Respected global medical journal Lancet Documents with data from Africa that do not acknowledge African employees will continue to be rejected in the interests of advancing African research and promoting honesty, fairness and fairness in research collaboration, senior executive editor Sabine Kleinert said.
The journal made the decision after coming across manuscripts submitted by researchers from outside Africa and with data collected from the continent but without mentioning or acknowledging any African collaborators, she said at the 7th World Research Integrity Conference held in Cape Town from May 29th to June 1st.
“Now we reject such documents because when you bring us such documents, you probably had a local researcher collecting data for you, or you “helicopter” flew to Africa, but you decided not to recognize them, which is unacceptable” .
Kleinert, one of the co-chairs of the conference hosted by the University of Cape Town, noted that failure to disclose or evaluate the work of others is tantamount to a breach of integrity, and every publisher has a responsibility to look into it.
She answered a question during a session titled “Implementing the Hong Kong Principles in an African Context”. Hong Kong principles for the evaluation of researchers were formulated and approved at the 6th World Conference on Research Integrity, held in June 2019 in Hong Kong. Their goal is to help the research institutions that implement them minimize questionable research practices.
Quality, fairness and diversity
LancetWhile evaluating manuscripts, Kleinert said the emphasis was on the quality of the work done, but he acknowledged that fairness and diversity play an important role when it comes to research done in different regions of the world.
The publisher acknowledged that prices can be prohibitive and this is a major factor in publisher selection for many researchers in low- and middle-income countries. Exactly because of this reason Lancet now charges different prices for different regions.
The Hong Kong Principles of Research Integrity have been important to academia when addressing issues related to academic awards, research evaluation, and the ethical conduct of research. According to Kleinert, they emphasize the importance of research integrity as a criterion for university rankings.
In addition, they address a range of issues including career advancement, research funding, and issues of quality versus quantity, team vs. individual, and long-term vs. short-term effects of research. Overall, the framework was intended to “encourage the integrity of research and improve its conduct.”
Ntobeko Ntusi, Chair of Medicine at the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Cape Town, said Africa is loudly demanding equal cooperation between African researchers and researchers from outside the continent, so that there is a semblance of responsible research.
He observed that African science was facing many difficulties, including inadequate funding, poor infrastructure, lack of university leaders, and limited mentoring. To address these challenges, research management, funding, and regulatory bodies needed to be strengthened and streamlined.
“We also need to create institutional research networks and establish more partnerships between universities so that they can use the available resources,” Ntusi said.
Examples of such networks and partnerships include organizations such as the African Research Universities Alliance, which has promoted collaborative research among member institutions across the continent.
Through such networks it was possible to launch research integrity programs and create disciplinary societies such as the South African Institute of Ethics.
Ntusi said it was time to change the reward system at universities in regards to academic progress so that the system would value quality directly through supervision, mentoring, scholarship, research culture and “academic citizenship”.
He advocated for open science, noting that it can play a role in strengthening the ethical conduct of research by giving researchers free access to data.
“Africa needs a lot of support for open science by providing the necessary infrastructure, skills and money,” he said. “Open access is expensive, but it’s what Africa needs.”
Many African researchers needed support in the form of discipline-specific training, the use of public databases and research methodologies. He noted that this would strengthen the ethical conduct of research and foster a culture of integrity.
First of all, individual commitment to research integrity was needed, and institutions and countries needed to sign the Hong Kong Principles, Leiden Manifesto on Research Indicators and Declaration of Evaluation of Scientific Research.
He said that the role of institutions in ensuring integrity would be strengthened if universities adhered to Declaration of Evaluation of Scientific Research and the Hong Kong principles of research evaluation because they emphasize fairness and reward excellence.