The journals are sometimes on the front line and they uncover plagiarism, redundant publications, manipulation of data or images, publications that do not respect the objectives of protocols, conflicts of authors and other questionable research practices. The journals point out these practices to the authors, sometimes to the reviewers, but nothing happens. The journals do not often deal with the institutions, who protect their researchers, and do not respond to the journals.
In order to publish a retraction, the journal must have proof. If the authors agree to sign a retraction (honest error or bad practices), the journal will publish that retraction. If the authors refuse to cooperate, the journal cannot publish a retraction without proof (a suspicion is not sufficient), nor can it carry out an audit in an institution. The only option is to write to the institution: in the absence of a response, the journal should be able to turn to another external body, with recommendations as to the grounds for an investigation. Outside North America, there is no structure for assessing these situations.
Is everyone guilty? The universities think that it is the fault of the scientific journals and their poor working practices. The journal editors think that if the universities did their job, they would receive only high-quality manuscripts that would have already been reviewed by the institutions. Obviously a dialogue of the deaf without a solution!
It is not part of the mission of journals to take the place of institutions in order to evaluate or audit the quality of their practices. The proposals of DORA (Declaration On Research Assessement) go in the right direction but they are insufficient. The Committee On Publication Ethics has created a space for dialogue but has not provided strategies for action. Journals wish to associate their efforts to reinforce academic integrity after publication. The issue, in 2016, is knowing how and by use of which measures.
Certification by the SGS and the anti-plagiarism program
Jean-Pierre Méan, Former president of Transparency International Switzerland, Expert in SGS accreditation, Geneva Switzerland
We will first provide an overview of SGS’s certification activities in the field of corporate social responsibility and in the fight against corruption and plagiarism. SGS is the number 1 company in inspection, verification, testing and certification. It has 85,000 employees and 1,800 offices and labs around the world. Its turnover is CHF 5.7 billion (€ 5.1 billion), No. 1 in certification, with turnover of CHF 419 million (€ 377 million). The evaluations and certifications are carried out according to the following standards, among others: ISO 26000 (non certifiable); Social responsibility, ISO 45001 et OHSAS 18001; Health and safety, SA 8000; Social responsibility. The SGS is, in addition, accredited to carry out audits under the following programs: Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI), Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC), Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), Initiative Clause Sociale (ICS), International Council of Toy Industries (ICTI). SEDEX (Supplier Ethical Data Exchange) members ethical trade audit (SMETA).
SGS was a pioneer in Europe in putting into place its own ant-corruption system, in getting involved in the evaluation and certification of anti-corruption management systems under: the French standard Ethic Intelligence, the British standard BS 10500 and is preparing for ISO 37001 (fall 2016). The development of the anti-corruption certification was prompted by the implementation of the UK Bribery Act in 2011: This law provided for criminal liability for companies for any corruption occurring within them if they did not have suitable anti-corruption procedures; this provision covers the worldwide operations of all companies with business activity in the United Kingdom.
Against this background, the guidelines for an anti-plagiarism program would be presented. They were developed with Professor Michelle Bergadaà for the anti-plagiarism expertise and by SGS for the certification expertise. They include the elements of programs that are in conformity, namely: commitment on the part of the individuals and bodies concerned to fight against plagiarism, financial and human resources, charters or codes of conduct, internal and external communication, monitoring, management of complaints, sanctions and communication.
The main types of academic fraud: how to identify them in order to contain them
Paulo Peixoto, Professor, University of Coimbra
(Member of a research team. The other members are Ana Seixas, Denise Esteves, Filipe Almeida and Paulo Gama.)
A study, funded by the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, Operational Programme Thematic Factors of Competitiveness (COMPETE) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), was conducted on a representative sample (7,292 respondents). It dealt with academic fraud committed by undergraduate university students in Portugal (a study also conducted in Brazil and Spain with non-representative samples). A typology of the main forms of academic fraud could be established. This typology was verified through surveys of professors (2,727 respondents). It was validated, at the level of content, with qualitative methodologies.
Upon completion of this project, we are in a position to present the main motivating and inhibiting factors leading to the commission or the non-commission of different types of academic fraud. It is based in four axial categories of fraud: appropriation, simulation, facilitation and occultation. We will present the perceptions and opinions of students and professors as to the predominant forms of academic fraud in order to identify and discuss the most frequent forms. We will address mechanisms for exposing cases of fraud, the attribution of a sense of seriousness relating to the different forms of academic fraud and the steps that precede the commission of the different types of fraud.
While Luxembourg is a new research location, public research has been receiving considerable support from the public and political entities for over ten years. In the coming years, it will be the individual responsibility of those involved in research to collectively furnish the proof that those investments were not in vain and that the investments will bear fruit in terms of their economic, societal, cultural and academic impact.
