Research Integrity is a subject that not only concerns journals and editors, but experts from many fields and disciplines, across Europe and worldwide.
The Printeger Conference on Research Integrity in Bonn in early February 2018 provided a platform for understanding and discussion of the many facets and aspects that play a role when trying to deal with integrity related issues. (https://printeger.eu/conference2018/) Researchers, commission members, entrepreneurs and experts from a wide variety of fields gathered at Bonn University and discussed integrity as a cultural and social phenomenon and as a threat to scholarly knowledge production. Moreover significant steps were made to develop an updated version of the ALLEA code of conduct 2011.
In many of the conference sessions it was debated how training, workflows, standards and policies could be transformed and used to keep science clean from error or misbehavior: Rachel Douglas-Jones for example explained in her lecture how it was important to translate a national code of conduct into universities in Denmark. In her eyes it were foremost PhD students that in the future will function as agents of reform. Her research group analyzed how doctoral students eventually change their concepts of integrity over time and how the practical demands of scholarly careers may have an effect on research practices.
Hugh Desmond from KU Leuven gave a talk in which he elaborated on how to actually distinguish between research misconduct and incompetent research – a line that is not always easy to draw. He pointed out that existing codes of conduct are still not consistent when it comes to defining these boundaries and that there are no clear and unequivocal criteria for when misconduct must be considered a criminal act. He claimed that it requires a clear terminology for incompetence in research and that it is necessary to either follow through on strengthening criminal statutes or to reconceive how to define misconduct.
Jennifer Gewinner from ETH Zürich presented the results of a study in which she showed how retraction notices in major journals rather conceal fraud and indicate error instead rather than presenting the real nature and dimension of misconduct. In her eyes it is desirable to establish clear standards for how retraction notices should be designed and of the information that need to be presented to the wider academic public.
Nicholas Fox from Rutgers University analyzed questionable research behaviors amongst tenure track professors in the fields of psychology. His creative approach used social networks as a source for estimating the size of the population, which engaged in questionable practices. He found that 18 percent of the analyzed population admitted to have engaged in such practices over the last 12 month, which is – given the fact that this number might only represent the tip of the iceberg – must be considered quite alarming.
Mario Malicki from the University of Amsterdam looked at information policies and instructions to authors in a wide variety of journals. Less than a third of all journals, he reported, actually mentions research integrity explicitly and 92 journals have no instructions for authors at all.
These are only a few spotlights and insights from this inspiring conference (for more information see: https://printeger.eu/agenda/), and it is worth mentioning that much more attention is required to better understand the phenomenon of research integrity and its consequences for the scholarly community at large. It often has been claimed that scholarly work bases on mutual trust, but as long as the research community is not fully aware of the many aspects that may lead to mistakes or how sloppiness can lead to poor results which in the end harm the health and lives of people there need to be many more event like the Printeger Conference 2018.
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Dealing with research integrity related issues requires not only a thorough understanding of the fundamental logics of scholarly work, but of the multiple reasons why misconduct is happening or why errors occur. Thus it is equally important to understand how fabrications, falsifications or plagiarism happen as it is to initiate discussion and exchange inside the scholarly community to raise awareness and find appropriate solutions of how errors may be prevented.
Please watch the latest HEADT Centre video for an introduction to the research integrity initiative at Humboldt Universität zu Berlin and learn about how we plan to make our contribution to preserving excellence in science.
The HEADT Centre held its biannual board meeting on 11 January 2018 in Berlin. This time the meeting took place at the Einstein Center Digital Future (ECDF) on Wilhelmstr. opposite the historic Reichstag building in Berlin. The HEADT Centre is a member of ECDF thanks to a new “Digital Berlin” professorship financed by both Elsevier and the city of Berlin. The HEADT Centre’s research integrity project, and its general focus on issues involving integrity and quality, complement a broad range of ECDF projects, as does the second more technical HEADT Centre project on Multi-Modal Similarity Search on Web-Scale Data.
