Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Brazil statement urges culture of research integrity

with 7 comments

As its research institutions grow and mature, the Brazilian scientific establishment is hoping its scientists encourage research integrity and responsible conduct of research.

In late May, Ivan was invited to Brazil to take part in the Second Brazilian Meeting on Research Integrity, Science and Publication Ethics(II BRISPE). Organized by the Medical Biochemistry Institute (IBqM/UFRJ) & Alberto Luiz Coimbra Institute for Graduate Studies and Research in Engineering (COPPE/UFRJ), the meeting traveled from Rio de Janeiro to São Paulo to Porto Alegre over the course of several days.

One of the goals of the whirlwind meeting, which brought together researchers, administrators, funding agencies, and experts in scientific integrity from around the world, was to produce a Joint Statement on Scientific Integrity. That statement, into which Ivan had input, has now been published, so we thought we’d post links to it in English, Portuguese, and Spanish and check in with Sonia Maria Ramos Vasconcelos, one of the organizers of the meeting.

What prompted you to hold BRISPE?

BRISPE started in 2010 (I BRISPE) as a forum to promote a wider discussion on research integrity and responsible conduct of research (RI/RCR) in Brazil.  We aimed to stimulate the involvement of Brazilian academia in the international debates on the topics, which have been led by the US, Canada, Australia and some other developed countries.  There was much publicity over the I BRISPE, though attendance was small. At that time we had about 170 participants. However, the visibility of the meetings in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo was considerably high through major Brazilian newspapers, and internationally, through the websites of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), the National Science Foundation (NSF) and ALL European Academies (ALLEA), among others. Such publicity helped to call attention of Brazilian research leaders, and I think awareness that research misconduct was a global, and not a local, issue was rising in the country. This setting was appropriate to extend initiatives, especially after the launching of FAPESP’s Code of Good Research Practices and CNPq’s Directives on Research Integrity, in 2011. CNPq [The Brazilian National Research Council for Scientific and Technological Development] and FAPESP [The State of São Paulo Research Foundation] helped us to organize the II BRISPE. For this second, we had a much higher audience, about 545 participants, with contributions of 13 international speakers. The event really demonstrated that Brazil can play an active role in contributing to international initiatives to deepen the discussion and develop global policies on RI/RCR.

What are your goals for the Joint Statement?

The Joint Statement draws upon the current research environment and existing policies on research integrity to stimulate institutional actions to include RI/RCR in the training of young researchers. The document aims to encourage Brazilian institutions to strengthen a culture of RI/RCR, especially among newcomers in academia. The recommendations in the Joint Statement are grounded on the idea that research integrity and research excellence are inseparable and that RI/RCR policies should be viewed as important assets in education, be it in basic or higher education.

Are there particular kinds of misconduct that require attention in Brazil? (Here’s Retraction Watch’s coverage — not necessarily comprehensive — of retractions in the country.)

I think all kinds of misconduct and questionable research practices require attention in Brazil and abroad, as we cannot say for sure that only one or two may be cause for concern. However, I believe plagiarism and authorship should be widely discussed, especially because they frequently involve cultural perceptions. Often times, they involve disciplinary and even departmental perceptions, which may lead to misunderstandings. Also, they may involve generational perceptions of these issues, which may impact, for example, supervisor-supervisee relationships.

What are the next steps for BRISPE and the Joint Statement?

The III BRISPE is planned for 2014. For this meeting, we will broaden the scope and have sessions for original contributions on research ethics and on RI/RCR, as interest in studies in these areas is increasing. This interest is extremely important today because it seems to reflect the necessity we have to understand the reasons, motivations and possible outcomes of doing research in an environment that is shifting rapidly. This changing environment poses particular challenges for different research communities and different generations of scientists. In Brazil, the Joint Statement on Research Integrity will be widely disseminated to raise awareness that responding to these challenges is vital for education, science, technology and innovation in the country.

Written by Ivan Oransky

July 25th, 2012 at 9:30 am

  • Colle July 25, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    This statement is pure politics. As any educated Brazilian, I am very aware of the distance between statements and action in my country. They write beautifully and speak fair about fraud, but in fact Brazilian science doesnt care. I invite any reader to check our periodicals and papers for misconduct, and then trying to communicate suspected facts to any institution/author/funding agency.

    • Colle July 25, 2012 at 1:56 pm

      The very few examples of retractions figuring in this blog only came into existence because some brave whistleblowers forced serious measures by contacting foreign parties. The representative Brazilian authors/instituions were never locally penalized, and there are rumors that mischevous authors were even rewarded — e.g. the entomologist Gomes is openly defended, and was recently promoted right after showing in the newspapers as a kind of compensation. Brazilian periodicals seldom if ever retract papers, and Brazilian papers figuring in high-impact international magazines are quite recent. This is an enthusiastic invitation to readers worldwide of this blog to help Brazilian science basically by adding more retractions to our record.

  • Jon Beckmann July 25, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    Brazil is a mess when it comes to scientific integrity. In my field, when I get a paper from Brazil, typically there is something major that does not square.

    • Rafa July 25, 2012 at 3:10 pm

      I know Colle personally, and usually agree with him.
      Please @Jon Beckmann, your insight is truly useful. We seldom get feedback in Brazil about our limitations/advantages, and when we do it is not divulged to colleagues. Could you please specify which flaws are the most frequent in Brazilian papers and how the authors respond?

      What I see around here is that many have the habit of copying text from other sources (often leading to plagiarism issues), also of manipulating images and results to make them “fit”, which is straight out fraud. The typical Brazilian scientist will say “everyone does it” and that “there is no serious harm intended”. This must change.

  • Nono July 26, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    As a rule, generalizations are not very smart. Sentences like “Brazil is a mess when it comes to scientific integrity” are kind of inappropriate.

    • Colle July 26, 2012 at 8:01 pm

      “As a rule, generalizations are not very smart” — generally I’d say yes, however I think the claim of scientific integrity is “a mess” in Brazil is usually quite true, also based on experience and from being a Brazilian scientist. This is exactly what it is: a mess.
      And I see the official statements issued both as attempts of organizing the mess as of concealing the fact.

  • Rafa August 2, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    Well as the popularity of this post indeed attests: the Brazilians simply do not care.

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