The FNR hopes, in the current context, to take on the role of public research financing agency and aims to “promote the scientific quality and excellence of research.” Therefore, as a research sponsor who awards its funds on a competitive basis, the FNR began reflecting on scientific ethics and integrity several years ago so that it can better define its policies, coherently with the actions of various stakeholders.
Conduct that is questionable from an ethical or deontological perspective is the subject of greater transparence and as a financing agency, it is proper for us to respond. To illustrate the evolution in the approach of European stakeholders, we will use the example of the working group of Science Europe (a) and of Luxembourg’s Presidency of the EU Council (b) as well as the desire of national stakeholders to create a common agency (c).
- a) Science Europe (founded in 2011) is an association that brings together 52 financing agencies and research bodies, whose aim is to promote the collective interests of financing and conducting research in Europe. Through working groups, various approaches were formulated to help members put rules into place.
- b) Since the adoption in early December 2015 in the competitiveness council, during Luxembourg’s Presidency of the EU Council, scientific integrity in research is also reflected by member states’ policies.
- c) At the national level, the Ministry of Higher Education and Research and the FNR hope to put into place, in 2016, a national agency with a double mission: to prevent and investigate cases of fraud.
What is at stake for the future is the preservation of prior investments and a guarantee of excellence and, without wanting to make a plea for “clean” science, it is advisable to put the approach under the light of current perspectives and to discuss the possible choices and directions, because fraud helps sow doubt and discredit.
At its inception, the website “Responsable.unige.ch” set itself the objective of supporting victims of academic plagiarism. Until now, the website has been able to use its own resources to fill this academic void. However, the proliferation of cases of plagiarism, as well as the growing recognition of the site, has led to an excess in requests for assistance, which have expanded beyond the borders of the French language and the context of French-speaking Switzerland. The “Responsable” team has therefore set itself the challenge of expanding its activities through a collaborative virtual platform.
This format for collaborative involvement has several advantages. First, the virtual presence allows victims to receive immediate answers to their questions from other “members” without the direct involvement of the person who is currently the victims’ sole interlocutor, Professor Bergadaà. The collaborative nature of this community allows each person to have access to expertise from various fields and countries. This type of virtual community raises the curtain on what is not said and gives members a sense of security that encourages them to express themselves. The interaction between members leads to a culture of sharing information and of mutual support. In addition, this type of group provides the opportunity to align on objectives that could, in this context, move forward the overall fight against the spread of plagiarism.
In terms of scientific research, a virtual platform allows for a better understanding of the subject and its trends, as a collaborative site allows for an increase in the number of cases handled. This provides access to a corpus of research rich in substance that can be analyzed by means of a thorough Netnography. This innovative method allows for an analysis of data available on the Web. It provides access to data that traditional methods, such as interviews or focus groups, do not. Netnography is a natural, non-intrusive method that allows the culture and the dynamics of virtual communities to be defined. It is a natural method, that allows for the observation of interaction among members in their environment. This method is preferable for sensitive subjects; it favors freedom of expression when dealing with subjects that are difficult to address in a face-to-face context. This is the case of subjects tied to plagiarism. In the long run, a true “collaborative intelligence” may come about automatically.
Towards an international legal framework for Wikis and online platforms
Jean-Baptiste Soufron, Lawyer, journalist, former general secretary of the French Digital Council, Paris, France
Cases of academic plagiarism are very hard for the victims to bear. In addition to the humiliation that every person experiences when something they have created has been stole, these victims feel intense professional pressure that other categories of authors do not. Legal tools are not adapted to situations where the victims do not dare to react out of fear that it will reflect badly on academics in general, that they will experience informal sanctions in their career or in their publications, or that they will be abandoned by their institution. Unlike authors of artistic works or more traditional holders of intellectual or industrial property rights, academic authors do not dare to turn to the legal system, thereby creating a vicious cycle in which plagiarists are never sanctioned and as a result are encouraged to continue. What is worse, situations can even arise where the plagiarist is ultimately recognized as the author, instead of the person who originally created the work. And if the consequences are already serious in traditional counterfeiting, they are even more serious in academia because they prevent the functioning of the scientific method and may allow individuals to acquire positions or budgets for teaching and research because of the fraud they committed and not because of their merits, thereby diminishing the resources available to true researchers.
Given this situation, the inadequacy of the current state of the law must be noted. Not so much in its substance as in its form and the manner in which it is practiced. Academic authors are not like other authors and, when whistleblowers are being protected, their copyright should also be protected. For that, a key point is to put into place a third party or a community that can help them, but that can also assess the case, serve as a connection with their superiors and act in their place in order to protect them. With time, one may hope that these third parties will associate and form communities and become capable of triggering formal or informal sanctions by the mere fact of their legitimacy and by the quality of their assessments. There are different tools to do this, both on the legal level (copyright, rights of whistleblowers, etc.) and on the IT level (anti-plagiarism software, wikis, etc.). It is their coordination and their implementation that it is important to see today.