Research integrity in reporting health research : perceptions and experiences around plagiarism, conflict of interest and authorship criteria in low- and middle-income countries

Rohwer, Anke Cornelia (2018-03)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2018.

See her research article at http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/106703

Thesis

ENGLISH SUMMARY : Background: There is little research on research integrity in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). This thesis investigates perceived and actual research reporting practices in relation to authorship, plagiarism, redundant publication and conflicts of interest amongst LMIC health researchers. Methods: To take stock of existing research, we summarised prevalence and causes of research misconduct amongst health researchers from LMICs in a systematic review. We then explored perceptions and awareness of poor practices through an online survey of Cochrane authors based in LMICs, using hypothetical scenarios to elicit responses. We gained more insight through follow-up, in-depth interviews with willing survey respondents. Next, we described actual practices in African biomedical journals indexed on the Africa Journals Online database. We measured plagiarism by screening articles with text-matching software, and analysed those with an overall similarity index (OSI) >10% with a pre-specified plagiarism framework. We analysed journal policies and author guidelines and assessed adherence to these in a random selection of articles. Lastly, we piloted a workshop to introduce good reporting practices in two academic institutions in Malawi and Nigeria. We used a variety of teaching approaches to facilitate learning, and based discussions on scenarios. Results: Existing studies from LMICs reported high prevalence of research misconduct. However, studies had limitations related to selection of participants and outcome measurements. One hundred and ninety-nine (34%) Cochrane authors from LMICs responded to the online survey. Of those, 77% reported that guest authorship occurred at their institution, 60% reported text-recycling, 43% reported plagiarism of ideas and 40% indicated that their colleagues had not declared conflicts of interest in the past. Four themes emerged from the qualitative data: 1) authorship rules are simple in theory, but not consistently applied; 2) academic status and power underpin behaviours; 3) institutions and culture fuel bad practices; and 4) researchers are uncertain about what conflicts of interest means, and how this may influence research. We screened 495 published articles from 100 journals for plagiarism. Of the 358 articles with an OSI >10%, we found plagiarism in 73% (95%CI 67 to 78), comprising one to two copied sentences in 26% (95%CI 22 to 31), three to six copied sentences in 25% (95%CI 20 to 29), and at least four linked or more than six copied sentences in 22% (95%CI 18 to 28). Journal policies and author guidelines were lacking, especially amongst non-commercial journals. Existing guidelines were poorly implemented. Workshop participants acknowledged the importance of research integrity and engaged in discussions and activities. Conclusions: Researchers across LMICs report that poor research reporting practices are common. They are mostly concerned about widespread guest authorship. Actual rates of plagiarism in African biomedical articles are very high. Conflicts of interest are poorly understood and not declared. The desire for academic status, institutional systems linked to promotions and organisational culture fuel bad practices. Efforts to promote research integrity should be multi-faceted and targeted at various stakeholders, including institutions and journals. Future research should identify effective interventions to promote research integrity in LMICs. Further testing of our plagiarism framework is needed.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING : Agtergrond: Min studies oor navorsingsintegriteit in lae- en middel-inkomstelande (LMILe) is beskikbaar. Hierdie skripsie ondersoek vermeende en werklike praktyke rondom navorsingsverslaggewing met betrekking tot outeurskap, plagiaat, onnodige publikasie en botsende belange van gesondheidsnavorsers in LMILe. Metodes: Om bestaande navorsing te evalueer, is die voorkoms en oorsake van wangedrag onder gesondheidsnavorsers van LMILe in ‘n stelselmatige oorsig opgesom. Daarna is die bewustheid van praktyke deur ‘n aanlyn-opname van Cochrane outeurs uit LMILe ondersoek. Denkbeeldige scenarios is ontplooi om reaksies in terme van aanvaarbaarheid en voorkoms van swak praktyke te ontlok. Deur middel van daaropvolgende, in-diepte onderhoude met gewillige navorsers is verdere insig verkry. Vervolgens is werklike praktyke in biomediese tydskrifte van die “Africa Journals Online” databasis beskryf. Plagiaat is gemeet deur artikels met teks-vergelykende sagteware te toets. Dié met ‘n algemene similariteitsindeks (ASI) >10% is met ‘n vooraf-gespesifiseerde plagiaatraamwerk ontleed. Joernaalbeleide en outeursriglyne, en die toespassing daarvan, is in ‘n steekproef van artikels ondersoek. Werkswinkels oor goeie verslaggewingsgebruike is in Malawi en Nigerië geloods. ‘n Verskeidenheid onderrigstrategieë is aangewend en besprekings is op denkbeeldige scenarios gebaseer. Resultate: ‘n Hoë voorkoms van navorsingswangedrag word in bestaande studies van LMILe aangemeld. Studies was nietemin beperk met betrekking tot die keuse van deelnemers en die meet van uitslae. Eenhonderd-nege-en-negentig (34%) Cochrane outeurs van LMILe het op die aanlyn-opname gereageer. Hiervan het 77% verklaar dat “gas-outeurskap” by hul instelling voorkom, 60% het verklaar dat werk sonder erkenning hergebruik word, 43% het plagiaat ten opsigte van idees verklaar en 40% het aangedui kollegas het nie in die verlede botsende belange verklaar nie. Vanuit die kwalitatiewe gegewens het vier temas tevoorskyn getree: 1. Reëls ten opsigte van outeurskap is teoreties eenvoudig, maar word nie konsekwent toegepas nie; 2. Akademiese status en mag onderlê gedrag; 3. Instellings en kultuur gee aanleiding tot slegte praktyke; 4. Navorsers is onseker wat botsende belange beteken en hoe dit navorsing kan beïnvloed. Ons het 495 artikels uit 100 joernale vir plagiaat getoets. Plagiaat is in 73% (95% vertrouensinterval (VI) 67 tot 78) van die 358 artikels met ‘n ASI>10% gevind, bestaande uit een tot twee gekopiëerde sinne in 26% (95%VI 22 tot 31), drie tot ses gekopiëerde sinne in 25% (95%VI 20 tot 29) en ‘n verband tussen minstens vier, of meer as ses in total, gekopiëerde sinne in 22% (95%VI 18 tot 28). Joernaalbeleide en outeursriglyne skiet tekort, veral met betrekking tot nie-kommersiële joernale. Bestaande riglyne word swak geïmplementeer. Deelnemers aan die werkswinkel het die belangrikheid van navorsingsintegriteit begryp en was aktief by groepsessies betrokke. Gevolgtrekkings: Navorsers regoor LMILe meld dat swak praktyke algemeen voorkom, en is veral bekommerd oor wyd-verspreide “gas-outeurskap”. Die werklike voorkoms van plagiaat in biomediese artikels uit Afrika is baie hoog. Navorsers is onseker oor botsende belange. Die begeerte na akademiese status, instellingstelsels wat met bevordering verband hou asook organisatoriese kultuur vuur wangedrag aan. Pogings om navorsingsintegriteit te bevorder moet toegespits word op verskeie belanghebbendes, insluitende instellings en joernale. Toekomstige navorsing moet doeltreffende ingryping, wat navorsingsintegriteit in LMILe aanmoedig, identifiseer. Verdere toetsing van ons plagiaat-raamwerk word aanbeveel.

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