Ethical data collecting, high-quality writing, and a thorough review

From all over Asia, they came for postgraduate studies. They were from Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Iran, India, China, Russia and, naturally, from Japan. Their backgrounds were diverse: Agriculture, Economics, Education, Toxicology, Biotechnology, Chemistry, Medicine, Sociology, Library Science, Mechanical Engineering, and Materials Science, to name a few. All were there to learn how to report their research ethically and write a high-quality report that they would be proud of, forever. They also came to learn how to review their own papers, as well as papers of their colleagues, a method I had developed while working at the Medical Tribune. In my search for newsworthy reports, I had uncovered errors that, I am sorry to say, reviewers had missed during the regular peer review process. I desired to convey the method to participants to help them avoid these same errors. 

I had explained that a thorough, critical reading of a report during a peer review would include:

  • Step 1 Preliminary check (very first reading)
  • Step Two Detailed check (of all content against journal instructions and reporting guidelines)    
  • Step Three Consistency check (of data in tables, figures, and text)
  • Step Four Final, overall review (of abstract content against entire paper)

They had learned that Steps Two to Four are often missing in a peer review and in the final review of a paper by authors before a subjugation. This incomplete review was most likely the root cause of errors that I had found in published papers, introduced in the workshop. Participants had suggested an extra check for scientific validity in Step Three, in cases when one of the authors of a paper might be falsifying or making up data, as was described in a script in the book On Being a Scientist: A Guide to Responsible Conduct in Research. 3rd ed. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press; 2007.

In this script, Peter and Jimmy were fellow graduate students working together on a research project. “Peter was coaxed that Jimmy was not actually making the measurements he claimed to be making.” The participants discussed “1. What kind of evidence should Peter have to be able to go to his adviser?” There were various solutions, but the one that seemed to make ideally good sense was for Peter to volunteer to collect the data again. Another suggestion was for Peter to ask an independent laboratory to conduct a double-blind investigate to verify the data, as is often asked by journals, such as Science, when a journal editor or reviewer might doubt the data.

It was my excellent pleasure to convey what I have learned over 30 years, and to encourage high standards in the collection of data and writing and reviewing of a paper. By following these high standards, I believe the researchers of Hiroshima University are on their way to a successful publication.

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