|Teach Your Best - A Handbook for University Lecturers|
|CHAPTER 8 - RESEARCH AND PUBLICATIONS|
When all is said and done, the quality of research and the attendant publication will depend on academic integrity, among other things. In many academic circles, it has been observed that the publish-or-perish syndrome has had a deleterious effect on the quality of research results. It has contributed to immature publication of data, honorary authorship, hasty publication of data without adequate tests, recycling of the same data, plagiarism, and outright fakery.
At the same time, African researchers face other formidable difficulties. Apart from the drying up of financial resources, research of any type is nearly always suspect by autocratic African regimes. Research clearances have been instituted by nearly all African governments in an attempt to referee research in the so-called 'sensitive areas'. Failure to abide by the dictates of government officials could lead to unpleasant sanctions, ranging from a stern warning to spending a spell as a guest in a government hostel, otherwise known as a police cell.
You should also be familiar with the current debates in the biological and physical sciences. For example, animal lovers have protested against the use of animals in research, arguing that this causes them unnecessary suffering. Others have raised misgivings regarding chemical and biological weapons, test-tube babies and surrogate motherhood. The question is - should scientists take part in such experiments?
Be that as it may, researchers cannot eschew ethics and politics. People will always question the experimental methods used or point to the misuse of research findings. The crucial factor, however, is to maintain objectivity and strictly adhere to the scientific method. Saying that, however, does not absolve us from keeping our house in order. For example, there is no excuse at all for committing plagiarism when all that is necessary is to acknowledge our debt to other authors whose ideas we might have borrowed. Neither is tampering with results a sign of intellectual maturity.
Equally, we should remember that, in most areas of research, trust is an essential commodity. There is a great need, therefore, to protect our sources of information by maintaining anonymity and confidentiality wherever these are necessary or called for. Even more, a researcher should not deceive his informants about the nature of his study. In particular, covert research, coercion and invasion of privacy should be avoided. Remember that it is our duty to be sensitive to the political and social environment in which we operate. Finally, complete and accurate reports are mandatory at the end of the research work.