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Column on Information Integrity


Scholarly Plagiarism - How Damaging?

Prof. Michael Seadle,  March 2019

I am on record as saying that I regard plagiarism as an ethical and copyright problem, but that other forms of integrity violations such as data manipulation, image manipulation, or data falsification are more serious because they undermine the reliability of data and our ability to build on the results. (Seadle, 2019) Plagiarism hunters often emphasize the ethical damage or the putative loss to copyright holders. The goal of this column is to examine the damage done specifically by scholarly plagiarism to attempt to measure its consequences...


Defining Predatory Journals

Prof. Michael Seadle,  August 2018

The Süddeutsche Zeitung published an article recently in which a fictitious author, “R. Funden” (equivalent in English to “I. Maginary”), wrote a fake study on “Die kombinierten Effekte von Essigsäureethylesterextrakten in Bienenharz auf das Absterben menschlicher Darmkrebsstellen” (English: “The combined effects of ethyl acetate extracts in bee resin on the death of human colon cancer sites”) (Bauer et al., 2018, p. 12). The Journal of Integrative Oncology accepted the article with the claim that a reviewer wanted the label on a graphic improved and asked if the ethics commission had approved the...

Replication in Qualitative Research

Melanie Rügenhagen & Prof. Michael Seadle, June 2018

Replication is difficult to apply to qualitative studies in so far as it means recreating the exact conditions of the original study — a condition that is often impossible in the real world. The key question then becomes: “how close to the original must a replication be to validate an original experiment?” (Seadle, 2018)

This question is particularly important because of the widespread belief that only quantitative research is replicable. Leppink (2017) writes...

Replication Testing

Prof. Michael Seadle, May 2018

The ability to replicate results means that those doing the replication need exact information about how the original experiment was carried out. In physics and chemistry this means precise descriptions in lab books and in articles, and the same machines using the same calibration. In the social sciences, it can be much harder to reproduce the exact conditions, since they depend on human reactions and a variable environment. One well-known case comes from a study by Cornell social psychologist Daryl Bem, who did a word recognition test...

Guilt and Innocence in Plagiarism

Prof. Michael Seadle, May 2018

Jochen Zenthöfer wrote an article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper on 18 April 2018 in which he expresses concern about the number of plagiarism cases under consideration at German universities. As he notes, the cases come largely from the VroniPlag Wiki. His article is the focus of this column.

There is an assumption in most western legal systems that a person is innocent until proven guilty, but, as Zenthöfer (2018) notes, this principle derives from criminal law...

Is Exposure Enough? The Aftermath of Article Retraction

Prof. Michael Seadle, May 2018

Justice is often slow. Articles with integrity problems can stay in print without any warning label for years. Chen (2013) wrote:

“We found that it takes about 2 years, on average, to retract an article and another 2 years to see a substantial decrease of citations to the retracted article.”    

Two years may well even underestimate the time to retraction, since the accusation often triggers formal...                                                                   

Data Falsification: Lessons from a Case

Prof. Michael Seadle, April 2018

Data falsification cases generally take time to discover, and generally require someone who is motivated enough to look for problems. Falsification should theoretically be found in the course of peer review, and sometimes is, but journals do not routinely make public the detailed results of peer review. Data falsification can also be hard to prove with certainty. This column will look at a case from social psychology that arose in the wake of the Diederik Stapel retractions. Stapel admitted his guilt and his name is now routinely part of discussions about data falsification. The 2014 case under discussion here is somewhat different...

Honest Error: a Look at the Literature

Prof. Michael Seadle, April 2018

Problems with data are arguably the most serious issue for information integrity in the research world, because they undermine the ability of scholars to build on past results. These problems come in many variations, including people who make up fake data, people who manipulate data to get specific results, and people who leave out data or sources. Each of these represent some form of misconduct when done deliberately. Nonetheless not everyone is guilty of malicious intent. Ordinary negligence plays a role too. The results remain unreliable and irreproducible, but the persons involved may be innocent of intentional...

An Introduction to the Column

Prof. Michael Seadle, April 2018

Information integrity is fundamentally about what makes information true or false, both at the scholarly level (research integrity) and for public and policy discourse. There are reports about false information almost daily. A recent example involves the BBC, which has long been a model for the integrity of its reporting (Sweney, 2018). This column will focus mainly on the scholarly aspects of information integrity, but the effect of integrity problems on policy matters (public health issues, for example) will not be ignored. The topic includes a broad range of problems, including data falsification, image manipulation, and...

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