Nearly 250 people, including students, researchers and administrators, took part in the fourth edition of the Brazilian Meeting on Research Integrity, Science and Publication Ethics (BRISPE), the country’s most important conference on research integrity, November 17-18, 2016 in the city of Goiânia. The event, held on the campus of the Federal University of Goiás (UFG), addressed the role of professors, scientific publishers and funding agencies in promoting a culture of integrity at universities and research institutions. According to Sonia Vasconcelos, a professor in the Education, Management and Biosciences Communication Program at the Leopoldo de Meis Institute of Medical Biochemistry at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) and chairperson of the event’s organizing committee, the topic reflects one of the major challenges involved in strengthening the notions of responsible research conduct in Brazil: “We need to strengthen trust and transparency in the relationship between advisors and students, authors and reviewers, and researchers and providers of funding. Perceptions about responsible research conduct in these relationships is not always shared.”
The first and second editions of BRISPE, held in 2010 and 2012, respectively, focused on promoting good practices related to researcher conduct and scientific output. The third edition, held at FAPESP in 2014, addressed the role of institutions in promoting a culture of integrity (see Pesquisa FAPESP Issue nº 223). “At the earlier events, many of the participants were becoming aware of the topic for the first time. Now, there is more widespread knowledge and the discussions are becoming more sophisticated,” says Edson Watanabe, director of the Alberto Luiz Coimbra Institute for Graduate Studies and Engineering Research (COPPE) at UFRJ, who also helped organize the event. “Problems related to ethics and integrity are being seen almost as ‘crimes’ and their consequences are serious. Many people would like to understand the problem so that they can know how to behave properly.”
Organizers say that in many of the countries, there are signs that the move to encourage research integrity is spreading through various fields of knowledge. “In Brazil, we’ve seen this reflected in the plenary sessions as well as the break-out sessions,” Vasconcellos says. “The issues are no longer just the focus of researchers in the fields of health and biomedical research, where most of this discussion began. Now they are coming from voices in the biological sciences, the humanities, the applied social sciences and engineering.”
UFG’s application to host the fourth edition of BRISPE was seen as evidence that the concern is spreading to other parts of the country. Sheila Teles, research coordinator at UFG and chair of the local BRISPE committee says that the institution decided to establish a group to formulate and engage in research integrity policies after learning about the pioneering experiences of UFRJ and its Research Ethics Advisory Council. “We became acquainted with this experiment at BRISPE 2014 in São Paulo,” Teles says. “Hosting the fourth edition of BRISPE was a chance for our university to discuss real problems that are often hidden in personal experiences.”
One innovative topic was the link between research integrity and creativity in knowledge production. Projects that earned first and second place in BRISPE’s poster competition addressed this issue. Biologist Christiane Coelho Santos, a biology teacher at the Colégio Pedro II High School in Rio de Janeiro, won the competition with her presentation of a study of perceived plagiarism among high school students and teachers, carried out as part of her doctoral dissertation to be defended at UFRJ in 2017.
A sampling of 419 students and 42 teachers from Colégio Pedro II High School took part in the study on plagiarism and later, in discussion groups on the subject. “All of them agreed that stealing an idea or copying text without providing proper credit constitutes plagiarism. But some disagreement emerged, for example, regarding the common practice observed in school projects: literally copying and pasting entire passages of texts found on the Internet, giving only cursory credit to the original source of the information. For many teachers, this is plagiarism. For students, however, it is not,” Santos says. The researcher believes that this finding poses an awkward question for schools: does the way they teach and evaluate learning lead to creativity among the students or foster imitation and reproduction? “Most of the teachers agree that education in Brazil does not encourage creativity. If this is the reality in high school, how can we expect students to become creative when they get to college”? Santos’ research will be extended to two other high schools in Rio de Janeiro.
The other poster winner, Rosemeire Amaral, master’s candidate at UFRJ and science teacher in the Búzios public school system, involves the production of a school booklet on plagiarism. The idea for the booklet was inspired by workshops held by 38 teachers of the sciences, mathematics, physics, chemistry and Portuguese organized by Amaral. When it is ready, the material will be distributed to schools in neighboring cities. Amaral was impressed by the discussion she heard among school staff during the workshops. “They realized that plagiarism is more ingrained in the school than they had thought and many were ready to change their practices in addressing the problem.”Republish