TOKYO – It has appeared that some researchers are selling their skills online to willing buyers in academic fields. A teacher at a private university in the Kanto region of eastern Japan recently told Mainichi Shimbun about her experience using one of these services to buy a researcher’s help to write a published academic article.
The teacher, in her 40s, said she paid around 80,000 yen (about $ 730) to receive help with data analysis and writing an article to appear in an international scientific journal. While there are no rules against hiring certain skills, the woman said she worried about whether her actions violated research ethics.
She joined the university’s medical department in 2018. Although she had extensive experience in the medical field, the woman had little experience writing academic papers. She turned to a professor in her department to help her research and write them up. But she was turned down and she was told, “I’m not getting any money from you, so don’t think I’m going to teach you.”
She was called weekly by the professor and repeatedly pushed with statements and questions, including, “Why aren’t you doing research?” And, “A person like that doesn’t have to be a teacher at a university.” Researchers who do not publish their research in academic journals do not see their efforts recognized.
She felt that the professor “was not there to teach people,” and as she insisted not to publish her results, she saw a television report on the skills market. When she browsed the website, she found that many researchers were looking for clients and were willing to take on work to compile academic papers, among other services.
In the spring of 2020, the woman hired a salesperson posing as a “business researcher” to help her submit an article to an international English-language journal. They provided support in particular with correcting the writing, structuring it, as well as helping with data analysis and the creation of graphics. The work has been peer reviewed three times by other researchers, and she has also received support in responses to her peers.
The names and affiliations of the two parties remained unknown to each other, and during their 10 total exchanges, the woman paid around 80,000 yen in total. She paid with her own finances and her article was published in an international journal in 2020. She explained that she decided to use the service in the face of pressure from her teacher to publish work, and reflected: “ I was grateful. I thought the price was low if that meant I could be published. ”
She did not tell her teacher that she had purchased research skills. She expressed feelings of guilt: “I solved it with money. It was a roundabout way of doing things, but there was no other way. . ”
Although she feels like she finished the article herself, the person who sold her the advice was also very involved in the article, and she still feels uncomfortable that someone who should have been credited as the author on the article was HIDDEN, a research ethics violation known as “phantom fatherhood.”
“I wanted to include the person who guided me as one of the authors of the article, but I don’t even know their name. I want to do research the right way, and therefore I want an established environment where l ‘it can be said openly that they received help,’ she said.
Satoshi Tanaka, professor at Kyoto Pharmaceutical University with extensive knowledge of research ethics, told the Mainichi Shimbun: “In cases where both parties remain anonymous (when receiving advice and in other cases ), there is a very good chance that reckless search activity will take place. . If the person giving the advice changes the data to make it more impressive, it is difficult for the buyer to call them. It could also lead to illegal searches. ”
Behind the tendency of young researchers and students to use the services of research skills, it also seems that they are unable to obtain adequate pedagogical training from universities. Tanaka offered his analysis of the situation: “Researchers who are fundamentally unsuitable as teachers are put in the position of instructors in universities, and a proper education system cannot be put in place. The deterioration in the quality of teaching of educational personnel is a distortion that has arisen from the current research environment where cultivating the next generation does not lead to a professor’s advantage in his assessment. ”
(Japanese original from Shimpei Torii, Department of Scientific and Environmental Information)