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Monday, June 24, 2024

Protecting research integrity in a hybrid learning environment

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By Jack Brazel, Regional Director, South East Asia

Necessity is the mother of invention but researchers can contend that inquiry is the father. Inquiry is the force that empowers societies to discover new ways of doing things and cultivate new methods to better respond to complex problems and address the people’s most pressing needs. Research – with its iterative nature, plays a vital role in refining, analyzing and evaluating new discoveries. Thus, it is essential that research is conducted with utmost honesty, accuracy and openness to effectively add to the existing knowledge base, and help formulate new theories, improve ideas and develop new products. Integrity in research ensures that each invention or breakthrough is a step towards addressing the various issues societies face today. 

Jack Brazel, Regional Director, South East Asia

Constrained by key challenges such as disparities in economic development and technological adoption, governments across the Asia Pacific region are recognizing the value of establishing a robust research and innovation landscape. 

In the Philippines, for example, to accelerate technology adoption and promote innovation, the government has created stronger links connecting the academic and research community with the business sector. To encourage innovative financing and facilitate commercialization of research, the government launched initiatives to help enhance teaching capacity, create a vibrant intellectual property culture and foster an ethical research environment. As of November 2021, more than P340 million (Pesos) worth of projects have been awarded to research institutions and industry partners in 10 regions across the country. Through the government’s Research and Development (R&D) Leadership Program, 49 new R&D experts in 17 regions across the country were selected to boost the research capabilities of various government agencies. By establishing strong academe-industry partnerships, educational institutions are able to contribute towards national economic agendas.

Role of educators in upholding research integrity

The shift in the learning landscape has raised questions about how research integrity in academic institutions will evolve. With hybrid learning modalities, undergraduate and postgraduate researchers have become more exposed to various methods of academic dishonesty or shortcuts, which highlights the role of educators in inculcating and nurturing integrity across all learning environments. 

Of course, research misconduct is not always deliberate and is often a result of other factors including a lack of research guidance or inadequate skills in citing sources. 

To promote original thinking and support integrity in research, educators and academic institutions can consider the following steps: 

Establish a research culture that enables engagement, collaboration and mentorship.

Students need to be introduced to a peer review culture early on by encouraging them to peer review individual assignments in class. To ensure research integrity, a supervisor must be assigned to a researcher to provide ongoing feedback and oversee research progress starting from developing the research proposal, to defining the methodology, to submission of research for evaluation. 

Track resources and references to give scholars and researchers proper guidance on where to find relevant materials and direct them to credible sources. In addition, educational institutions must ensure that students and researchers are trained to spot predatory and cloned academic journals, hijacked websites, and other fraudulent platforms.  

Reinforce skills on how to cite resources. The amount of information that can be referenced online has made it difficult to track resources used in research. Thus, it is important for research supervisors and instructors to help students develop citation skills by embedding it throughout the writing process.

Leverage technologies that detect instances of plagiarism. With recent developments in education technology, universities and colleges can utilize digital innovations that leverage a verified database of journals, dissertations and research papers. These tools can be used to screen manuscripts submitted by researchers to detect academic misconduct early on and empower them to avoid breaches before submission to publishers. Moreover, these digital tools enable instant cross-checking against archived and current web pages, which becomes an essential tool for instructors and research supervisors in curbing plagiarism.  

Laying the foundation for nation-building with research integrity

Research integrity requires honesty, transparency, and thoroughness across all aspects of a study. It ensures that the research is true to the intention of shedding new light on any particular topic And that the methods used in data collection and management have been fully disclosed and meet the criteria for responsible conduct of research. Research integrity also imparts respect to the research community through proper attribution and acknowledgement of the work of other researchers. By embracing technology, institutions have access to resources and capabilities that help empower them to promote responsible behavior and safeguard student and institutional reputation.

Through an investment in research integrity and its development, learning institutions can create an environment supportive of innovative thinking, which enables scholars and researchers to contribute to the scientific and academic community, and participate in nation-building by inspiring, actual, real-world impact.

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