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Sonia M.R.Vasconcelos1 Looking at Plagiarism in Latin American Science through the Perception of Brazilian Scientists: Preliminary Results from a Focus.

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Presentation on theme: "Sonia M.R.Vasconcelos1 Looking at Plagiarism in Latin American Science through the Perception of Brazilian Scientists: Preliminary Results from a Focus."— Presentation transcript:

1 Sonia M.R.Vasconcelos1 Looking at Plagiarism in Latin American Science through the Perception of Brazilian Scientists: Preliminary Results from a Focus Group Project

2 Sonia M.R.Vasconcelos 2 This presentation is based on the results from my PhD, focused on scientometric, linguistic and cultural factors involved in the publication output of Brazilian researchers (October, 2008), which led to a recently accepted publication in Embo Reports entitled “Discussing Plagiarism in Latin American Science: Behind the Times?” by Sonia Vasconcelos; Jacqueline Leta, Lídia Costa, André Pinto and Martha Sorenson.

3 Sonia M.R.Vasconcelos 3 Co-authors: Martha Sorenson and Jacqueline Leta - Science Education Program/ Medical Biochemistry Institute- Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) Lidia Costa – Catalysis Center- National Institute of Technology (INT) Andre Pinto – Mechanical and Materials Engineering Department - Miliary Institute of Engineering (IME)

4 Brazilian Science “Compared to other Latin American countries, Brazil is the region’s ‘giant in every sense of the word’ and has “the most sophisticated and diversified science, technology and innovation system’ (Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, 2008). The country has the highest proportion of its gross domestic product (GDP) invested in research and development (The World Bank, 2007)... In 2005, Brazilian authors were responsible for almost 45% of articles from Latin America published in journals indexed in the Thomson Reuters database, (Brazilian Ministry of Science and Technology, 2002) and Brazil has more journals indexed in Medline than any other Latin American country (Piccoli & Procianoy, 2007)”. (Vasconcelos, SMR, 2008) 4Sonia M.R.Vasconcelos

5 Growth of Brazilian Science ( ) Source: Thomson Reuters. National Science IndicatorsBrazilian Ministry of Science and Technology, 18 Sep in Sonia M.R.Vasconcelos

6 6 Brazilian Science in Latin America Source: Thomson Reuters. National Science IndicatorsBrazilian Ministry of Science and Technology, 18 Sep

7 7 Sonia M.R.Vasconcelos

8 8 The growing competition in Brazilian science: rites of passage, stress and burnout (Braz J Med Biol Res, 2003) “Brazil's scientific community is under pressure. Each year there is an increase in its contribution to international science and in the number of students who are trained to do research and teach at an advanced level. Most of these activities are carried out in state and federal universities... Interviews with graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and professors in one university department with a strong research tradition illustrate the level of stress engendered by the conflict between increasing competition and diminishing resources, and serve to underscore the negative effects on creativity and on the tendency to choose science as a career.”

9 9 The growing competition in Brazilian science: rites of passage, stress and burnout (Braz J Med Biol Res, 2003) Focus on mental health Cited by others working on mental health Sonia M.R.Vasconcelos

10 The mental health of graduate students at the Federal University of São Paulo: a preliminary report (Braz J Med Biol Res, 2003) “If we consider the expressive growth in Brazilian scientific production resulting from the implementation of an extensive national system of graduate education, it is important to focus efforts on enhancing and upgrading the mental health care system.” 10 Sonia M.R.Vasconcelos

11 Whither Latin America? Trends and challenges of science in Latin America (IUBMB Life, 2007) “...need to establish effective policies to increase competitiveness in terms of the quality and international recognition of Latin American natural sciences in general, and BMB [Biochemistry and Molecular Biology] in particular, as opposed to merely increasing the absolute numbers of publications or the numbers of PhDs awarded in the region.” 11 Sonia M.R.Vasconcelos

12 12 Ethical aspects of doing and publishing research in Latin American science: Taken for granted??? What do 16 Brazilian senior researchers from leading public institutions say about plagiarism, for example?

13 Sonia M.R.Vasconcelos Our Focus Group Interviews Focusing on Plagiarism and Redundancy Linguistic Competence Perceptions of Plagiarism Plagiarism among Graduate Students Plagiarism and the “Publish or Perish” Culture 13

14 Sonia M.R.Vasconcelos Our Focus Group Interviews Focusing on Plagiarism and Redundancy Research Questions: Does lack of linguistic competence make researchers more tolerant of plagiarism? What are these researchers` perceptions of plagiarism in science? Is the [American] concept of plagiarism clear cut among these respondents? How familiar are these researchers with recent integrity policies established by the US and European countries? 14

15 Sonia M.R.Vasconcelos 15 Linguistic Competence Among the 16 researchers interviewed, 12 expressed a positive assessment of their writing competence in English. Some of the comments were as follows: “...I spent many years abroad during my PhD, which helped me a lot…my competence in writing was developed during my PhD…[Concerning manuscripts], I do everything… but I only derive intellectual pleasure out of writing the discussion…the other sessions are rather boring and take up a lot of time…” “...I don’t have much trouble to communicate in English, to read or write…sometimes I feel the need for more skill than I have, and I send it [the manuscript] to a language editor, but not usually. I write it and each colleague in my group tries to correct the text a little bit... “ Four participants, however, did not have a positive opinion about their linguistic competence in writing: “I think my English proficiency is reasonable, although I don’t like writing. Definitely, among all my tasks as a professor and researcher, writing is what I like the least… it makes me uncomfortable that writing up research has almost become our reason for being [in science].” “My linguistic competence is horrible; I’ve never studied English. I started to study English when I was at university…I would use a dictionary to check everything and wasted a lot of time… [When writing manuscripts] I transfer the job to my collaborators. I give them an outline of the main points and they give me some feedback…I’m an experimentalist, my time is in the lab and I don’t like wasting time writing…”

