●Discussion Jan Helge Solback and Søren Holm
How can we recognize a research culture that implicitly accepts intellectual harassment of potential researchers, and one that condones excessive co-authorship and sloppy research?
We have interest I have followed Khrono’s reports in recent weeks about which researchers in Norway are publishing the most, about the increase in published articles being retracted, and about former doctoral fellows’ accounts of the ups and downs of life as a fellow. These are very different publications, but do they have something in common? We think so: they all deal in different ways with the tension between quantity and quality in research and the research ethical challenges that this tension can raise.
We see signs of a research culture Quantity matters more than quality, and many senior researchers who have little time to conduct active research make up for this lack of time by demanding co-authorship from their younger colleagues.
We have for many years Teaching doctoral students in research ethics and integrity in research. When we ask Fellows to reflect on the challenges they’ve encountered along the way, we often hear about super-busy moderators, group leaders and moderators who consider that they will be co-authors on Fellows’ publications even if they do not contribute to them. We hear of senior researchers who have little time to conduct active research and who make up for this lack of time by asking their younger colleagues to co-author.
It is a culture that can barely stand the light of day, and it destroys confidence in research.
At the same time we have Fortunately, it is a subculture that facilitates and rewards the best research. Since 2009, 22 UiO researchers have been awarded an ERC Advanced grant from the European Research Council – and one UiO researcher, Harald Stenmark, even twice. Only the Nobel Prize-winning Moser couple at NTNU managed to copy this feat. The ERC funds curiosity-driven research, and an ERC Advanced Grant is perhaps the most prestigious grant a researcher can obtain during their career; “The Holy Grail of Seekers” In the words of Helge Holden.
Customization is done In accordance with ERC guidelines According to two criteria: 1) the scientific quality of the project, with an emphasis on originality and that the project is pioneering, and 2) “record of achievement of the principal investigator” – where the applicant is expected to have a history of at least 10 years of significant research achievements.
Khrono notice Outnumbered by Researchers at the Peak of Publishing is a thought-provoking read for several reasons. First, there are hardly any researchers who have received an advanced ERC grant on this list. The bright exception is Filippo Berto, who tops the list with 407.08 points posted for 2019-2022. In 2022, he was also awarded an ERC Advanced Scholarship, but with La Sapienza University of Rome as the host university.
secondly, If the list had instead been drawn up focusing only on the number of first (and perhaps last as well) authors, not only would the ranking be very different; Some names may have fallen off the list, and several Hum-Sam researchers who received an advanced ERC grant could have entered, such as philosophy professor Øystein Lennebo at UiO. In Khrono’s report, it was noted that many of those on the list come from medicine and food-related subjects, “but a few are from the humanities.” But not a single critical question has been asked regarding this difference between colleges. What could be the reason for this disparity?
About 15 years ago A survey was conducted on the frequency of collaboration between researchers in different faculties. It was not surprising that the medical and mat nat faculties scored highly in this regard, but what was surprising was that there was also a lot of collaboration between researchers in the Hom Sam faculties. The difference was that while collaboration on medicine and food and nutrition topics was expressed in the form of co-authorship, the Hum-Sam researchers limited themselves to thanking their collaborators in the text (so-called acknowledgments).
It was eventually found Many empirical studies from home and abroad on various forms of violation of scientific ethical rules (rules and guidelines). One of the most frequently reported forms of abuse is the abuse of co-authorship (so-called co-authorship, see the phrase “to self-create”), not least in the fields of medicine, food and nutrition.
last question There is reason to wonder in this context how the researchers at the top of Khrono’s list can exercise adequate control and supervision over all the research conducted in their research group and what is published. Khrono has recently received several notices about published articles being retracted because errors were later discovered in the studies, often errors resulting from negligence and inadequate control of various parts of the studies, including incorrect use of tables and visual materials.
It has, among other things This led to the dean of Stanford University, Marc Tessier-Lavigne, having to resign. The latest case in this regard is the accusations leveled against the Italian Minister of Health, Orazio Schillaci, regarding the incorrect use of images in several articles. Schillaci is also a researcher who publishes at a rapid pace, allegedly publishing one article every 12 days, as stated in the Khrono case.
Being a researcher today It is an existence with pressures and expectations from many sides. Time is short and requirements are many. When the research system rewards quantity to the extent that we see it today, it is perhaps not surprising to see cases like those described above. But how do we recognize a culture that implicitly accepts intellectual harassment of potential researchers, or one that encourages excessive co-authorship and hastily conducted research to the point that it becomes necessary to retract studies?
We fear that the result will be the destruction of confidence in research.
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