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Research Misconduct Policies of Social Science Journals and Impact Factor

By akt0921 Jan 13, 2013 784 Words
There is a proper way to deal with journalists that commit misconducts in their research publications in social sciences journals. Policies and procedures have been put into place to assist in the proper handling of researchers when they behave unethically. Editors must protect the integrity of the journals and the research, when allegations of research misconduct arise. This can pose a difficult task. Journals have had to rethink how to deal with such allegations and misconduct. “Editors must also think about the potential legal liability if the innocent scientist's reputation has become damaged” (Resnik, Patrone, & Peddada, 2010). Scientists need to remain credible and reputable, so accusations of unethical misconduct involved in their research can cause an uproar. The Committee on Publication Ethics, also know as COPE, issues an agreement that stated journals must develop misconduct policies, in 1999, and in 2006, issued standard procedures for handling with the misconduct in scientific journals. It is not yet a requirement, but a guidance of how situations should be handled when misconduct is brought to the attention of the editors of the publications.

Research was done regarding the number of scientific journals had, in place, a policy detailing the use and reporting of unethical research practices. According to the article, “A misconduct policy is defined as statements about the definition of misconduct or procedures for responding to misconduct” (Resnik, Patrone, & Peddada, 2010). For example, the policy described “how to report allegations of misconduct” (Resnik, Patrone, & Peddada, 2010), and “how to correct the scientific literature in response to misconduct” (Resnik, Patrone, & Peddada, 2010). The definitions of misconduct would not be limited to the U.S. Federal government's definition of misconduct: fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism. Other types of misconduct must be recognized as well, such as animal abuse or misuse of human subjects. The research shows that “less than half of the journals in the combined data set had formal misconduct policies” (Resnik, Patrone, & Peddada, 2010), although it is recommended by COPE. It is thought that since editors have been made conscious of the misconduct in the scientific research, that more misconduct policies would be in place by now. It is thought that maybe many journals have not developed these policies yet, because journal editors do not view misconduct as a common problem when they should. Many editors view the misconduct as a something that happens on a rare occasion and are not motivated to develop the policies that are needed to properly handle it. If this issue was properly handled, accusations could not be made, as long as proper protocols were in place and followed appropriately. These kinds of policies have more benefits and a sort of security, but when writing for journals that do not have them in place can be dangerous to the reputations of the researchers and the publishers. Less than half of the reported journals have policies in place, and it would be beneficial to the rest of them to follow suit. The people effected by the misconduct of unethical journals are the participants in the research, as well as the publication the journal is referenced in. If it became a requirement of the social science journals to have policies in place, less accusations would be made about the behavior of the editors and journalists. It is important to remain completely ethical and avoid tarnishing the reputation of the scientists and journalists involved in the publications. This will help aim the publications to remain full of integrity and regarded as highly ethical. More support will come from journals that are deemed ethical, than those that are not, especially in the social science department. It is hopeful that in the near future more editors around the globe will obtain policies that require ethical research to be conducted in order for the research to become published. This would effect not only the reputations of the editors and journals, it would improve the reliability of the information that is provided in the research. It is the opinion of many in the field of social science research, that policies and procedures for handling unethical research practices are put in place, so that their years of hard work and dedication does not become undeniable. One accusation to a scientist could lead to many accusations of past and all future research. So if the guidelines were presently in place, this could be avoided. Until that happens, though, there will remain a certain percent of scientific research that is deemed unethical, and most likely will not be published.

Resnik, D. B., Patrone, D., & Peddada, S. (2010). Research Misconduct Policies of Social Science Journals and Impact Factor. Accountability In Research: Policies & Quality Assurance, 17(2), 79-84. doi:10.1080/08989621003641181

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