Published on 24/05/2016
When the institute steps in as a mediator, there is already a lot of friction among protagonists and calming down their respective communities is not an easy task.
Good mediation requires meta-communication. Focusing on what is unsaid as much as on what is spoken helps to reduce conflict. The reactivity is also key. With common sense, it is possible to calm down all protagonists. People who feel that they are victims of academic injustice perceive the sluggishness of the appeal process to be a law of silence and an extra layer of injustice. It is therefore important to resolve the situation in under ten days. Establishing the objective facts usually results in a peaceable solution.
We have adopted a five-phase protocol of mediation.
- Phase 1:
The first phase involves reframing the situation: the facts must be established.
In cases of plagiarism for example, dates are essential for the precedence of the writing must always be respected. A comparative analysis of the texts can establish the facts of the matter. A simple phone call with stakeholders usually decreases their emotion and subjectivity. The situation can then be managed by focusing on the problem of integrity rather than on the individuals concerned.
- Phase 2:
The second stage involves setting up the mediation protocol.
The Institute is an association of volunteers from different disciplines. It can therefore create mediation cells that include complementary competences (for example one or two lawyers, a specialist in the relevant discipline a specialist of organizations, a consultant from the country where the case takes place). Together, these volunteers decide on the core of the problem. This is to be dealt with as a priority. It is not always what it first appears to be.
- Phase 3:
At the third stage, each party concerned is given a separate hearing. In cases of academic conflict, people are upset. To make themselves feel better, they may react with extreme behavior or prefer to say nothing. Some individuals must be drawn in to play their part, others calmed down.
In order to ascertain the parties’ deeper attitudes, they must specify the following points: how does the conflict prevent them from becoming what they want to be? What are their true objectives and real motivations? What do they expect the situation to become in one or two years’ time? This projection enables them to put the conflict into perspective and embark on the mediation phase. During these discussions, exaggerated claims are usually dropped in favor of a call for reason and win/win solutions.
- Phase 4:
In the fourth phase, the situation should be reframed in a way that helps to break out of the vicious circle of shame and accusation. This involves a discussion on three levels. .
– The first is about the basic principles of scientific integrity (the time order of the publications, the need to mention a previous publication before its translation, the requirement to state in the text that is a “translation-adaptation” etc.).
– The second level reiterates the basis of academic deontology (informing co-authors of the publication of an article written in common, not adding authors who have not contributed, not deciding unilaterally to modify the order of authors, etc.).
– Finally, the third-level deals with the customary conventions within the discipline in question (for example, in social sciences, authors are normally named in alphabetical order unless the difference of contribution one or another of the authors justifies a change).
- Phase 5:
In the fifth phase, parties voice their opinions as to the outcome if conflicts of personality and interest were eliminated.
The heart of the problem can then be reformulated (plagiarism, modification of the order of authors, omitting an author, etc.). The mediation closes by looking at ways of repairing the situation. In the majority of cases, this amounts to one or more letters of apology leading to the reconciliation of all parties concerned.