Many of the current solutions aimed towards scientific misconduct (plagiarism in particular) revolve around what to do post-publication. Dr. Malhar N. Kumar, a researcher out of Bangalore, suggests that this current model is ineffective.
“Science policing should not be limited to retrospective dissection of episodes of reported misconduct. A proactive method aimed at prevention should also become a part of the process,” he said.
In light of the biomedical research field taking a hit in credibility due to cases of scientific misconduct, Kumar suggests several models that could proactively prevent such issues.
Some of these models include increasing ‘censorship’ over researchers, a regularly scheduled audit of scientific research activities, further educating researchers on scientific ethics, and maintaining a system of checking papers pre-publication.
A few of Kumar’s models, although perhaps effective, seem a bit Orwellian in nature. Just as in any profession, scientific researchers would feel their creativity stifled if the level of censorship was dialed up too far.
In addition, having Big Brother look over a researcher’s shoulder or having regular audits would be time and capital intensive.
Of these proposed preemptive prevention models, two appear to be very feasible and potentially effective: providing researchers with a background in ethics as well as checking papers pre-publication.
Educating scientists on attribution, proper collaboration techniques and general research ethics is a long term strategy that could play a role in future generations of science. Although this education may not cause an immediate drop in cases of misconduct, it would serve as a strategy to ensure a sound future in proper research.
Implementing a technology to check research papers prior to publication would provide immediate returns. iThenticate has been developed to serve the scientific research field by cross checking any submitted work with a massive database of research that’s already out there.
This strategy would not be invasive to researchers like regular audits or any sort of censorship – it would simply require an editor to submit a paper to iThenticate’s easy-to-use online application prior to publication.
Any items of interest or misconduct would be highlighted, pre-screened and dealt with, preventing any potential post-publishing fallout.