Imprimir Republish

Letter from the editor | 233

Changes in behavior

Behavioral integrity is a shared societal value and should be practiced in all our actions.  In some fields, such as science, the mistakes of its disciples attract the hot glare of spotlights, due more than likely to the expectation that an activity built upon principles and methods that seek to advance knowledge has no room for misconduct.  The difficulties encountered in establishing good scientific practices, rather than the scandals, are the subject of this issue’s cover story, which highlights various initiatives to promote a culture of integrity at universities and research institutions around the world.  In Brazil, one milestone in this process was the publication of FAPESP’s Code of Good Practices based on three principles, first and foremost of which is education, along with prevention and investigation.  Education and training programs aimed at young researchers and those just starting out in their research careers, an essential component for promoting a culture of integrity, are still few and far between in Brazil, but little by little, they are gaining ground and importance within institutions.


Changes in human behavior, in this case sexual, may explain a significant change in the patient profile of those who suffer from cancer of the head and neck. Tumors of the tongue, roof of the mouth, pharynx, larynx and tonsils have traditionally been associated with men over the age of 50, smokers and heavy drinkers, but in the last decade they have begun to appear in individuals between the ages of 30 and 45 who exhibit none of those behavioral characteristics. Indices point to the human papillomavirus (HPV) as the source of the infections that facilitate the formation of these types of tumors. The association between the virus and tumors may be related to unprotected oral sex with many partners – even the use of condoms may not be sufficient since they do not prevent contact with uncovered contaminated areas.  In 10 years, the number of cases of tonsil cancer associated with HPV has increased from 25% to 80%.  The change in patient characteristics presents a new public health challenge that should lead to the development of new ways to prevent and treat the disease.


As the first educator and third woman to be awarded the Álvaro Alberto Prize, Brazil’s highest scientific honor, Magda Soares combines research on initial reading instruction and literacy training with didactic transposition of knowledge produced for educational training, primarily through the writing of textbooks. She has focused her efforts on understanding the relationship between disadvantaged children and the adults who teach them.  In her search to identify the underlying causes of academic failure among public school children, the educator’s diagnosis turns the conventional explanation upside down:  the disability lies not with the student, but with the education the student receives.  In a textbook from the 1980s, still current today, she suggests that differences among students are treated as disabilities because schools do not know how to handle differences.  In her view, an end to discrimination against public school children will only come about through a change in behavior, which is needed to improve the quality of instruction and thus, of learning.  There is still much to be done if we are to produce honest scientists and literate citizens. Education is key for all of our activities throughout our lives.