Viability of publishing as an independent researcher

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  • #1
andresB
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I'm as mainstream as a physicist can be, so you will not see my trying to publish things like "relativity is wrong" or "there is no proof of quantum mechanics". But I live and work in a 3rd world country with an awful policy for teaching and research, and the universities I work for only pay me for lecturing and give zero support to my research. I'm tired of acknowledging them in my published articles for free.

So, it is viable to publish as an independent? I'm afraid is not, and that journals will discard my articles without even reading them, but who knows.
 

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  • #2
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I'm tired of acknowledging them in my published articles for free.
What does this mean?

I always state my institutional affiliation, but not an acknowledgment to my institution.
 
  • #3
andresB
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What does this mean?

I always state my institutional affiliation, but not an acknowledgment to my institution.

I have stated my "institutional affiliation" like in here https://arxiv.org/pdf/2105.13882.pdf, But I only had done it because I feel Journals would not take me seriously otherwise.

I have no contractual obligation to do it. I only have a loose relation with the universities that does not go beyond lecturing some courses.
 
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  • #4
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It would be scientifically unethical for you not to disclose your institutional affiliation. That is not an “acknowledgment” of the university, that is a description of yourself so that others can judge if your conclusions may be economically motivated. In my field you not only must disclose your employer but also any other significant economic interests that you have. So what you seem to be “tired of” doing is a bare minimum ethical disclosure.

Failure to disclose your employer would be scientifically unethical (regardless of whether publishing research is in your job description or compensation structure)

I have no contractual obligation to do it. I only have a loose relation with the universities that does not go beyond lecturing some courses.
You have an ethical obligation to do so that has nothing to do with your universities. It has to do with you and those who read your peer-reviewed papers.
 
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  • #5
andresB
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I fail to see it, I don't even consider it an "institutional affiliation", and at the moment I don't have any economic interest in publishing (other than the possibility of getting a better job in some other university in a nebulous future), basically I do it as a hobby.

My research and the couple of universities I work for are completely unrelated in every way I can think of.
 
  • #6
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I fail to see it
That is highly concerning.

My research and the couple of universities I work for are completely unrelated in every way I can think of.
That is up to readers to decide.
 
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  • #7
andresB
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That is highly concerning.
I suppose journals would agree with you, I have to meditate on the issue.

Still, I just don't see it. I use exactly 0 resources from the university to do research. As I say it, at the moment I do it basically as a hobby all on my own.
 
  • #8
andresB
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You have an ethical obligation to do so that has nothing to do with your universities. It has to do with you and those who read your peer-reviewed papers.

I have an ethical obligation to (1) write scientifically sound papers, (2) to not commit plagiarism, (3) to reveal any competing interest related to the articles content. I think I would not fail at any of those.
 
  • #9
TeethWhitener
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Regardless of whether you have an ethical obligation to disclose your affiliation (I'm kind of on the fence about this one), it's difficult for me to see 1) what you lose by listing your affiliation, and 2) what you gain by not listing your affiliation.
 
  • #10
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I have an ethical obligation to (1) write scientifically sound papers, (2) to not commit plagiarism, (3) to reveal any competing interest related to the articles content. I think I would not fail at any of those.
First, even just your desire to not disclose your employer is extremely petty. Second, if you actually followed through on that desire it would be scientifically unethical.

It is not up to you to decide what you deign to disclose. Ethical standards are determined by the entire profession, not by individuals (individuals have morals, professions have ethics). You may choose to follow those standards or not, but you do not get to determine what those standards are.

There are published standards of professional ethics for scientists. In my field, the usual standard is the ICMJE (International Committee of Medical Journal Editors). The relevant standard is published here:

http://www.icmje.org/recommendation...-responsibilities--conflicts-of-interest.html

Failure to follow the ethical standards is, by definition, unethical. There is no ambiguity here, what you are proposing is unethical (at least in my field)
 
  • #11
andresB
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Failure to follow the ethical standards is, by definition, unethical. There is no ambiguity here, what you are proposing is unethical (at least in my field)

I can see your point now, but I don't know if it is valid to extrapolate it to the rest of the fields, though I suppose most journals would have a similar policy.
 
