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Academic Integrity And Academic Standards
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Academic Integrity And Academic Standards

Academic integrity

Academic integrity is the ethical code of academia, i.e. the world of univiersities and scholars. If you want to be a part of this world, you should know about it and you should be prepared to act according to the established ethical traditions and norms within your discipline. It might sound obvious, but it can be difficult, especially if you are new in academia, because the concept of ethics is difficult to determine and define. Ethical rules are not determined and legible like the law, although it is an important concept.

Ethics, and thus academic integrity, is a sort of contract or set of rules that persons have agreed upon, and they stipulate what scholarly active persons, project groups, departments, and institutiones should do (and not do) and how such activities may benefit to society. In short, ethical norms orients and instructs academics what they should do when they work as academics.

Needless to say, it is hard to find a rock solid foundation for ethics, given its broad yet important span of rules and norms. Further, the use of ethical guideslines also depends on the cultural and social settings where they are used. For example, it may be possible to agree upon what the fundamental humans rights are, and by doing so reach an agreement about common ethical norms. However, it is still possible for some of us to have a slightly different interpretation when it comes to the practical implementation of these norms, especially if we live and work in different countries. It is hard to interpret ethical standards and to implement them in practical sitations because there are so many different settings and situations.

Being able to make decisions based on ethical decisions is important. You need to be prepared for making these types of decisions, because sooner or later they will present themselves to you. One way to make it easier to handle such decisions, and to help solve ethical dilemmas, is to discuss the problem at hand with colleagues. After all, continued discussions about difficult questions is a good way to practise and to solve ehtical problems.

There are some models and suggested ways to work, for those who want to work with questions about ethics. The Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University, USA, for example, have put together a Framework for Thinking Ethically. Their framework is designed to help people understand how to tacle issues related to ethics. Their model has five steps:

  1. Recognize an Ethical Issue
  2. Get the Facts
  3. Evaluate Alternative Actions
  4. Make a Decision and Test It
  5. Act and Reflect on the Outcome

This model is simple and easy to understand yet powerful. I suggest that it may also be used by anyone who is interested in learning more about the importance of academic integrity, the backbone of good, solid research. Hopefully, the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics' model may help you contemplate about your research ethics and, in turn, help you produce true and high-quality data and other output.

Academic standards

Academic standards are the agreed upon systems, methods, rules and such that govern research. Callahan & Hobbs (1998) have written a nice article about research ethics. Several reasons why academic standards are important for research are also discussed by David B. Resnik in his 2011 article 'What is Ethics in Research & Why is it Important?'. For a further discussion, see also Shamoo & Resnik's book 'Responsible Conduct of Research' (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009).

For example, these standards help facilitate communications and agreements among individual researchers and project groups inside countries and in international collaborative research projects. The international research taking place at CERN, for example, is supported and enhanced thanks to international and commonly accepted academic standards. Building on Resnik's 2011 article, below are some important factors for you to read and think about:

Honesty and integrity Be true to youself in the planning, execution, and reporting of research projects. Only report data that is true and tell the truth to colleagues, members of the public, and grant giving organsations. maintain your intergrity as a researcher and be a person that others can rely on in collaborative research projects.

Objectivity and carefulness In your strive for objectivity, fight bias, discrimination and other sources of undesired input into your research. Put your personal interests aside and design, implement, and report your study in an objective way. Further, make sure that you are painstakingly accurate and strict in your research endeavours. Make it your target goal, to only include elements in your research that are directly relevant for the study at hand.

Respect for participants and social responsibility Treat the people who are participating in your study with respect. Follow the guidelines issued by the ethical committees and boards at your faculy and university. Make sure you can justify your research in terms of its benefits and services to society.

Respect confidentiality as well as intellectual property Respect agreements between colleagues and keep sensitive aspects of your research and adjacent delicate information confidential. Likewise, respect legal contracts and arrangements and do not break patents or misuse intellectual property that you do now control.

In the end, we all want to keep our integrity and stay on the right path regardless of our line of work. By following the aforementioned suggestions and guidelines, it will hopefully be easier for you to uphold your academic integrity and to avoid academic dishonesty.

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