The ethical principles that guide Virtual Economics are based on the foundational document, 'The European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity.' This document, which received the backing of the European Science Foundation (ESF) and All European Academies (ALLEA), serves as a benchmark for national codes throughout the European Union, having undergone a thorough development process. Furthermore, the ethical framework for "Virtual Economics" also incorporates the Best Practice Guidelines for Journal Editors, as established by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE).
Ethical Principles and Values in Scientific Work
- Diligence: This principle emphasizes the need for researchers to approach their work with care and attention to detail. It involves a thorough presentation of research objectives, methodologies, interpretations, and a clear assessment of potential risks and benefits. Diligence ensures that the research is conducted responsibly and with an awareness of its impact.
- Trustworthiness: Researchers are expected to handle data conscientiously, ensuring its accuracy and integrity. They should also avoid making claims or conducting research outside of their area of expertise, maintaining a commitment to honesty and reliability in their work.
- Objectivity: Objectivity in scientific work requires that conclusions are based on verifiable data and sound reasoning. Researchers should strive to minimize personal biases and preconceptions, allowing the data to guide their conclusions.
- Impartiality: This principle involves maintaining a neutral and unbiased approach to research topics and the sharing of knowledge. It's crucial for ensuring that research findings are not influenced by personal beliefs or external pressures.
- Resistance: Researchers should resist external influences, such as pressures from sponsors or interest groups, that could compromise the integrity of their work. This principle ensures that research is conducted for the advancement of knowledge, rather than to serve specific interests.
- Openness: Openness in scientific work refers to the willingness to discuss and share work with peers and the public. This includes the publication of results and methodologies, which promotes transparency and facilitates further research and collaboration.
- Transparency: This principle requires clear and accessible documentation of data collection, analysis, and storage methods. Transparency is key to replicability and peer review, essential aspects of the scientific method.
- Accountability: Researchers are accountable not only for the integrity of their work but also for its impact on research participants, the environment, and cultural assets. This principle emphasizes the broader responsibilities of scientists to society.
- Consistency: Proper citation and acknowledgment of the work of others is a cornerstone of scientific integrity. Consistency in this practice respects the intellectual contributions of fellow researchers and avoids the pitfalls of plagiarism.
- Care: Part of a researcher's role is to educate the next generation of scientists. This involves instilling in them a strong understanding of and commitment to ethical standards in research.
- Bravery: This principle encourages researchers to challenge and speak out against practices or perspectives that undermine scientific integrity. It involves the courage to uphold ethical standards even in the face of opposition or challenge.
Authorship and Publishing Practice
- Obligation to Publish: This principle underscores the duty of researchers to share their findings transparently and comprehensively with the scientific community and the public. It involves publishing research results in a way that is accessible and understandable, ensuring that the knowledge gained is available for further study and application.
- Credibility and Transparency: Researchers must strive to avoid the suppression or withholding of research results, regardless of whether they are favorable or unfavorable. This commitment to honesty and transparency is crucial for the integrity of the scientific process and for maintaining public trust in scientific research.
- Correct Quotation: Proper citation practices are essential in research to acknowledge the contributions of other scholars and to provide context for the current work. Accurate citation avoids plagiarism, supports the verification of data, and helps trace the evolution of ideas and knowledge.
- Criteria for Authorship: This principle defines who should be credited as an author on a research paper. It typically requires a significant contribution to the research and the writing process. Authorship implies responsibility and accountability for the published work.
- Responsibility of Authors: Authors are responsible for the content they publish, including the accuracy of data and information, the acknowledgment of sources, and the ethical conduct of research. This responsibility extends to co-authors, who must also be aware of and agree to the content of the publication.
- Co-Authorship: Co-authorship should be based on significant intellectual contributions to the research, and all co-authors should agree to the final version of the manuscript. Discipline-specific conventions should be respected, and the contributions of each author should be transparent.
- Acknowledgment of Contributions: Contributions that do not meet the criteria for authorship, such as technical assistance or general support, should be acknowledged separately. This practice ensures that all contributors receive appropriate recognition for their roles.
- Disclosure of Support: Authors should disclose any financial or other forms of support that have contributed to the research. This includes funding sources, grants, and other resources, ensuring transparency about potential influences on the research.
- Conflict of Interest: Authors must disclose any potential conflicts of interest that could influence the results or interpretation of their research. Early revelation of such conflicts helps maintain the credibility and integrity of the research process.
- Multiple Publications: Publishing the same research in more than one journal can be considered unethical unless certain conditions are met, such as different audiences or significant additional content. This principle aims to prevent redundant publication and maintain the uniqueness of each scholarly contribution.
- Media and Society Engagement: Researchers have a responsibility to represent their work honestly and reliably when engaging with the media and the public. This involves avoiding exaggeration, misrepresentation, or oversimplification of research findings.
Reviewing and Evaluating Practice
- Reviewer Expertise: This principle emphasizes the importance of reviewers having expertise in the specific area of the research they are evaluating. Reviewers should only agree to review manuscripts that fall within their area of expertise to ensure a competent and informed evaluation.
- Conflict of Interest: Reviewers must identify and declare any potential conflicts of interest that could bias their evaluation of a manuscript. This includes personal, financial, intellectual, or professional connections with the authors or the work being reviewed. If such conflicts exist, they should abstain from the review process.
- Review Standards: The quality of the review process is paramount. Reviews should be thorough, accurate, unbiased, and justified, providing constructive feedback to authors. Reviewers should critique the research methodology, the accuracy and interpretation of data, and the relevance and originality of the work.
