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The Experiences and Challenges of Science and Ethics: Proceedings of an American-Iranian Workshop Research Integrity Mehdi Bahadori and George Bugliarello The breakout group considered many aspects of research integrity, drawing on both Iranian and American publications that were of relevance to the topic. Summarized below are the highlights of the discussions. The other participants in this group were Seyed Mohammad Jafar Marashi-Shoshtari, Glenn Schweitzer, and Kenneth Shine. SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES IN THE APPROACHES TO RESEARCH INTEGRITY IN THE UNITED STATES AND IRAN The members of the group observed similarities in approaches on the following issues. Scientists, engineers, and health specialists as representatives of learned professions are responsible for addressing both the creation of knowledge and the use of this knowledge for informing policy. They should keep the public informed of activities involving science. They have a trusted role in society and a special role in safeguarding integrity. Ethical issues in engineering and health have many characteristics in common with ethical issues in science, but they also have characteristics and scopes of their own and therefore cannot be totally subsumed under the label of ethics of science. Research integrity has three interrelated components: integrity of the scientist; integrity of research design; and integrity of scientific data, including the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data. There is a difference between misconduct (e.g., fabrication of data,
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The Experiences and Challenges of Science and Ethics: Proceedings of an American-Iranian Workshop falsification of data, and plagiarism) and careless science. The latter does not reflect breaches of integrity as such and can often be remedied by improved training and better supervision. The environment in which science is carried out is in many ways a part of the scientific process and plays an important role in ensuring integrity. Students working in research laboratories can often provide important perspectives in this regard. Research directors must take responsibility for integrity within their teams. To this end, they have special responsibilities for mentoring junior scientists. The issue of authorship is frequently linked both to productivity and to integrity. In this regard, the number of publications is not necessarily the best way to judge the productivity of a researcher. The quality of results set forth in papers is probably a better indicator than simply the number of papers. Also, there may be questions concerning multiple authors of papers. A good practice adopted by some journals is to specify the responsibility of each author in footnotes to papers. At the same time, the lead authors must take responsibility for the integrity of the entire paper. In a complex paper involving many researchers, individual researchers may not comprehend the scope of the entire paper. Special efforts may be needed to help the entire team understand how individual contributions are interrelated. Such efforts help ensure that breaches of integrity in any part of the process will be recognized by some or all of the participants. The following observations reflect different perspectives and experiences of the participants from the United States and those from Iran. The Iranian members considered ethics to be based on absolutes from which standards of conduct are derived for particular activities. The quality of the “will” of researchers is the basis of all choices. There was no consensus among the Iranians, however, as to what are the absolutes. The Americans noted that baselines for judgments are not precise and therefore they have not adopted this approach. In the United States, the higher education system is considered effective in instilling ethical values in students. However, if the students are then employed in laboratories that cut corners, their perspectives on integrity change considerably. In Iran, there has not been a comparable focus on the transition from education to practice. The issue of whistleblowers is dealt with more explicitly in the United States than in Iran, which does not have rules concerning whistleblowers.
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The Experiences and Challenges of Science and Ethics: Proceedings of an American-Iranian Workshop In the United States, there are Offices of Research Integrity at the national and institutional levels, including at universities. Universities make their own investigations of alleged misconduct and then take corrective action, reporting to government funding agencies as appropriate. Also, professional societies often assume special responsibilities in the field in helping to define “responsible science.” In Iran, the government is dominant as it makes policy and disburses funding. There are professional societies (e.g., the Mechanical Engineering Association) that also have an interest in research integrity, although they are less developed than in the United States. In the United States, professional societies sometimes publicly address the issue of careless science but hesitate to delve into integrity. Professional societies in Iran have not explicitly addressed research integrity. It is often easier to address how misconduct happened rather than why it happened (e.g., greed, ambition, lack of supervision). In Iran it is believed that addressing the reasons for misconduct is crucial and that ethical values must be nurtured to avoid these root causes. Therefore, they have given greater attention to root causes. ROLES OF THE ACADEMIES WITHIN THEIR COUNTRIES In addition to concern over ethical responsibilities of individual scientists, the academies have multiple ethical responsibilities to anticipate problems, respond to issues, inform policy makers, inform the public, and in general address the ethical aspects of all of their activities. A task of the academies is to define standards of ethical behavior, including the important issue of mentoring. In the United States, the academies sometimes begin with specific cases or narrowly defined types of cases concerning ethical issues, most frequently in response to requests from government agencies. From analyses of these cases, broader conclusions are reached as to the meaning of misconduct and research integrity. In somewhat oversimplified terms, in the United States, concerns over misconduct tend to flow from the particular case to the general situation, whereas in Iran they flow from the general to the particular. In Iran, the academies have not yet focused on specific types of cases but indirectly have addressed ethical issues in broad areas such as environmental pollution, food security, nutrition practices, prolongation of life, and authorship. For studies carried out by the U.S. National Academies, considerable attention is given to the composition of the study committee, with the public given an opportunity to comment on the balance of the committee. This often leads to inclusion on the committees of representatives of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).
