We need to talk about good research practice

It is deeply concerning to read the 120 testimonies that PhD student Maria Toft from the University of Copenhagen has taken initiative to collect for the #pleasedontstealmywork campaign and share in anonymised form on Science Report. Early-career researchers have shared their experiences with incidents in which senior researchers have used their text or data without involving or crediting the early-career researcher who produced it. This should never happen.

At AU, we’re only aware of a few incidents that have been handled by the Research Practice Committee or one of the advisers for responsible conduct of research. It’s not unconceivable, however, that there are incidents that go unreported; going public with incidents of this kind can be a risky affair for early-career researchers. Relationships and networks are important if you want to succeed in academia, and it takes a lot of courage to break the silence – and to say no where the situation calls for it.

But nonetheless, this is what we encourage you to do. To dare to speak out, and to say no.

The campaign #pleasedontstealmywork testifies to a problem in academic culture. We have to bring this problem into the light in order to reach a shared understanding of what good research practice is: what are the limits of collaboration, who should receive credit for what, and where we draw the line between inspiration and theft. Sharing knowledge and building on the achievements of others is the essence of research. This means that it’s necessary to initiate dialogue about the ground rules for co-authorship and data-sharing in our research groups if these issues aren’t already being discussed.

Ongoing dialogue about research practice and asking questions about doubts and grey areas can help prevent distrust and suspicion taking root. But in cases in which it’s known or suspected that lines have been crossed, Aarhus University’s responsible conduct of research advisers are available to offer confidential help and advice. It’s important to discuss these questions – and it’s important to say no to unethical behaviour.

Rules on authorship

The Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals (commonly referred to as the Vancouver Convention) were drawn up by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE).

Read the recommendations here

Advisers on the responsible conduct of research and freedom of research

Read more about the university’s advisers on the responsible conduct of research and freedom of research and find out how to contact them.