- Confidentiality: Reviewers must maintain the confidentiality of the manuscripts they review. They should not discuss unpublished manuscripts with colleagues or use the information for personal advantage. This confidentiality is essential to the integrity of the review process.
- Data and Concept Usage: Reviewers should respect the intellectual property contained in the manuscripts. They must not use data, ideas, or concepts from the manuscripts for their own purposes without the express written consent of the author.
Misconduct in Scientific Research
- Definition: Misconduct in scientific research refers to the violation of the ethical principles and standards of good practice in research. It undermines the trustworthiness of the research process and the credibility of scientific findings.
- Flagrant Misconduct: The most serious forms of misconduct include fabrication (making up data or results), falsification (manipulating research materials, equipment, or processes, or changing or omitting data), and plagiarism (using others' ideas, processes, results, or words without giving proper credit).
- Other Improper Behaviors: This includes a range of less severe but still problematic behaviors, such as carelessness in data collection and reporting, lapses in attribution and citation, and misconduct by reviewers or editors (such as breach of confidentiality or abuse of their position).
- Ghost-writing and Guest Authorship: These practices, where contributions are not accurately represented or where authorship is inadequately justified, are strictly prohibited. Policies are in place to prevent such practices and ensure that all contributions are transparently and accurately acknowledged.
- Corrections: If errors or inaccuracies are identified in published works, there should be a clear and straightforward process for correcting these issues. This may include issuing corrections, clarifications, or retractions, depending on the severity of the error.
- Alteration of Author Names: The policy addresses scenarios where an author's name needs to be changed or corrected after publication, for reasons such as name changes due to marriage or legal processes.
- Retractions: Guidelines should be established for retracting papers from the journal. Retractions may be necessary in cases of discovered errors, unethical practices, or other violations that significantly compromise the integrity of the research.
Data Handling and Reporting
- Data Accuracy: Ensuring the accuracy and reliability of data is fundamental in scientific research. This principle dictates that researchers must carefully collect, record, and analyze data, and report it honestly and without fabrication, falsification, or inappropriate data manipulation.
- Reporting Standards: Researchers are required to report their methods and findings clearly and completely. This includes providing sufficient details about the methodologies used and the results obtained so that others can replicate the study if needed. Incomplete reporting can mislead or impede further research.
- Data Access and Retention: Researchers should provide access to their data when appropriate, especially in cases where the data forms the basis of publications. Moreover, they are expected to retain their raw data for a reasonable period after publication to enable other researchers to validate the findings if necessary.
- Error Correction: When significant errors in their published work are discovered, researchers have a responsibility to promptly correct these errors in a public forum, such as the journal where the original work was published. This ensures the accuracy and integrity of the scientific record.
Ethical Treatment of Research Subjects
- Human Subjects: Research involving human subjects must be conducted with the highest ethical standards. This includes obtaining informed consent from the participants, ensuring their confidentiality and privacy, and minimizing any harm or discomfort they may experience as a result of the study.
- Animal Research: When conducting research involving animals, researchers must follow ethical guidelines that ensure humane treatment. This includes minimizing pain and distress, using alternatives to animal testing when possible, and ensuring proper care of the animals.
- Environmental Consideration: Researchers must consider the environmental impact of their work. This includes minimizing harm to the environment and adhering to relevant regulations and guidelines for environmental protection.
- Mechanism for Conflict Resolution: The journal should establish a clear and fair process for resolving ethical disputes and allegations of misconduct. This mechanism should be transparent and allow for an impartial examination of the issues raised.
- Fair Hearing and Appeal: Individuals accused of ethical violations should be given a fair hearing, with the opportunity to respond to any allegations. The process should include a means of appeal or review, ensuring that decisions are not arbitrary and are based on a thorough examination of the evidence.
- Resolution Procedures: The procedures for conflict resolution should be clearly documented and accessible. This includes the steps to be taken when a conflict or allegation arises, the parties involved in resolving the dispute, and the potential consequences of finding an ethical breach.
- Fair Play: An essential principle in publication ethics is the objective and unbiased evaluation of manuscripts. Editors and peer reviewers should assess manuscripts for their intellectual content without regard to race, gender, sexual orientation, religious belief, ethnic origin, citizenship, or political philosophy of the authors. This ensures that all submissions are judged solely on their academic merit.
- Confidentiality: Editors and editorial staff are obligated to maintain confidentiality regarding submitted manuscripts. This means they should not disclose any information about a manuscript to anyone other than the corresponding author, potential reviewers, other editorial advisers, and, as appropriate, the publisher. This confidentiality is crucial for protecting the integrity of the author's work and the impartiality of the review process.
- Disclosure and Conflicts of Interest: Unpublished materials disclosed in a submitted manuscript must not be used in an editor's own research without the express written consent of the author. This respects the author’s rights and avoids any conflict of interest. Similarly, editors and reviewers should disclose any conflicts of interest that may influence their handling of the manuscript.
Compliance and Monitoring
- Regular Reviews: Ethical guidelines and practices should be periodically reviewed and updated to ensure they remain relevant and effective. This may involve adapting to new ethical challenges, changes in the law, or evolving standards in scientific research and publishing.
- Monitoring Compliance: There should be mechanisms in place to monitor compliance with ethical guidelines. This might involve audits, feedback mechanisms, or other processes to ensure that authors, reviewers, and editors adhere to these standards.
- Training and Awareness: Regular training and awareness programs should be implemented for authors, reviewers, and editors on ethical practices in research and publishing. This helps to ensure that everyone involved in the publication process is aware of their ethical responsibilities and the standards they are expected to uphold.