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Original Article
Current status and demand for educational activities on publication ethics by academic organizations in Korea: a descriptive study
Yera Hur1orcid, Cheol-Heui Yun2orcid
Science Editing 2023;10(1):64-70.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.6087/kcse.298
Published online: February 16, 2023

1Institution of Medical Education, Hallym University College of Medicine, Chuncheon, Korea

2Department of Agricultural Biotechnology, Research Institute of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea

Correspondence to Yera Hur shua@hallym.ac.kr
• Received: December 1, 2022   • Accepted: December 27, 2022

Copyright © 2023 Korean Council of Science Editors

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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  • Purpose
    This study aimed to examine the following overarching issues: the current status of research and publication ethics training conducted in Korean academic organizations and what needs to be done to reinforce research and publication ethics training.
  • Methods
    A survey with 12 items was examined in a pilot survey, followed by a main survey that was distributed to 2,487 academic organizations. A second survey, which contained six additional questions, was dispatched to the same subjects. The results of each survey were analyzed by descriptive statistical analysis, content analysis, and comparative analysis.
  • Results
    More than half of the academic organizations provided research and publication ethics training programs, with humanities and social sciences organizations giving more training than the others (χ2=11.190, df=2, P=0.004). The results showed that research and publication ethics training was held mostly once and less than an hour per year, mainly in a lecture format. No significant difference was found in the training content among academic fields. The academic organizations preferred case-based discussion training methods and wanted expert instructors who could give tailored training with examples.
  • Conclusion
    A systematic training program that can develop ethics instructors tailored to specific academic fields and financial support from academic organizations can help scholarly editors resolve the apparent gap between the real and the ideal in ethics training, and ultimately to achieve the competency needed to train their own experts.
Background
The importance of education on research and publication ethics cannot be overemphasized. In particular, periodic training programs on publication ethics at academic organizations are es sential requirements [1]. Furthermore, training for novice editors is even more important in Korea because editors are often appointed to serve short terms. However, research has yet to be conducted on how research and publication ethics education is practiced in academic societies. By examining the situation and methodology of research and publication ethics desired by academic organizations, more effective methods for research and publication ethics training can be suggested.
Objectives
In this study, we examined the current status of research and publication ethics training conducted in Korean academic organizations and what needs to be done to strengthen these education programs. The first objective was to identify the current status of research and publication ethics training, including the following: educational training on research and publication ethics implementation by academic field; topics of training; frequency of training per year and average hours per session; and training methods. The second objective was to assess needs for reinforcing research and publication ethics training, such as topics to be strengthened in ethics training; desired training methods; different opinions among academic fields; the necessity of instructor training programs; challenges in becoming an instructor; and requests for government or institutional support to train instructors.
Ethics statement
This study was approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) of Hallym University (No. HIRB-2022-008). Informed consent was obtained from participants before starting the online survey.
Study design
This was a survey-based descriptive study.
Setting
To investigate the current status of and needs for research and publication ethics training activities in Korean academic organizations focusing on research, the authors developed a survey with a total of 12 items (nine items with three subitems). The first survey was conducted as a pilot questionnaire among the 14 executive board members of the Korean Council of Science Editors (KCSE). Then, a revised version of the first survey was then distributed to 2,487 academic organizations that published scholarly journals listed in the Korea Citation Index (KCI) from May 17 to 19, 2022 (Suppl. 1). Based on the first results, a second survey with six other questions was added and distributed online from July 29 to August 6, 2022 to the same research subjects. The research subjects received emails inviting them to participate in the online survey, which was done through Google and SurveyMonkey.
Participants
The target subjects of the main survey were the editors of the 2,487 academic organizations that published the scholarly journals listed in the KCI at the time of the study. There were no exclusion criteria. The email addresses of the editors were obtained from the National Research Foundation of Korea.
Variables
The variables were items of the survey questionnaires, including the execution of training, topics, frequency; training methods, invitation of experts, and expected programs.
Data sources/measurement
The content of the first and the second survey was validated by the authors and four other external experts, including board members of the KCSE. Reliability testing of both surveys was not done because the item options were not on a Likert scale.
Study size
No study size estimation was done before the survey. All target journal editors were invited to answer the questionnaires.
Bias
There was no bias in selecting participating organizations.
Statistical method
The survey results were analyzed for activity status and needs for research and publication ethics training. Frequency analysis, multiple response analysis, and descriptive statistical analysis were conducted, and to evaluate differences among the organizations the chi-square test was performed using the IBM SPSS ver. 20.0 (IBM Corp). Content analysis was performed on the responses to the free statements.
Participants
In the first survey, 322 academic organizations responded (response rate, 12.9%). In the second survey, 343 out of 2,487 (13.8%) responded (Table 1).
Current status of research and publication ethics training

