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Good Practices

Conference addresses integrity in research

Daniel BuenoThe 3rd World Conference on Research Integrity, to take place May 5–8, 2013 in Montreal, Canada, will bring researchers from around the world together to discuss ethical challenges and the difficulties inherent in international science partnerships.
Brazil, which will participate in the event with six academic papers, is seen as a leader in Latin America in research on scientific integrity and should be in a position to become a candidate to host of the next conference.

Professor Sonia Vasconcelos, from the Medical Biochemistry Institute of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), is the author of one of the papers to be presented and co-author of another four. The talk she will give at the conference will show Brazil’s progress in addressing these issues. “Despite Brazil’s relatively recent participation in international scientific research integrity policy debates, it has begun to be heard at a global level, which makes all the difference.” Recently, some institutions have begun to invest in holding meetings and workshops on the topic, and have begun to offer graduate courses in order to promote research in the area. As an example, Vasconcelos mentions the initiatives of the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq), which will send a federal government representative to the conference, and of FAPESP, which released its Code of Good Scientific Practice in 2011 in order to reinforce a solid culture of ethical integrity in research in the state of São Paulo.

Among Brazil’s contributions to the discussions is a study on the insertion of international consensuses on ethics in publications in Ibero-American periodicals, conducted by Rosemary Shinkai, of the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul, and another on conflicts of interest in contemporary science communications, by Márcia de Cássia Cassimiro, from the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation. The latter identified that the declaration of conflicts of interest, including financial conflicts, has increasingly become part of editorial requirements in various areas. Historically, the discussion of conflicts of interest has concentrated on biomedical research.

The 2nd World Conference on Research Integrity, held in 2010 in Singapore, resulted in a declaration with general principles and consensuses agreed to by several countries. The Montreal conference is expected to produce a new document, this time stressing a topic considered to be central to the debates to come: the goal of greater involvement by academic institutions. 
The purpose is to encourage debate on the responsibilities they must assume in the management of collaboration. “Collaboration between research groups from different countries require new criteria for monitoring, evaluation and dissemination of results, and this requires new policies on ethics and good practices in collaborative environments,” explains Vasconcelos.

Round table discussions are expected to be especially diverse at this year’s meeting. This is because scientific misconduct is practiced in different cultural contexts. Although there is consensus on some common points, such as falsification and fabrication of data, there are still conflicting issues that tend to increase in number as international collaboration  between researchers becomes more common. Perceptions of plagiarism, for example, are influenced by the cultures of different areas of knowledge and often those of different countries.
”The Middle East, for example, is participating more in globalized science, but still suffers culture shock when coming in contact with standards set by the West. This raises ethical issues because each country sees a problem in a different way,” says Vasconcelos.