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FRSM002 Curiosity, Research, and Information: Issues around Research: Ethics and Access

Issues and Definitions

Confirmation Bias -- preferring information that supports your preexisting ideas or assumptions. Looking for data/evidence that supports your hypothesis and ignoring anything that disproves that. 

This can also happen when a corporation (tobacco industry, for instance) or an organization (Facebook, in  recent news) investigate their own activities and products. 

Responsible Conduct of Research


Citation--avoids plagiarism, respects your sources, and aids your readers. Consistently following a particular citation style will help you assure. the accuracy of your citations. See the Libraries/Weingarten guide for Citation Practices and Avoiding Plagiarism. Learn more about using a citation management tool or platform at the Libraries' Citation Management guide




Interpretation of data 

Objectivity -- is it possible? 

Self interest 

Promotion and tenure 


Negative results -- High impact factor journals (those scholars in many fields are encouraged to publish in to obtain tenure and promotion) tend not to publish "negative results," or details about research that "disconfirms" a hypothesis. In routine research, it isn't exciting. But wouldn't this save many other researchers time and effort? This is one reason scholars are turning to "preprint platforms," sites where you are able to post and share details about your research before publication. Preprint platforms, especially in STEM fields are part of an ongoing transformation in the publication process. 

Impact factor

Does it matter whose voices get heard? What happens when a field is dominated by one set of voices coming from similar experiences? For many decades, history, literary interpretation, anthropology, archaeology and STEM research was conducted by men from predominantly European backgrounds. What might get missed? What happens when the next generation of researchers is either discouraged or doesn't think to question the findings and interpretations of the previous generation? 

Diversity of perspective-Why might this be important? Could individuals coming out of different experiences have insight into new interpretations and think to ask new and different questions? 

Unacknowledged assumptions-We expect scholars to approach their research objectively. Is this even possible? What happens if we interpret historical data through the lens of our own time and experience? Think of the recent discussions around bias in the provision of medicine that we have been hearing more and more of since the pandemic. See: "Responses to 10 Common Criticisms of Anti-Racism Action in STEMM," from PLOS Computational Biology. July 15, 2021.

Role of a liberal arts education supporting ethical conduct - What can being broadly educated with exposure to multiple disciplines bring to your approach to research? How might it address some of the pitfalls of confirmation bias, unquestioned assumptions, and contribute to bringing a diversity of voices into the scholarly conversation? What might talking with colleagues and peers from different disciplines and sub-disciplines bring to your perspective and approach? 

A broader multi-disciplinary perspective

Understanding of human nature

Questioning assumptions (resisting your assumptions!)

Embracing doubt

Personal responsibility

Does Context matter? 

Importance of mentorship


Equitable Access to information -- Global and institutional economic inequities affect access to research support and funding. Paywalls to publishing (author fees) and reading (subscriptions) may make it difficult to be fully informed and to contribute. What insight and research do we miss? What problems may go unaddressed if much of the scholarship is coming from prosperous countries and scholars and well funded institutions? If the top journals publish scholarship in English does that create barriers? 

Copyright from the perspective of the creator. the publisher, and the reader

Is your work as a student protected by copyright? Yes! Is your professor's lecture protected by copyright? Yes! Are your class notes protected by copyright? As soon as something -- created by anyone -- is fixed in a tangible form, copyright kicks in as long as their is a certain amount of originality involved. You can't copy your professors comments verbatim (and distribute, publish without permission), but your questions and comments around those comments would be protected. Lists and directions cannot be copyrighted -- that means recipes, a written out set of steps to get to a friends house or apartment, or step-by-step directions for building a chair -- although the design of the chair could be protected by copyright.  

The Open Access Movement -- Did you know that most authors when publishing in journals, sign a contract that transfers all or most of their rights under copyright to the publisher. If the author wants to reuse any part of their article or post it or share it broadly, they need to ask permission from the publisher. Sometimes these contracts can be negotiated, but the publishers don't always make this easy. And because academic careers are built on publications, this can seem risky. This grows in significance as the number of publishers diminishes and a handful of for-profit publishers control a major proportion of the academic scholarship. This consolidation and control is one factor in the move to making scholarship openly accessible. How can the academic community, including libraries, support smaller, not-for-profit publishers, while making scholarship free to read and not burdening scholars with having to pay a fee to publish? 

Who should control the published record? 

Funder--governments, tax payers, grant providers-foundations




Individual researcher 



costs of subscriptions

consolidation of ownership (moving toward monopoly?)

Open Access

Library funded

Foundation funded 

Author funded

Reader funded

Small Publishers

The Big Five 


Codes of Ethics

Research Best Practices