Educational training on research and publication ethics implementation by academic field

It was found that 189 academic organizations (58.7%) provided education (Table 2). The difference in the implementation of education according to the academic field was statistically significant (χ2=11.190, df=2, P=0.004), with humanities and social sciences organizations giving more training than the others. In the science and technology field, the majority of academic organizations offered education.

Topics of research and publication ethics-related educational training

Table 3 shows the survey results on educational topics conducted by academic organizations. Multiple response analysis was performed by asking all the educational topics conducted. The most common educational topic was “basic concepts of research and publishing ethics and research integrity” (141 responses), followed by “research misconduct and questionable research practices” (135 responses).

Frequency of training on research and publication ethics at academic organizations per year and average hours per session

Academic societies conducted research and publishing ethics education during 2021 an average of 1.67 times, from a minimum of 1 to a maximum of 10 times (Fig. 1). The most frequently performed number of times was once a year. The average time per session was more than 1 to less than 2 hours, and on average, the training sessions lasted for 1.66 hours of training (Fig. 2).

Research and publication ethics training methods

The most frequently implemented training method was “lecture” (119 responses, 40.5%) (Table 4). At humanities and social sciences organizations, case- or problem-based training was the most frequent training method after lectures. Other methods included distributing handouts and emails, and studying guidelines for research ethics, such as publication ethics regulations and social networking services.
“Utilization of experts within the society” (133 responses, 51.8%), “distribution of research ethics-related data” (85 responses, 33.1%), and “invitation of external experts or requests to specialized institutions” (39 responses, 15.1%) were the most frequently implemented delivery methods. If organizations used external help, their goal was to receive specific answers, as shown in Table 5.
For organizations that responded “invitation of external experts or requests to specialized institutions,” the KCSE was the most commonly mentioned external institution. Other opinions included intramural experts, invitation of academic experts, conference presidents, researchers from other universities, university professors, and research integrity center training videos.
Needs assessment for reinforcement of research and publication ethics training

Topics to be strengthened for ethics training

The following topics were identified as needing to be strengthened for ethics training: “research and publication ethics misconduct cases/countermeasures” (174 responses, 17.4%), “research misconduct and questionable research practices” (158 responses, 15.9%), and “basic concepts of research and publication ethics and research integrity” (142 responses, 14.3%). By academic field, the natural sciences and humanities and social sciences showed the highest number of responses for “research and publication ethics misconduct cases/countermeasures,” and the most common response for arts and sports organizations was “research misconduct and questionable research practices.” The three most important topics to be dealt with in research and publication training were “plagiarism” (305 responses, 29.8%), “duplicate publication” (174 responses, 17.0%), and “falsification and fabrication” (144 responses, 14.2%), followed by “citation” (130 responses, 12.8%), “authorship and contributorship” (122 responses, 11.9%), “copyright” (81 responses, 7.9%), “conflict of interest” (38 responses, 3.7%), and “IRB/IACUC” (28 responses, 2.7%).

Desired research and publishing ethics training methods

The most desired training method was “case-based discussion” by as reported by 151 organizations (34.7%). “Lecture” appeared next, with 133 responses (30.6%). Similar results were found for each academic field (Table 6).

Publication ethics differences among academic fields

The majority (273 responses, 79.6%) answered “no” to the question asking if the relevant academic organization has characteristics of publishing ethics that are different from other academic fields. Other notable remaining responses related to whether approval from the IRB or IACUC (Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee) was needed.

