By Melchizedek J. Onobe, PhD& Jemimah Shuna Dogo
In a world of advanced technology, everything and everyone seems to be on a fast lane. The competition to attain certain heights in life gets tighter and tougher with only a few doing what is right. Most people want their names on the papers, the billboards and on the walls of every street to showcase their achievements irrespective of how it was gotten. This is a situation that is somewhat inevitable and common to ramifications of varying work sphere. The idea to cut corners to reach to a top level and, to attain wealth is like an inferno especially in a developing country like Nigeria. This now brings in the issue of ethics in as obtained in different profession. What is right or wrong and what can be done to checkmate the wrong? In this article, the academia will be examined in view of unethical practices carried out in research of which possible solutions will be offered.
Research is essential for expanding human understanding and enhancing many facets of our life. However, unethical research practices can damage the credibility of scientific and social endeavours, weakening public confidence, and have far-reaching effects. Implementing strong mechanisms for identifying, preventing, and correcting unethical practices is essential if we are to uphold the highest standards of ethical behaviour in research. Although, numerous research councils have taken action, unethical research, publishing, and/or reviewing practices continues to linger.
To consider the unethical practices in research cannot be understood in isolation of the culture within which the researcher is working. This is due to the fact that, what is acceptable in a culture may not be acceptable in another. Therefore, it is important for a researcher to have a behavior that will be universally acceptable. Take for example, a researcher saddled with investigating the conduct of staff in a restaurant- will they be informed? Will secret cameras and microphones be kept in hidden yet strategic places? These are all ethical concerns however, the most important thing is not to deceive as deception is a character that is not globally accepted. Rather, trust should be the bed rock of every researcher. The evolution of society and science are both based on ethical research. It respects the values of truthfulness, openness, justice, and respect for participants and society at large. The protection of human rights, the advancement of the common good, and the validity and dependability of scientific findings are all ensured by ethical research. Researchers build trust and confidence among the public, decision-makers, and other scientists by upholding ethical standards. The fundamental ethical guidelines for research includes;
Honesty: The research must represent a sincere effort. It must demonstrate the author’s actual original work.
Be careful: The study must contain validated facts rather than made-up tales. When providing quantitative data, the researcher must exercise particular caution and double-check their accuracy. The researcher must be knowledgeable and responsible enough to know what data or information should be shared and what should remain private. Certain information pertaining to military secrets, patient data, and specific closed-door meetings was withheld by the researcher.
Social responsibility: Research should be conducted for purposes other than personal gain, such as advancing knowledge, solving issues, identifying gaps in the current social structure, etc.
Navigating through the challenges of unethical research practice, the following should be adhered to.
- Plagiarism: In simple terms, plagiarism is theft – taking someone’s work and making it yours is referred to as plagiarism. Regular training programmes for researchers on ethics should be taken seriously. It provides an environment for the dissemination of ethical research guidelines. By teaching students about professional ethics at the academic level itself, plagiarism can be prevented.
- Lack of Integrity; Peculiar to Nigerians is the issue of integrity. There is a need to carryout campaign right from grassroots level on the need to develop integrity both as a moral and an ethical code of conduct. The importance of integrity is such that it promotes transparency in research practices. Integrity can be imbibed in the lives of people when collaboration is projected to be better than competition.
- Authorship Disputes: This frequently result in instances when persons who deserve credit do not receive it, and occasionally, permission is not obtained before publishing a person’s name in a research article. Therefore, consent should be taken and credits should be given to whom it is due no matter how the little the contribution made.
- The Pressure to publish: In Nigeria according to scholars, there is the “abeg add my name syndrome”. It is true that academic personnel cannot be promoted without the necessary volume of publications. Therefore, colleagues encourage the “abeg add my name” mentality in the name of carrying others along. All they are worried about is how to handle the strain of the amount of publication needed for promotion, and as a result, they are prepared to follow the “abeg add my name” syndrome. Research proposes that sections of an article contributed by others should be indicated. Furthermore, the “publish or perish” slogan should be de-emphasized and lastly, there should be an evidence of participation in the research.
- Falsified facts and figures: Fabrication is the act of “making up data or results.” Falsification is defined as “changing or omitting data or results so that the research is not accurately represented in the research record, or manipulating research materials, equipment, or processes.” When a researcher tries to complete an experiment with data that they have personally assumed, it frequently happens. The main objective of research is to educate society. But due to data fabrication and data falsification, the entire goal of the study is lost
- Conflict of Interest: This occurs in research when the researcher or author is swayed by personal or financial concerns that ultimately lower the caliber of the study’s findings. This is why it is important for all researchers to practice self-awareness, self-control, and self-responsibility.
In conclusion, unethical research practice in the society is a betrayal of trust to its members and the world at large. Research forms the basis for the development of any society therefore, curbing unethical research practice through the above measures will promote trust and strengthen the fabric of a society.