Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Managing one's research career ..

Importance of ethics and perseverance in Research and publishing in reputed impactful journals ....

Most of us would not say it is a menace, but these days most of us professors are in the mad race to publish and get noticed. But have we understood the importance of Ethics in research and the importance of the work in furthering the domain of knowledge. ? That is a serious question bogging the research community for long.

While going through a paper by David Resnick Ph.D.on ethics in research, it was found very useful and interesting in understanding what constitutes basics ethics in research. Because of the author's earlier exposure to good standards of ethics in research practised by Professors in IIT Bombay in India, it is symptomatic of the ills plaguing the system to see colleagues in the mad rush to publish even in "paid journals" to get their work in print form.

When one sends a paper to a sub standard journal or a paid journal ( paid journal is a big menace these days), there is no cross checking of whether that contribution is unique, insightful, worthy of being pursued further and whether that work is going to advance the frontiers of knowledge in the field. Everything from quality to content to format is sacrificed at the altar of money. It is just published. The impact of the research may be very small or misleading to say the least. Its impact may be in a narrow area, yet the paper may be titled misleadingly and made to appear as if it covers a broad area and is cutting-edge work. We all have come across faculty colleagues resorting to such tactics in our earlier institutions. This is the starting point of poor research ethics. Some Professors if made aware of the implications of their casual attitude to research and publishing may be willing to change. And it is definitely worth the effort !

As a result of this casual attitude, most of us lose focus on the quality of the work and instead look only at the quantity of papers. Even for interviews and selection to higher positions, importance is given to the number of papers than to the quality of papers.  At Alliance University, I am impressed, the Chancellor, Prof Madhukar Angur PhD, being an academician, has put it out clearly that any paper to be recognised, has to be published in a Journal with an impact factor of 1, though very few faculty in the last one year have managed to enter that area. But even then some faculty do publish in paid journals ! A proper enlightening session on how to carry out good research needs to be taken up in right earnest ..

An impact factor of 1 for a journal for a year means the papers / materials published in that journal for the preceding two year period have been cited on "an average" once in other journals. Similarly an impact factor of 3 means each paper published in that journal for the preceding two years have been on an average cited three times in the preceding two years in other journals. ie. if totally the papers in the journal X over two years (2006 and 2007) have been cited 90 times (A) in other journals ( during 2006 and 2007) and about 30 papers (B) have been published in these two years ( 2006 and 2007) in the journal X, then A/B = 90/30 = 3 is the impact factor of the journal for the year 2008.

Hope we researchers stick to research ethics and continue to work hard and focused to come out with top quality papers in top rated journals of the world to contribute to advance the frontiers of knowledge in the subject area we are working.

Some of the ethics issues quoted in the above paper are reproduced here for the public. (courtesy Prof Resnick) 

  • Publishing the same paper in two different journals without telling the editors
  • Submitting the same paper to different journals without telling the editors
  • Not informing a collaborator of your intent to file a patent in order to make sure that you are the sole inventor
  • Including a colleague as an author on a paper in return for a favor even though the colleague did not make a serious contribution to the paper
  • Discussing with your colleagues confidential data from a paper that you are reviewing for a journal
  • Trimming outliers from a data set without discussing your reasons in paper
  • Using an inappropriate statistical technique in order to enhance the significance of your research
  • Bypassing the peer review process and announcing your results through a press conference without giving peers adequate information to review your work
  • Conducting a review of the literature that fails to acknowledge the contributions of other people in the field or relevant prior work
  • Stretching the truth on a grant application in order to convince reviewers that your project will make a significant contribution to the field
  • Stretching the truth on a job application or curriculum vita
  • Giving the same research project to two graduate students in order to see who can do it the fastest
  • Overworking, neglecting, or exploiting graduate or post-doctoral students
  • Failing to keep good research records
  • Failing to maintain research data for a reasonable period of time
  • Making derogatory comments and personal attacks in your review of author's submission
  • Promising a student a better grade for sexual favors
  • Using a racist epithet in the laboratory
  • Making significant deviations from the research protocol approved by your institution without telling the committee or the board
  • Not reporting an adverse event in a human research experiment
  • Wasting animals in research
  • Exposing students and staff to biological risks in violation of your institution's biosafety rules
  • Rejecting a manuscript for publication without even reading it
  • Sabotaging someone's work
  • Stealing supplies, books, or data
  • Rigging an experiment so you know how it will turn out
  • Making unauthorized copies of data, papers, or computer programs
  • Owning stock in a company that sponsors your research and not disclosing this financial interest
  • Deliberately overestimating the clinical significance of a new drug in order to obtain economic benefits

  • This is a good article on what is good, basic research from Richard Hamming of Bell labs, from University of Viriginia ( pdf format) and how to manage one's research career ..

    Let us work together for a better tomorrow for the world ..


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