The Board reviewed progress during the last months with particular emphasis on the Image Integrity Database (IIDB), which serves as a joint effort of the two core projects. (See the separate blog post on this.) The IIDB has potential to become one of the most visible attributes of the HEADT Centre work, both because scholars need a testbed where they can learn how to use tools for detecting image manipulation, and because the IIDB demonstrates the range of problems involving scholarly images. At this point the focus of the IIDB will remain on content in the biological and medical sciences, but the possibility of future expansion remains open. IIDB staff will also help scholars, publishers, and institutions trying to determine whether manipulation took place.
Another important initiative of the HEADT Centre are the seminars that are being offered internationally online to members of the iSchool group. The focus of these seminars is not the traditional about what not to do, but gives doctoral students and others a chance to ask questions about potential grey-area issues. As part of the Berlin School of Library and Information Science, the HEADT Centre will also offer a certificate programme on Digital Information Stewardship in cooperation with University College Dublin. Research integrity will be a significant element in the programme.
Marketing played a role in the Board Meeting as well. The Board saw excerpts from promotional videos that were made with the help of Elsevier on research integrity topics. The videos are available on YouTube.
The HEADT Centre team is currently creating and implementing a comprehensive database with images from retracted scientific publications (“Image Integrity Database”, or short: “IIDB”). The aim is to produce a searchable database for researchers worldwide who want to learn more about the nature of inappropriate image manipulation. The database offers a test set of images for scholars who are working on the development of image manipulation detection algorithms or image analysis tools to facilitate an automated screening of images in publications.
The plan is to produce a structured database, which allows assessing images from retracted publications on an individual case level. For each image case there will be a full package of associated data that allows a better understanding of the complexity of such cases, such as links to RetractionWatch or PubPeer, links to the original article or to retraction notices, information about the authors and teams, the journals and the academic fields, and more.
Often evaluating image manipulation requires a broad investigation that goes beyond a computational analysis of pixels in an image, and involves an investigation into individual routines and practices, workflows and standards and community guidelines, as well as an evaluation of the larger ecology in which such cases occur. The database provides all available data to facilitate a more thorough understanding of the phenomenon.
One crucial element for the automated detection of image manipulations is to provide access to the original image data. Very often images in publications are only accessible in the form of pdf’s with reduced quality, which normally are the result of selection and sometimes even excessive editing.
The HEADT Centre team hopes to establish partnerships with publishers to include original image data wherever available and possible. For legal reasons the database may first be made accessible to restricted group of collaborators participating in further development, before it will be made accessible to a larger audience.
For more detailed information on the project or to keep in touch, please visit our blog again or simply leave a message.
the fourth image flyer with backside….
a third motif…
a second motif …
This is a first set of image flyers Thorsten Beck from the research integrity group produced for HEADT Centre outreach purposes.
On July 12, Michael Seadle and Thorsten Beck from the HEADT Centre research integrity group organized an education and learning event with doctoral students from Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. The aim of the workshop was to introduce participants to aspects of plagiarism, data fraud and image manipulation. We discussed in depth a grayscale model that supports decision-making processes when analyzing and judging plagiarism.
In the discussion, students were eager to learn about potential tools that may facilitate preventing plagiarism in their dissertations and about how university committees make their decisions. It became reasonably clear that by far not all cases that cause trouble can be judged as plagiarism, but occasionally occur due to errors. Participants of the workshop had a background in the humanities, such as history and social sciences as well as library and information science.
On Wednesday, July 12 the HEADT Centre opened its doors for the first HEADT Centre Summer Reception. About thirty invited guests from different fields and with various professional backgrounds joined the event, which was organized to offer an opportunity for discussion and exchange with regard to the topic of scholarly integrity.
Among our guests, we welcomed representatives from integrity commissions at universities in Berlin, from agencies of oversight, from science intense industries as well as publishing houses and of course many friends and colleagues from institutes at our university.
The summer reception was the first of a series of events that will be held to establish networks and support collaborations among researchers and professionals in the Berlin region and beyond.