Ethics and Academic Integrity: Analysis of Academic Life in the Light of Academic Freedom
I strongly believe that the ethics of collaborative research in regards to co-authoring, disseminating of research outcomes, and ethics of research teams should be carefully explored and scrutinized in the context in which research in the field of sociology is mostly done in teams of experts of different background. A good ethical collaboration among the team members is thus of upmost importance for the purpose of an authentic research.
In order to critically assess the dimensions of the ethics of collaborative research, it is important first of all to understand that the academic life in the light of academic freedom is embedded in a moral personal, and collective responsibility. As such, following the Code of Ethics in Academic Research of the European University Institute (EUI), academic freedom is seen as the freedom “to teach study and pursue knowledge and research without unreasonable interference or restriction from law, institutional regulations or public pressure[footnoteRef:1]”. This addresses the freedom of scholars to study any subject that conjures intellectual apprehension, and to be able to publish the found data and personal or empirical conclusions without censorship as well as to further teach their acquired knowledge in the way they seem more professionally fit[footnoteRef:2]. [1: European University Institute, Code of Ethics in Academic Research, IUE 533/17 (CA480) REV.1,2017. p. 5] [2: Ibid, p.6]
Moreover, in regards to the embedded responsibility attached to the researchers’ duties, the Code of Ethics in Academic Research of EUI also explains that “integrity, accountability, and responsibility in conducting academic research form the foundation of any academic enterprise and violations of widely-recognized academic research standards represent serious offenses to the entire academic community[footnoteRef:3]”. [3: Idem.]
Second of all, researchers of various social sciences are conducting their professional enquiries in different places around the world. Due to this, it is important to bear in mind the imperative of moral conduct in terms of ethical approach towards research. Referring once again to the academic community, it is fair to assess that regardless of the place where the research in done, in granting ones’ membership of a wider academic community researchers owe various obligations to that community and can expect consideration from it. Through this we can clearly see that our personal responsibility toward academic freedom and authentic research in interconnected to the academic community as a whole insofar that any breach of moral conduct is an offense toward us as well as our field colleagues[footnoteRef:4]. In order to maintain such ethical criterion, academic integrity represents a shared commitment to the values such as “honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, legality and dissemination.
As previously stated, there are cases in which research must be conducted in collaborating with experts/researchers of different backgrounds of other disciplines. More than that, a research team is usually composed as well of field assistants, clerical staff, students etc. As such, we ought to make clear the ethical and professional obligations and take account of the ethical principles of each and every collaborator. It is imperative to start by clarifying the roles, rights and obligations of each team member in relation to matters such as the access to and rights in data and field notes (if any), the division of labour for field research as well as writing the actual research paper, each ones’ responsibilities, right and to publication, co-authorship or professional liability.
Third of all, in line with other researchers and official code of ethics, I consider that although the outcomes of research can be disseminated in a variety of ways (such as journal articles) it is quite important to acknowledge the merits of an author as a direct responsibility to acknowledge his/her work and value accordingly. In this sense, it should be highlighted that to be named as an author, a researcher must have made a substantial scholarly contribution to the presented work and be able to take responsibility for at least that part of the work they contributed for[footnoteRef:6]. [6: Tarkang, E. E., Kweku, M., & Zotor, F. B. Publication Practices and Responsible Authorship: A Review Article. Journal of public health, 8(1), 723. 2009. pp.2-4.]
Therefore, attribution of authorship can be determined to some extent on the discipline of study, but in all cases, authorship must always be based on the substantial contributions in a combination of:
Thus we can observe that the right to authorship is not secured to any social-economic position or profession and is not interdepended on whether the contribution was remunerated with a salary or done voluntarily. In terms of authorship, I do not consider that it is enough to provide materials or normal technical support, or to have made the measurements on which the publication is based; as such, substantial intellectual contribution is required.
Forth of all, having established how we can or should name an author, we should also keep in mind that a person who is suitable as an author can not be either included or excluded as an author without their consent. In accordance to a publisher house rules of ethical conduct of authorship, Blackwell Publishing’s position on the major ethical principles of academic publishing advises that the consent of the author(s) should be done in writing, and include a brief description of their contribution to the work insofar as to ensure the authenticity and legacy of their research[footnoteRef:7]. It is important to see that a significant collective work has responsibilities analogous to those listed above for authorship and, in such cases[footnoteRef:8]; similar criteria apply to “editor” as to “author”. However, the term “editor” should be applied only to a person who has played a significant role in the intellectual shaping of a publication. [7: Graf C., Wager E., Bowman A., Fiack S., Scott-Lichter D., Robinson A. Best Practice Guidelines on Publication Ethics: a publisher’s perspective. International Journal of Clinical Practices Supplement.(152):1-26. 2007. Pp. 10-12.] [8: Ibid. pp.5-7.]
Moreover, it is of substantial importance to highlight that researchers should follow the authorship criteria as described above as well as their institution’s policies[footnoteRef:9]. As such the collaborating scholars should agree at an early stage in the research project on authorship of a publication and should review their decisions periodically. Moreover, researchers must offer authorship to all people, including research trainees (such as the students), who meet the criteria for authorship analyzed previously. Needless to say that, individuals who are offered authorship must and can accept or decline in writing this provided opportunity. Lastly, the available literature of ethical research provides that “if an author is deceased or cannot be contacted, the publication can proceed provided that there are no grounds to believe that this person would have objected to being included as an author[footnoteRef:10]”. [9: Ibid. p.2.] [10: Ibid. p.20.]
In terms of bad practices and fraudulent behaviors in research teams, it must be said that authorship should never be offered to those who did not (substantially) contribute to the research insofar as the listed criteria of authorship eligibility is concerned[footnoteRef:11]. For example, social, professional, economic status does not qualify as a criterion to which authorship can be claimed. Neither does routine technical support or provision of third-party acquired input of other publications of which the provider has no intellectual property of[footnoteRef:12]. [11: Ibid. pp.11-15.] [12: Ibid. pp.15-17]
To sum up, the inclusion of an author on a research paper should be always based on the extent of his/her contribution(s) to the outset, design, analysis, and interpretation of data or attainment of data. The main researchers should nevertheless accept and bear the overall responsibility for the conduct of a study, including it publication(s), and must inform, from the beginning, all members of the research team of their roles, as well as to train them in the responsible manner of research. Lastly but of upmost importance is the obtaining of a written confirmation that collaborators of the research team agree to the set terms of research conduct. It is important to highlight that the process of responsible (co-)authorship begins before the writing of the manuscript itself, with the virtuous scientific study design and with researchers respecting the ethical guidelines of their respective institutions.
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