Necessity of research and publication ethics instructor training programs

In total, 197 organizations (61.2%) answered “yes” regarding the necessity of research and publication ethics instructor training programs, and no statistically significant differences were found among academic fields (χ2=1.485, df=2, P=0.476).

Challenges in becoming an instructor for research and publication ethics

The most common response regarding challenges in becoming an instructor on research and publication ethics was instructor-related factors (81.6%), followed by learner-related factors (10.4%) and environmental factors (6.0%).
Table 7 shows the details of instructor-related, learner-related, and environmental factors. As for learner-related factors, the deepest concern was people’s lack of interest in or concentration on education related to research and publishing ethics (7.0%). This was followed by challenges related to whether learners could understand the material properly due to diverse levels of comprehension (2.2%). The most common instructor-related factor was the lack of expertise in learning content (74.8%), followed by concerns about content selection (2.6%).
The survey also asked for unrestricted feedback on training topics and contents, which are thought to be crucial for training ethics instructors. The responses were classified through content analysis. The most common opinion was “cases of misconduct of research ethics” (n=17), followed by “IRB/IACUC” (n=12), “authorship and contributorship” (n=11), “copyright” (n=10), and “research ethics misconduct countermeasures” (n=8).

Request for government or institutional support related to training instructors

A total of 275 responses (80.2%) were collected from 343 academic organizations, excluding insincere and invalid responses. The results are presented in Table 8. Most academic organizations (8.7%) pointed out that instructors should have proper professionalism, while some responses (1.8%) preferred to grant accredited qualifications. The responses also pointed out that sufficient cases should be covered during the training, and realistic content should be included. Further more, instructor training should target people specializing in the relevant academic field or those with knowledge of field practices, such as academic editors, to deliver more effective lecture content. As training methods, case-based learning and online education, including video training, were requested.
Interpretation
People have often assumed that science and technology organizations would have done more research and ethics training than humanities and social sciences, but the survey results showed the opposite (Table 2). It is probable that the science and technology field has already encountered many research ethics problems, while scholars in the humanities and social sciences are paying more attention to research and publication ethics. According to the opinions described in the survey, academic organizations are having difficulty in training instructors or planning various programs on their own; therefore, it is essential to develop training courses for publication ethics instructors to support these organizations.
The frequency of training was mostly once or twice per year, and the training sessions mostly lasted less than 2 hours (Figs. 1, 2). Therefore, it is difficult to say that sufficient training has been provided. While most of the training methods conducted by academic organizations have focused on lectures (Table 4), the respondents expressed interest in case-based or field-oriented programs (Table 6), showing a clear gap between reality and the ideal. Online training was preferred, but the study of Schroter et al. [1], in which half of the respondents had experienced online research ethics education, found that only 31% of the respondents reported that online education was effective. Therefore, we should not solely depend on online training; instead, we should also regard offline training as important method. One of the ways to fill this gap is certainly through government-funded instructor training for each academic field.
The majority of responses stated that an ethics instructor training program was necessary. The responses also emphasized the need for a systematic training program to ensure that the instructors would have adequate training to qualify as field-related experts. In particular, as shown in the survey (Table 8), practical training on topics such as plagiarism and related trends and issues should be taught, along with field cases. However, there were numerous comments on learners’ lack of interest in ethics education, and it appears that countermeasures for this need should be prepared, such as offering customized, case-oriented education that would engage learners more effectively and provide meaningful and practical education.
When such an instructor training program is conducted with the support of the government, it should not be a one-time event. Instead, the pool of instructors should be effectively managed, and recurrent and supplemental training needs to be done while taking into account the constantly evolving nature of research and publication ethics. According to the study of Tomić et al. [2], the expert consensus states that “brief or once-in-a-lifetime virtue-based training has been recognized as less effective, the more appropriate direction to acquire research virtues is through continuing education.”
The degree of case-oriented education should reflect the characteristics of each academic field. However, the survey suggested that the differences among fields were not significant. For instance, the main difference related to the use of the IRB or IACUC. In light of these results, the content of the basic instructor training course can be covered through a unified approach, but separate training should be provided on the specific cases and examples used in each academic field. The responses included a request to establish a qualification course if necessary (Table 8), which can be read as a call for trust in the expertise of ethics instructors.
Limitations
The main limitation of the study is that it only included responses from academic organizations with publications listed in the KCI. Thus, the opinions of non-registered academic organizations with little government support could not be reflected. The opinions of academies specializing in the arts and physical education were insufficiently represented because they only made up a small percentage of academic journals as a whole. Interdisciplinary fields have also emerged recently, and future research should take into account the inability of this study to precisely distinguish interdisciplinary fields’ opinions.
Conclusion
Only 50% of the academic organizations surveyed in this study have provided training on research and publication ethics for their members. Additionally, the training approach most often involved a lecture delivered in a very brief session. This clearly demonstrates the necessity for appropriate training materials and approaches such as case-based discussions dealing with real-world examples, as well as workshops from experts in specific fields. Furthermore, a systematic training program that can develop ethics instructors tailored to specific academic fields, coupled with financial support from academic organizations, could help scholarly editors to resolve the apparent gap between the real and the ideal in ethics training, and finally achieve the competency needed to train their own experts.

