Ethics of publishing research, and authorship

Research institutions implement frameworks that govern ethical research. But why is this important? This question has been the central theme of this particular workshop.

Date: Thursday 2 Nov 2016
Time: 3pm – 5pm
Location: Room H 7.84, Caulfield Campus.

During the workshop, there were a lot of interesting reflections made on the importance of recognising that “Every researcher should accept is that it is not only the organisations’ responsibility but also the responsibility of the researcher to retain the trust in research.”

It made me continuously wondered during the session as to … How I could contribute to the ethical discourse on a daily basis?

I guess the best way to answer the question is to ask ourselves the following:


1. Why do we want to publish and put your knowledge out there for others to see?

Researchers may have their own motivations to publish. However, looking at the reasons more carefully, the following could be the most common reasons for publishing.

  • Protect research outcome (ownership of knowledge/permanence)
  • Recognition/reputation in the field (personal attainment)
  • moral responsibility
  • to seek collaboration
  • obligation (if project is publicly funded)
  • utility (for common good of society)


2. What has to be written/known? And who decides it?

It becomes the moral decision for researcher on what people should know about. The researcher should be mindful and acknowledge similar publications/projects and be careful of plagiarism and not to claim the work of someone else as their own novel contribution.

Additionally, sensitive research topics should be approached in a sensitive manner eg.:

  • characterisation of a particular social class/race/ethnicity and gender/sex using data.
  • Military use of IT (political – protection? moral responsibility – which technology may be harmful, implications)
  • Diagnosis of some forms of disabilities using technology.
  • Research should be contextualized – implication ?? not just algorithms
  • Generalisations? Assumptions imposed about social group – labelling, stereo-typing –also important to know whether we are validating or reinforcing stereotyping.
Thinking about your ‘researched’

A researcher should also be mindful of legal , ethical and moral responsibility. (Some challenging situations can be:

  • labelling of sensitive things in my research but then are we are hiding data??)
  • Generalisation and logic of exclusion (what was found & what is written)
    • Hierarchy (layering) of information (maybe striping off information collected). This is done at the discretion of the researcher based on:
      • Impact (significant contribution)
      • Popular

Interpreting open data – research’s responsibility to examine where the data came from and should responsible for  the interpretation.

When to publish?

Should publications be made at the end of research (conclude or move on) or is it just a cornerstone (crystallisation/milestone) on the path of your research process?


3. Conducting Ethical research

Another question every researcher should ask themselves is that they why should they act honestly?

Is it because of fear of being caught? Researchers who do this .. are they truly being ethical?

It is a common practise now to publish the code and data with your research article to give more credibility to your project. (eg. Monash has figshare.)

Before you publicly share the resource output, make sure that you are clear on:

  • Who owns the writing? (is the work created by other people, authors, etc)
  • Who owns the data?