. Collaborative research can increase the ability of scientists to make significant advances in their fields in general and in their own research programs specifically. No single person has the skills, knowledge and resources to address all research problems, working together can save considerable time and money. Research funding for interdisciplinary projects are more prevalent, and advances in communication technologies have augmented opportunities for research interactions.
Yet, sharing an interest in the same research area or having complementary skills do not guarantee a working collaboration. Issues rise up frequently regarding authorship, data management or even the general scope and direction of the project. Even minor misunderstandings can stand in the way of a fruitful collaboration.
To work well, certain parameters need to be discussed and defined up front. Written partnering agreements are possible, and offer the advantage of being less ambiguous than either party’s idea of what was agreed upon. However, a lot of the issues that arise can be prevented by anticipating, discussing and inspecting possible areas of disagreement , before agreeing on a collaboration. The American Office of Research Integrity (ORI) has issued a list of questions that can be used by collaborators to address these issues, these include questions like:
- What are the scientific issues, goals, and anticipated outcomes or products of the collaboration?
- How will you decide about redirecting the research agenda as discoveries are made?
- How, and by whom, will personnel decisions be made? How and by whom will personnel be supervised?
You can find the full list of questions and more information here.
Collaboration is imperative to science. Working together enhances opportunities, it poses great possibilities for advances in science. It is not, however, guaranteed to work out. Make sure you maintain a good line of communication between collaborators and discuss problems before they actually occur. Making collaborations work is not an easy task.
- Take a look at Silence is not Golden: Making Collaborations Work by the same Office of Research Integrity.
Authorship is the most visible form of academic recognition and credit, next to which it hosts various social and financial implications. Authorship however, goes beyond personal gratification alone. Authorship also implies responsibility and accountability for published work. In essence, attribution of credit and responsibility is central to the structure of science. When determining authorship credit it is essential to ensure that those who have made significant intellectual contributions are given credit. Secondly, the contributors credited as authors should understand that being credited also means taking responsible and being accountable for what is published.
The framework of science depends in part on the ability of institutions, policy makers, and the public to identify who is responsible for the work and its interpretation. Funding agencies consider past success, as evidenced by authorship, in the allocation of research grants. Research institutions often use authorship as evidence of creative contributions that warrant promotion. Scientists themselves may use credit for past work as a mechanism to attract both new trainees and willing collaborators. Finally, in an era of increasing emphasis on commercialization, authorship and credit help to define intellectual property rights. These and other reasons explain scientists’ desire for the credit of authorship, and also make clear why the assignment of authorship is central to the responsible conduct of research.
The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) recommends authorship be based upon the following four criteria:
- Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work; AND
- Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content; AND
- Final approval of the version to be published; AND
- Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.
In addition to being accountable for the parts of the work he or she has done, authors should have confidence in the integrity of the contribution of their co-authors.