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The Experiences and Challenges of Science and Ethics: Proceedings of an American-Iranian Workshop In Iran, the emphasis in academy studies is on both research priorities and on the policy direction for the entire country, which encompasses issues of equity. In the United States, the academies tend to focus more narrowly on research areas (e.g., astrophysics), although they also address national issues with significant ethical dimensions. In creating research agendas in either country, the ethical implications of these agendas should be given adequate weight. The Iranian Academy of Sciences has a section on philosophy and religion which addresses ethical issues on the basis of general principles. INTERNATIONAL ROLES OF ACADEMIES The Interacademy Panel and its interactions with governmental and international organizations as well as joint projects between two or more academies are important mechanisms for addressing ethical issues of international and global significance, such as global warming. OPPORTUNITIES FOR INTERACADEMY COOPERATION The group identified the following seven opportunities for interacademy cooperation. The first two topics were considered the most feasible for early implementation. The Iranian Academy of Sciences should review the National Research Council (NRC) report On Being a Scientist and determine whether and how it should be modified to provide guidance to scientists in Iran. The Iranian Academy should then seek the views of the NRC on the proposed Iranian adaptation of the report. In a related activity, the Iranian Academy of Sciences should prepare the first draft of a new report “On Being an Engineer” and provide the draft to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) for comments and elaboration as appropriate. The Iranian Academy should consult with industrial engineers during the preparation of the draft. The academies should then decide whether such a report is warranted and, if so, whether each side should prepare its own version or whether the report should be jointly prepared. There should be an exchange of U.S. and Iranian experts—one expert for at least one week in each direction—in the field of science and ethics. These exchange visits should include seminars and consultations with science and technology leaders and with ethicists. Consideration should be given to an analysis by an Iran-U.S. interacademy group of the ethical dimensions of selected global issues. Such a project could be carried out bilaterally or multilaterally. However, action should be deferred until a later date to take into account the findings of
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The Experiences and Challenges of Science and Ethics: Proceedings of an American-Iranian Workshop other U.S.-Iran workshops and the results of the Johannesburg international conference on sustainable development. The academies should consider promotion of a network of Centers for Research on the Cultivation of Human Values. As a first step, a new center in Tehran might be linked with a center in the United States that already carries out relevant research projects. The academies should consider joint assessments of the ethical aspects of the development of specific new technologies that are likely to emerge during the next 10 years. As a starting point, the NAE could provide the Iranian Academy of Sciences with its recent reports on emerging technologies. The academies should consider working together to promote models for international development that are culturally appropriate for different societies. Standard development models promoted by the United Nations Development Programme and other well-known organizations do not adequately take into account ethical considerations and therefore can discourage organizations and specialists from enthusiastic participation in these development activities. The academies should jointly consider a sequence of case studies in Iran and the United States that demonstrate the similarities and differences in addressing ethical issues associated with specific problems of national interest. For example, American specialists might take the lead in reviewing the Iranian approaches to controlling air pollution, and Iranian specialists might take the lead in reviewing the U.S. approaches to controlling air pollution from petrochemical plants. These specialists would then jointly consider the ethical issues involved in the two cases.