  • #12
andresB
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Regardless of whether you have an ethical obligation to disclose your affiliation (I'm kind of on the fence about this one), it's difficult for me to see 1) what you lose by listing your affiliation, and 2) what you gain by not listing your affiliation.
The answer to both of your question is "nothing". If I also lose nothing by publishing as an independent researcher, then it's ok. If, however, publishing gets harder by not having an affiliation to an university, then I will keep things as they have been so far.
 
  • #13
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I can see your point now, but I don't know if it is valid to extrapolate it to the rest of the fields, though I suppose most journals would have a similar policy.
I don’t know your field, but you should know it. You need to be aware of the relevant organization and their published ethical standards for your field. You should know those inside and out, and keep up to date as the standards are revised.

It is entirely possible that your field has different standards. Certainly authorship criteria differ. But in any case, find out the standards for your field and follow them.
 
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  • #14
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I would not consider Colombia a "3rd world country". It's not Monaco, sure, but it's not even Venezuela. They are on the LHC for heaven's sake.

If I received a paper from someone teaching at University X without a listed affiliation of University X, I would conclude that for some reason the university told the author not to. If the author asked for a waiver of page charges I would be even more sure.

This is not a battle you are likely to win.
 
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  • #15
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If what you have to offer is good, go for it. I do it often. I no longer have any university connection (I'm a retired Professor), but I send stuff in and it gets published.
 
  • #16
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If what you have to offer is good, go for it. I do it often. I no longer have any university connection (I'm a retired Professor), but I send stuff in and it gets published.
But in your case you actually have no institution so listing no institution is not a violation of disclosure standards.
 
  • #17
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But in your case you actually have no institution so listing no institution is not a violation of disclosure standards.
What Dale said is true, but I'm not sure such standards are really significant.


232193_5_.png
 
  • #18
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What Dale said is true, but I'm not sure such standards are really significant.
You are not sure that ethical standards are really significant? That is a truly repugnant statement. I hope I am misunderstanding
 
  • #19
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You are not sure that ethical standards are really significant? That is a truly repugnant statement. I hope I am misunderstanding
I'm not aware that anyone has declared this to be an ethical standard. I would not put the name of another person on my work, but if I own it, I see no reason why I have to identify my employer if the employer did not pay for the work.
 
  • #20
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I'm not aware that anyone has declared this to be an ethical standard.
The ICMJE has. I linked to it above.

I am getting quite distressed. Does nobody even know the published ethical standards that we as scientists are expected to follow? How can anyone consider themselves a professional scientist in any field without being aware of the ethical standards?

No wonder public confidence in science is low. Until we all know and follow our ethical standards we do not deserve public confidence.
 
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  • #21
andresB
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The ICMJE has. I linked to it above.

I am getting quite distressed. Does nobody even know the published ethical standards that we as scientists are expected to follow? How can anyone consider themselves a professional scientist in any field without being aware of the ethical standards?

No wonder public confidence in science is low. Until we all know and follow our ethical standards we do not deserve public confidence.

It seems this would require a tread on its own, and you might be even 100% correct about "standards", but I work in some niche areas of theoretical/mathematical physics, my work has zero impact on the public, nobody wellbeing it's at risk if my proof of theorem X is dubious. I don't use data, I don't use lab equipment, I have nothing to do with licences or copyrights, my work has zero economical impact on anyone, it's a Hobby I do in my spare time. My job at the university is completely and utterly unrelated to my research, I could be paying my rent as a carpenter and, research wise, everything would be the same.
 
  • #22
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How is any of that relevant? Are any of those facts listed as designated exceptions in the published ethical standards for your field?
 
