How do journals publishing palliative and end-of-life care research report ethical approval and informed consent?

Authors : Tove Godskesen, Knut Jørgen Vie, William Bülow, Bodil Holmberg, Gert Helgesson, Stefan Eriksson

This study explores how papers published in international journals in palliative and end-of-life care report ethical approval and informed consent. A literature search following PRISMA guidelines was conducted in PubMed, the Web of Science Core Collection, Scopus, the ProQuest Social Science Premium Collection, PsycINFO, and the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL). A total of 169 empirical studies from 101 journals were deductively coded and analysed.

The results showed that 5% of publications provided no information on ethical approval, 12% reported minimal information, 56% reported rudimentary information, and 27% reported comprehensive details. We also found that 13% did not report any information on informed consent, 17% reported minimal information, 50% reported rudimentary information, and 19% reported comprehensive details.

The prevalence of missing and incomplete ethical statements and inadequate reporting of informed consent processes in recent publications raises concerns and highlights the need for improvement. We suggest that journals advocate high reporting standards and potentially reject papers that do not meet ethical requirements, as this is the quickest path to improvement.

URL : How do journals publishing palliative and end-of-life care research report ethical approval and informed consent?


Editors publishing in their own journals: A systematic review of prevalence and a discussion of normative aspects

Authors : Gert Helgesson, Igor Radun, Jenni Radun, Gustav Nilsonne

Journal editors are the main gatekeepers in scientific publishing. Yet there is a concern that they may receive preferential treatment when submitting manuscripts to their own journals. The prevalence of such self-publishing is not known, nor the consequences for reliability and trustworthiness of published research.

This study aimed to systematically review the literature on the prevalence of editors publishing in their own journals and to conduct a normative ethical analysis of this practice. A systematic review was performed using the following databases: Medline, PsycInfo, Scopus and Web of Science.

Articles that provided primary data about editors publishing in own journals were included. We identified 15 studies meeting inclusion criteria. There was large variability of self-publishing across fields, journals and editors, ranging from those who never published in their own journal to those publishing extensively in their own journal.

Many studies suffered from serious methodological limitations. Nevertheless, our results show that there are settings where levels of self-publication are very high. We recommend that editors-in-chief and associate editors who have considerable power in journals refrain from publishing research articles in their own journals. Journals should have clear processes in place about the treatment of articles submitted by editorial board members.

URL : Editors publishing in their own journals: A systematic review of prevalence and a discussion of normative aspects


Research Integrity Among PhD Students at the Faculty of Medicine: A Comparison of Three Scandinavian Universities

Authors : Bjørn Hofmann, Lone Bredahl Jensen, Mette Brandt Eriksen, Gert Helgesson, Niklas Juth, Søren Holm

This study investigates research integrity among PhD students in health sciences at three universities in Scandinavia (Stockholm, Oslo, Odense). A questionnaire with questions on knowledge, attitudes, experiences, and behavior was distributed to PhD students and obtained a response rate of 77.7%.

About 10% of the respondents agreed that research misconduct strictly defined (such as fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism, FFP) is common in their area of research, while slightly more agreed that other forms of misconduct is common.

A nonnegligible segment of the respondents was willing to fabricate, falsify, or omit contradicting data if they believe that they are right in their overall conclusions. Up to one third reported to have added one or more authors unmerited.

Results showed a negative correlation between “good attitudes” and self-reported misconduct and a positive correlation between how frequent respondents thought that misconduct occurs and whether they reported misconduct themselves.

This reveals that existing educational and research systems partly fail to foster research integrity.

URL : Research Integrity Among PhD Students at the Faculty of Medicine: A Comparison of Three Scandinavian Universities


Hostage authorship and the problem of dirty hands

Authors : William Bülow, Gert Helgesson

This article discusses gift authorship, the practice where co-authorship is awarded to a person who has not contributed significantly to the study. From an ethical point of view, gift authorship raises concerns about desert, fairness, honesty and transparency, and its prevalence in research is rightly considered a serious ethical concern.

We argue that even though misuse of authorship is always bad, there are instances where accepting requests of gift authorship may nevertheless be the right thing to do. More specifically, we propose that researchers may find themselves in a situation much similar to the problem of dirty hands, which has been frequently discussed in political philosophy and applied ethics.

The problem of dirty hands is relevant to what we call hostage authorship, where the researchers include undeserving authors unwillingly, and only because they find it unavoidable in order to accomplish a morally important research goal.

URL : Hostage authorship and the problem of dirty hands


How to counter undeserving authorship

Authors: Stefan Eriksson, Tove Godskesen, Lars Andersson, Gert Helgesson

The average number of authors listed on contributions to scientific journals has increased considerably over time. While this may be accounted for by the increased complexity of much research and a corresponding need for extended collaboration, several studies suggest that the prevalence of non-deserving authors on research papers is alarming.

In this paper a combined qualitative and quantitative approach is suggested to reduce the number of undeserving authors on academic papers: 1) ask scholars who apply for positions to explain the basics of a random selection of their co-authored papers, and 2) in bibliometric measurements, divide publications and citations by the number of authors.

URL : How to counter undeserving authorship


The false academy: predatory publishing in science and bioethics

Authors : Stefan Eriksson, Gert Helgesson

This paper describes and discusses the phenomenon ‘predatory publishing’, in relation to both academic journals and books, and suggests a list of characteristics by which to identify predatory journals. It also raises the question whether traditional publishing houses have accompanied rogue publishers upon this path.

It is noted that bioethics as a discipline does not stand unaffected by this trend. Towards the end of the paper it is discussed what can and should be done to eliminate or reduce the effects of this development.

The paper concludes that predatory publishing is a growing phenomenon that has the potential to greatly affect both bioethics and science at large.

Publishing papers and books for profit, without any genuine concern for content, but with the pretence of applying authentic academic procedures of critical scrutiny, brings about a worrying erosion of trust in scientific publishing.

URL : The false academy: predatory publishing in science and bioethics

DOI :10.1007/s11019-016-9740-3