Conflict of Interest

Cheol-Heui Yun serves as the ethics editor of Science Editing since 2020, but had no role in the decision to publish this article. No other potential conflict of interest relevant to this article has been declared.

Funding

This study was funded by the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) as a 2021 policy research project call (No. Policy Research 2022-11) on the project titled “Study on ways to strengthen research ethics education and preventive activities using academic societies,” which has been published as a report in Korean.

Data Availability

Dataset files are available from the Harvard Dataverse at https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/GQOLSR.

Dataset 1.Responses to the pilot study.

kcse-298-dataset-1.xlsx

Dataset 2.Responses to the first and second survey.

kcse-298-dataset-2.xlsx

Acknowledgements
We would like to thank Ms. Hyelim Kwon, the secretary of the Korean Council of Science Editors, for helping to make the survey of this study possible.
Supplementary file is available from https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/GQOLSR.
Suppl. 1.
Items of the first and second survey.
kcse-298-Supplementary-1.docx
Fig. 1.
Annual number of research and publication ethics.
kcse-298f1.jpg
Fig. 2.
Annual average training hours of research and publication ethics.
kcse-298f2.jpg
Table 1.
Field and distribution of responses to needs assessment surveys on the current status of research and publication ethics education activities in scholarly journals in Korea
Academic field Frequency of responses (%)
First round Second round
Science and technology 145 (45.0) 143 (41.7)
Humanities and social sciences 163 (50.6) 185 (53.9)
Arts and physical education 14 (4.3) 15 (4.4)
Total 322 (100) 343 (100)
Table 2.
Training on research and publication ethics implementation by academic field in Korea
Implementation of research and publication ethics training Academic field
Total
Science and technology Humanities and social sciences Arts and physical education
Yes (%) 71 (49.0) 107 (65.6) 11 (78.6) 189 (58.7)
No (%) 74 (51.0) 56 (34.4) 3 (21.4) 133 (41.3)
Total (%) 145 (100) 163 (100) 14 (100) 322 (100)
Table 3.
Topics of research and publication ethics-related educational training (multiple responses) by academic organizations in Korea
Educational topic Academic field (no. of responses)
Frequency (%)
Science and technology Humanities and social sciences Arts and physical education
Basic concepts of research and publishing ethics and research integrity 52 80 9 141 (19.2)
Research misconduct and questionable research practice 43 82 10 135 (18.4)
Research and publication ethics misconduct cases/countermeasures 35 47 4 86 (11.7)
Good scientific writing 36 39 5 80 (10.9)
Editor’s (Editor-in-chief/Associate editor, etc.) ethical activities 26 43 1 70 (9.5)
Copyright 19 35 4 58 (7.9)
Conflict of interest 20 26 1 47 (6.4)
Peer review ethical activities 21 22 2 45 (6.1)
IRB/IACUC 19 16 4 39 (5.3)
Predatory journals 9 15 1 25 (3.4)
National R&D Innovation Act 5 4 0 9 (1.2)
Total 285 409 41 735 (100)

IRB, Institutional Review Board; IACUC, Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.

