The online Oxford English dictionary (OED, 2018) defines ethics as having to do with “moral principles” and a set of “social or personal values”, and also a “code of conduct” (in other words, rules of behaviour). Usually, ethics are not an exhaustive set of precise rules, but rather a list of principles, ideals or standards that you keep in mind when deciding on your actions. Ethical behaviour is not the same as legal behaviour. That is, sometimes it is perfectly legal to do something (the law allows it) while it is not ethical. It is for instance perfectly legal to let a large hearing aids company pay you for your research into hearing aids, and to only use this company’s hearing aids in your study. However, this practice does not conform to research ethics and research practice: your study then has a limited sample, shows bias, and you have a financial reason for presenting a particular solution. In other words, while it is legal, it makes your research less trustworthy.
RU:ts is a student journal, but this does not mean that we take publishing or research less seriously than any other journal. In terms of ethics, it means we take two things very seriously: reliable information, and informing the public. These principles are important for the research community and society as a whole.
Researchers (and academic publishers) have the task to provide reliable and truthful information. If we do not – if we lie about our results, make spurious assumptions based on our data, or draw conclusions based on flawed data or data acquired with a bad methodology – we are doing science and the public a disservice. Furthermore, as journal and publisher we have the obligation to make sure that people who would benefit from our research can access it. The research community should be able to trust us, and the public should be able to trust our conclusions.
We hope to earn this trust by relying on several key foundations:
1. Preventing of plagiarism
Pretending someone else’s work is your own, or using someone else’s text, ideas, methods, or data in your own work without a proper reference and source attribution is plagiarism. Plagiarism is a serious offense in academia and beyond, for more reasons than one.
- First of all, not mentioning the source of an idea disregards and disrespects the author and the hard work that was put into producing that information. It quite literally steals credit and acclaim from the actual author.
- Secondly, plagiarism actually prevents honesty and transparency in science and beyond, and betrays the trust that is a fundamental part of research. Providing sources means people can check your work. If you do not mention where the ideas come from, this becomes difficult if not impossible.
More information about plagiarism and how to prevent it can be find on the Radboud University Library website: https://www.ru.nl/library/services/research/copyright-information-point-cip/plagiarism/
2. Open Access / Open Science
As the editorial board, we believe we have the obligation to make sure that people who would benefit from our research can access it. Its results, and the advances of science in general, belong to all of society, not just to researchers at universities. Everyone should be able to participate in the academic debate, and have access to research and information – not in the last place because most research is (partly or fully) funded by the public. Therefore, we have a so-called “open access” model for our journal, in which everyone can read our published articles free of charge. We believe that selling access to research articles for profit behind a paywall is unethical. Everyone having access to research articles stimulates a healthy and fair academic society for all participants.
3. Rigorous and fair peer review
In order to provide high-quality information, we use peer review. This consists of peers (e.g. researchers at the same point in their career, doing research into the same topics) evaluating the research paper, and advising on whether or not the paper is of the sufficient quality needed to be published.
This step is very important, because it is the quality control of the scientific community. This process will make sure that the research that is published contains no spurious claims, false assumptions, or flawed analyses that would make the results less reliable or even false. Therefore, peer review is essential in gaining and maintaining high-quality science that can be trusted by academic and the larger public alike.
In order to inspire trust in people, research and publishing should be transparent. Readers should be aware of how the results of research were obtained, what experiments were conducted, but also: what editorial decisions were made, and what the editorial process is.
This gives readers the opportunity to check whether they find these processes sufficient, whether they agree or disagree with the editorial or research decisions, and whether they want to respond to it. This promotes academic freedom, and enables researchers and publishers to be held responsible for their choices.
We hope that all readers, authors, and supporters of RU:ts can understand and respect these core values.
With kind regards,
The RU:ts editorial board
OED (Oxford English Dictionary). “Ethics”. 2018. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/ethics