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Good practices

Brazil discusses research integrity

Daniel BuenoConcern about the integrity of scientific research is part of current discussions taking place in countries that are more active in terms of science and technology and that have a strong tradition in this respect. More specifically, this on-going discussion has been taking place for the last 20 years in such countries as the United States, Canada, and several European countries. The discussion began quietly and then picked up speed. The issue of research integrity is now being analyzed and focused on in discussion forums. Decisions are being taken in regard to unethical behavior and preventive and educational measures are being implemented. The issue was further highlighted during the First Brazilian Meeting on Research Integrity, Science, and Publication Ethics (I Brispe), in 2010, held in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The II Brispe is scheduled to take place from May 28 to June 1, in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Porto Alegre.

“Current issues will be addressed; these issues go beyond research fraud, data manipulation, and plagiarism,” says Sonia Vasconcelos, an expert on this matter and one of the coordinators at this event. Sonia conducts research studies on education and science management at the Medical Biochemistry Institute of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (IBqM/UFRJ). “We plan to conduct broad discussions on data protection, changes in project evaluation criteria, the authorship and submitting of science papers, and reviews for science journals, for example.”

Although Brazil has just begun to address this issue and seriously focus on all the related problems, two major steps were taken last year. In September, FAPESP launched the Code of good scientific practices, a set of ethical guidelines for the professional activities that researchers receiving grants and financial aid from the Foundation are involved in. This was a pioneering measure taken by a leading Brazilian funding agency. In October, the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) announced the final report prepared by the CNPq’s Scientific Integrity committee with the same objective, and aimed at the country’s research community. “Nowadays, I feel better prepared to answer questions, when I am abroad, about initiatives in this respect in Brazil,” says Sonia. “I tell people that Brazil is leading the debate on scientific integrity in Latin America and that we have official documents containing pedagogical approaches and recommendations for our researchers.”

The event will be attended by participants from abroad, among whom is Nicholas Steneck, of the United States’ University of Michigan, who worked at the Office of Research Integrity for 15 years. The Office of Research Integrity was the first organization in the United States established to deal with research ethics and integrity. Steneck addressed the four principles of research integrity during the second global conference held in Singapore in 2010: 1) honesty in regard to all aspects of research; 2) responsibility while conducting research work; 3) professional courtesy and loyalty to peers; 4) proper management of other researchers’  research work.

Sonia expects the II Brispe to produce recommendations that will have an influence on research activities in Brazil. “I don´t believe the event will be able to deal with all the issues related to scientific integrity, but we can certainly have an in-depth discussion in this respect and help create an approach to these issues by institutions, funding agencies, and publications,” she points out. She emphasizes that Brazil’s scientific endeavors are gaining exposure and possible unethical behavior has to be dealt with seriously. Additional information on II Brispe is available at www.iibrispe.coppe.ufrj.br/.

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