Table 4.
Research and publication ethics training methods (multiple response) by academic organizations in Korea
Training method Academic field (no. of responses)
Frequency (%)
Science and technology Humanities and social sciences Arts and physical education
Lecture 40 70 9 119 (40.5)
Seminar/symposium 27 27 5 59 (20.1)
Case or problem based 19 33 1 53 (18.0)
Workshop 21 14 3 38 (12.9)
Discussion 7 14 2 23 (7.8)
Metaverse 1 1 - 2 (0.7)
Total 115 159 20 294 (100)
Table 5.
Specific invited external experts or institutions (multiple responses) for training on research and publication ethics by academic organizations in Korea
External institution/expert Academic field (no. of responses)
Frequency (%)
Science and technology Humanities and social sciences Arts and physical education
Korean Council of Science Editors 13 4 - 17 (40.4)
Korean University Council of Research Ethics 4 5 2 11 (26.2)
Korean Association of Medical Journal Editors 7 - - 7 (16.7)
Korea Institute of Human Resources Development in Science and Technology 2 3 2 7 (16.7)
Total 26 12 4 42 (100)
Table 6.
Desired research and publishing ethics training method (multiple responses) by academic organizations in Korea
Training method Academic field
Frequency (%)
Science and technology Humanities and social sciences Arts and physical education
Case-based discussion 70 77 4 151 (34.7)
Lecture 60 65 8 133 (30.6)
Workshop 38 52 1 91 (20.9)
Problem-based learning 21 23 2 46 (10.6)
Metaverse 2 6 6 14 (3.2)
Total 191 223 21 435 (100)
Table 7.
Challenges regarding with becoming a research and publication ethics instructor by academic organizations in Korea
Category Frequency (%)
Learner factor
 Lack of interest in ethics education 41 (7.0)
 Level of learners’ understanding 13 (2.2)
 Lack of ethical consciousness 3 (0.5)
 Custom 4 (0.7)
Instructor factor
 Lack of expertise (content) 440 (74.8)
 Content selection 15 (2.6)
 Teaching method 10 (1.7)
 Competence in teaching 8 (1.4)
 Maintaining of objectivity 7 (1.2)
Environmental factor
 Lack of learning effect 15 (2.6)
 Lack of training programs/materials 14 (2.4)
 Training hour 6 (1.0)
Miscellaneous 12 (2.0)
Total 588 (100)
Table 8.
Requests for government or institutional support for the training of instructors by academic organizations in Korea
Category Frequency (%)
Instructor
Recurrent training
Recurrent/supplement training 15 (5.5)
Diversity of instructors
Reinforcement of professionalism (certification course) 24 (8.7)
Training of instructors tailored to the academic field 16 (5.8)
Developing sufficient number of instructors (pool management) 8 (2.9)
Considering the region 2 (0.7)
Learning content and material
Learning material
Manualization of training program 6 (2.2)
Producing learning materials 4 (1.5)
Learning content
Plagiarism 10 (3.6)
Reality-reflecting practical training 6 (2.2)
Trends and issues 6 (2.2)
Reflecting international trends 3 (1.1)
Copyright 2 (0.7)
Authorship 2 (0.7)
Institional review board 2 (0.7)
Teaching method
Case-based learning 25 (9.1)
Online 25 (9.1)
Various program 11 (4.0)
Systematic curriculum development 4 (1.5)
Training sessions during academic conferences 3 (1.1)
Financial support
Instructor fee, training fee 35 (12.7)
Open free lectures 4 (1.5)
Miscellaneous
Various institutional support 13 (4.7)
Sufficient publicity 8 (2.9)
Establishment of a specialized (advisory) institution 5 (1.8)
Development of standards 4 (1.5)
Education for the next generation 3 (1.1)
Strong penalty for violations 3 (1.1)
Improve awareness 2 (0.7)
Cooperation with affiliated organizations 2 (0.7)
No instructor training required 2 (0.7)
Others 20 (7.3)
Total 275 (100)

Figure & Data

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