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Good practices

Simple tips to combat misconduct

The associate dean of research at São Paulo State University (UNESP) created a website with tips on good practices and issues related to scientific integrity. Named Propetips, it addresses topics such as plagiarism, excessive use of self-citations, the correct way to attribute authorship of a scientific paper, how to identify predatory journals, and more, in a total of 26 entries to date.

The task has been led since 2018 by José Augusto Chaves Guimarães, from the information science department at UNESP’s School of Philosophy and Sciences, Marília campus, who at the time chaired the university’s Institutional Commission for Rankings. “The original idea was to create a set of guidelines to help UNESP faculty and students achieve greater visibility for their work, such as properly signing and recording institutional affiliations and the importance of registering on ORCID, which makes a researcher’s papers more accessible to the companies responsible for ranking universities,” explains Guimarães. The scope of Propetips was soon expanded to offer suggestions on good academic practices, such as giving and receiving scientific reviews, how to choose the best keywords for a paper, and how to write more informative abstracts, in addition to ways of preventing misconduct. “The tips are short and written in accessible language, and their objective is to inform and encourage appropriate behavior, without the regulatory or punitive angle that guidelines on good practices often take. They are designed to guide researchers through preparatory actions that lead to reflection. I’ve been told that some of the tips are obvious and that all scientists should already know them, but if they were really that obvious, we wouldn’t have so many problems related to poor academic visibility and scientific misconduct,” he says. Guimarães says the response to the website has been positive. “I have received emails from professors telling me that they are going to add the tips to the reference list of their disciplines.”  The researcher has plans to write about the phenomenon of hyperauthorship, which is the publication of scientific articles with hundreds or even thousands of authors. “It is a matter of concern, because it is difficult to understand how each individual contributed to the work. It can also open up a means of attributing authorship to people that perhaps should only be included in the acknowledgments.” Recently, the Propetips were incorporated into the strategies of the UNESP Commission for Research Integrity, Ethics, and Practices, established in 2017, which Guimarães has recently joined.