16 Sonia M.R.Vasconcelos 16 Linguistic Competence Complementary cumulative distribution function of researchers with different writing competences, good (black squares), reasonable (red circles) and poor (green triangles), according to number of papers. Complementary cumulative distribution function of researchers with different writing competences, good (black squares), reasonable (red circles) and poor (green triangles), according to number of citations. (Vasconcelos SMR, Batista, PD, Sant`anna, MC, Sorenson M, Leta J, Embo Rep, 2008) 22, 900 researchers

17 Sonia M.R.Vasconcelos 17 Perceptions of Plagiarism The concept of plagiarism appeared to be rather ill-defined among our respondents. Among the 16 participants, only two expressed the full definition of plagiarism, that is, including not only the use of someone else ’ s ideas and results without attribution but also inappropriate textual borrowing… Most respondents considered that textual plagiarism in science would be a less serious offense than copying data. In a recent article, Bouville claims that “ copying a few sentences that contain no original idea (e.g. in the introduction) is of marginal importance compared to stealing the ideas of others. ” “ To me, plagiarism is results, copying results...this already happened several times: You talk to somebody about the results you obtained and the person ends up developing the same … This is plagiarism. The same idea you had the person develops, right? Ideas: this is plagiarism. Only ideas … I have my doubts about the text …” “ To me, plagiarism in science is copying results, for sure... [Plagiarism] in an article is... [When] you copy and paste an excerpt [sentence] larger than six, seven or eight words. I think you shouldn ’ t do that. ” “ Well, I don ’ t see it quite the same way. Apart from copying results … [I mean] if only results are results that are a little bit different [from the original]. You then work on the same text and [only] change the results … To me, this is plagiarism. ”

18 This view was also expressed by Brazilian physics researchers accused by their colleagues of inappropriate textual borrowing in publications in Physics Review C (2007). From the perspective of some of the scientists involved in that case, their borrowing paragraphs from others without attribution was an editorial problem, not plagiarism. 18 Sonia M.R.Vasconcelos

19 Plagiarism among Graduate Students “A student asked me to review her thesis. Sure, I was very happy to do so…It came to a point where I thought” I know this style… "And I went on reading…five, six pages from my own thesis! Had she copied that from someone else’s writing?...I’ve never met a situation like that; the really strange thing is that I talked to her thesis advisor, who considered the whole issue trivial …” “… I don’t care…a paragraph from my thesis… [a student copying] not the whole thesis…but some paragraphs, I don’t care…Materials and methods? [Students] always copy and paste from other students…” “...my impression is that they [students] read less and…they read only thesis-related issues…they limit themselves…I think this can lead to plagiarism…” “…generally, students do not write well; many are poor and could not attend an English course [before entering university]. What do we have to do? Write for them? …When you tell them to do their own writing, many copy and paste.” 19 Sonia M.R.Vasconcelos

20 Plagiarism among Graduate Students “…generally, [Brazilian] students do not write well; many are poor and could not attend an English course [before entering university]. What do we have to do? Write for them? …When you tell them to do their own writing, many copy and paste.” Plagiarism? No, we're just borrowing better English [!] (Correspondence, Nature 449, 658, October 2007) “… Many such authors succumb to the temptation to use eloquent phrases, sentences or even whole paragraphs found in recently published papers in order to improve their own work.” (Editorial, Biomaterials, Jun 2007) 20 Sonia M.R.Vasconcelos

21 Plagiarism and the “Publish or Perish”Culture In a letter published in the Bulletin of the Brazilian Physics Society, a Brazilian scientist expressed his concern about the effects of the mechanics of “counting papers” on the Brazilian research environment (Oliveira, 2006). In his view, the current assessment of contribution to science on a numerical basis may have detrimental effects on this environment and lead to unethical behavior in the Brazilian scientific community. 21 Sonia M.R.Vasconcelos

22 Plagiarism and the “Publish or Perish” Culture We noted the same feeling in the following comments from our focus groups: “I think...publications, the demand for producing texts and patents…we’re overwhelmed by the mechanics of being productive; it’s something mechanical, and we end up…accepting things that used to be unethical but that have now become acceptable.” “...this pressure for numbers and demand for quantity that has increased in the research environment…people do not have time to consider what makes a real contribution [to science]… this mathematization looks at [productivity] from a numerical perspective.” 22 Sonia M.R.Vasconcelos

23 Concluding Remarks Time to introduce the discussion on research integrity in Latin American countries: The Brazilian research community should be a good starting point. So far, plagiarism, especially textual plagiarism in science, was not a clear clear cut issue among senior researchers participating in the focus groups. We doubt that a different scenario would be found for larger groups of researchers from the same institutions. Considering that Brazilian science has today the most promising research system, with more visibility in terms of world`s science, these responses may be similiar for most Latin American countries. 23Sonia M.R.Vasconcelos

24 24 Post Doc Project Postdoc project: Developing Research Integrity Policies for Graduate Students at the Chemical Engineering Program at COPPE (Graduate School of Research and Engineering) Submitted for IRB Approval

25 Sonia M.R.Vasconcelos25 Muito obrigada!


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