Ethical Concerns in Research and Publication

Learn about the ethical concerns surrounding research and publication. From data sharing to informed consent, find out what you need to consider to ensure ethical research practices.
Ethical Concerns in Research and Publication

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If you are conducting research or writing a publication, it is important to be aware of Ethical Concerns in Research and Publication that may arise. These can include issues such as plagiarism, data manipulation, and conflict of interest. In this blog post Ethical Concerns in Research and Publication, we will discuss some of the most common ethical concerns in research and publication. We will also provide tips on how to avoid these issues.


Research is the foundation of knowledge and an essential component of progress. This has increased the quality and quantity of life in the rapidly increasing field of biomedical research. Historically, medical physicians have been in a privileged position to do research, particularly clinical research involving humans. They have “life and death” influence over patients and full access to their sensitive information. Furthermore, due to the public’s high appreciation for science and medicine, medical researchers have enjoyed exemption from accountability. As a result, some researchers have conducted unethical studies. For example, during World War II, medical practitioners conducted unethical experiments on humans in the name of research, resulting in injury and, in some cases, death. 1 Recently, the pharmaceutical industry’s engagement in clinical trials has prompted concerns about how to protect patients’ care and ensuring the published study findings are objective. 2

In light of these ethical difficulties, the Declaration of Helsinki was created to instruct biomedical researchers about clinical research ethics.3 This declaration emphasized three parameters for appropriate clinical practice: respect for the dignity of the individual; research should not take precedence over participants’ health, well-being, and care; and principles of justice. In addition, the Committee on Publishing Ethics (COPE) was established in 1997 to investigate violations of research and publication ethics..4

How can we put all of these concepts into practice in our everyday research? This article will go through several ethical difficulties in research, such as study design and ethical approval, data analysis, authorship, conflicts of interest, redundant publication, and plagiarism. In this work, I’ve also included two case studies to demonstrate frequent ethical difficulties in research and publication.


Study design and ethics approval

According to COPE, “good research should be well adjusted, well-planned, appropriately designed, and ethically approved. To conduct research to a lower standard may constitute misconduct.”3 This may appear to be a tough criteria, but it emphasizes the fundamental demand of a researcher: to do research responsibly. To do this, a research procedure should be created and followed. It must be thoroughly agreed upon by all contributors and collaborators, and the specific tasks of each team member, including authorship and publishing, must be laid out early. Rather from just collecting data, research should strive to answer particular questions.

For investigations involving persons, medical data, or anonymised human tissues, authorisation from the Institutional Review Board or Ethics Committee of the respective organizations is required. The study proposal should address any potential ethical difficulties that may arise as a result of the investigation. To avoid ethical violations, researchers should pay extra attention to vulnerable people (e.g. children, prisoners, pregnant women, mentally challenged, educationally and economically disadvantaged).During recruiting, patients should be provided a patient information sheet outlining the aims, methods, possible benefits and hazards, as well as their right to decline participation in the research. Consent should be explained and acquired from the subjects or guardians, and actions should be made to preserve the confidentiality of the subjects’ information.

Data analysis

It is the researcher’s obligation to properly analyze the data. Although inadequate analysis is not always considered misconduct, deliberate concealment of results might lead to misunderstanding and mislead the readers. Data fabrication and falsification do constitute misconduct. In a clinical trial, for example, if a medicine is determined to be unsuccessful, the study should be disclosed. Negative study outcomes are frequently underreported by researchers. 5 This is due in part to pressure from the pharmaceutical business, which sponsors the clinical trial.

All sources and techniques used to acquire and analyze data should be properly disclosed to guarantee accurate data analysis. Failure to do so may cause readers to interpret the results incorrectly since the research was underpowered. A paper’s discussion section should address any problems of bias and explain how they were addressed in the study’s design and interpretation.


An author is widely recognized to have made a significant contribution to the intellectual content, including conceptualizing and designing the study, as well as gathering, analyzing, and interpreting the data. The author should also accept public accountability for the work and confirm that the document reflects authentic labor. Finally, an author is typically involved in the drafting or revision of the article, as well as the approval of the submitted paper. Data collecting, grammar and language correction, and other regular tasks do not merit authorship.

It is critical to identify early in the study planning process who will be attributed as authors, collaborators, and acknowledged. It is also essential to carefully examine the target journal’s “Advice to Authors,” which may serve as a guide to the problem of authorship.

Conflicts of interest

This occurs when researchers have hidden interests that may impact their judgements on what is published. Personal, business, political, scholarly, or financial interests are all examples of conflicts. Employment, research funding, stock or share ownership, remuneration for lecture or travel, consultancies, and firm assistance for personnel are all examples of financial interests. This is especially important in biomedical research, as pharmaceutical companies pay a large number of clinical trials.

Such interests, when appropriate, should be discussed early in the study process. Researchers must go above and above to guarantee that their conflicts of interest do not impact the technique or conclusion of the study. If in doubt, it might be prudent to consult an independent researcher or an Ethics Committee. When publishing, these conflicts of interest should be disclosed to editors, and readers will decide if the study findings are reliable for themselves.

Redundant publication and plagiarism

Redundant publishing happens when two or more articles share the same hypothesis, data, discussion points, or conclusions without proper cross-referencing. Previous publication of an abstract in the proceedings of a meeting, on the other hand, does not prohibit later submission for publication; nevertheless, full disclosure should be given at the time of submission. This is sometimes referred to as self-plagiarism. Researchers are under enormous pressure to publish in an increasingly competitive climate where appointments, promotions, and funding applications are heavily impacted by publication record, and a rising minority is striving to boost their CV using dishonest means..7

Plagiarism, on the other hand, extends from the unreferenced use of others’ published and unpublished ideas, including research funding applications, to the submission of a whole article under “new” authorship, often in a foreign language.

As a result, it is critical to declare all sources of information, and permission must be obtained if a considerable quantity of other people’s written or graphic materials is to be utilized.


It is the researcher’s responsibility to ensure that research is carried out in an ethical and responsible way, from planning through publishing. Researchers and authors should become familiar with and adhere to these standards. Potential ethical difficulties in research and publishing should be freely discussed within the research team.

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