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  • #25
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The hard part is deciding what is "relevant" as used in the rule. The tricky part of conflicts is that it is hard to determine from the perspective of the person who may have a conflict. That means to me that you always have to lean in the direction of full disclosure. Outside of ethics, I think not including an institutional affiliation would just be distracting for a reader who is accustomed to always seeing one.
 
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  • #26
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The hard part is deciding what is "relevant" as used in the rule. The tricky part of conflicts is that it is hard to determine from the perspective of the person who may have a conflict. That means to me that you always have to lean in the direction of full disclosure. Outside of ethics, I think not including an institutional affiliation would just be distracting for a reader who is accustomed to always seeing one.
I don’t think it is hard at all. They say
Conflicts of interest can arise from employment, …

Conflicts or potential conflicts of interest must be fully disclosed.
Seems pretty unambiguous. The ethical standard for physicists is that your employment should be disclosed, just the same as for medical researchers.
 
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  • #27
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The hard part is deciding what is "relevant" as used in the rule. The tricky part of conflicts is that it is hard to determine from the perspective of the person who may have a conflict. That means to me that you always have to lean in the direction of full disclosure.
I don’t think it is hard at all. They say... Seems pretty unambiguous. The ethical standard for physicists is that your employment should be disclosed, just the same as for medical researchers.
Two sides of the same coin there: It's hard to judge one's own conflicts, therefore the standards are written such that people are not entitled to judge their own conflicts. They must disclose affiliations and allow the audience to decide if there's a conflict...indeed, judging your own conflict is itself a conflict since you are affiliated with yourself. So if one is seeking to judge their own conflicts for the purpose of deciding if they should disclose or not, they've already made a wrong ethical turn.
 
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  • #28
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the standards are written such that people are not entitled to judge their own conflicts. They must disclose affiliations and allow the audience to decide if there's a conflict.
Yes, exactly.

I do find it surprising that multiple people in this one thread seem unaware of their relevant ethical standards. Looking back at my education, I had no class on scientific ethics and it was not something specifically taught by my doctoral adviser. That is probably something we need to address as a profession.

In contrast, when I got my MBA the very first class in the curriculum was an ethics class, and ethics concepts were explicitly integrated through the rest of the curriculum.
 
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  • #29
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I do find it surprising that multiple people in this one thread seem unaware of their relevant ethical standards. Looking back at my education, I had no class on scientific ethics and it was not something specifically taught by my doctoral adviser. That is probably something we need to address as a profession.

In contrast, when I got my MBA the very first class in the curriculum was an ethics class, and ethics concepts were explicitly integrated through the rest of the curriculum.
I was going to explore that myself...

I'm an engineer and I did have engineering ethics classes, which covered much of the practical application of ethics to engineering practice. Then when I got my professional license, I was required to take a (take-home) quiz on the state ethics/laws which proved at least that I'd thumbed through it to find the answers to the quiz.

Much of the argument in this thread is about understanding ethics itself, though. It's the logic and theory behind the rules. While understanding is not a requisite of compliance, it would help people to be more proactively ethical even in circumstances where they are just ignorant of the rules.

I started my education at a military academy and we had both philosophy/morality/ethics education as part of our required English classes (not sure if that's typical) and stand-alone morality/ethics seminars.

All of ethics/morality has basis in logic, but it is human-logic not math logic, and it is hard for some to identify the correct starting assumptions and goals. And the default is generally backwards, per a straw-poll taken at the start of one of the seminars and what we're seeing in the thread. The default is generally that ethics/morality is internal, passive and relative when in reality it has to be external, active and absolute to work. I'm not sure what causes that (or if it is even uniquely American/Western).
 
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  • #30
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The default is generally that ethics/morality is internal, passive and relative when in reality it has to be external, active and absolute to work. I'm not sure what causes that (or if it is even uniquely American/Western).
Certainly ethics is external. Ethics answers the question “what is professional behavior”? And it is determined by the recognized professional organizations (historically probably guilds). It can and does differ from profession to profession. But in all cases the professional organizations set the standards.

I like Heinlein’s treatment of morality in Starship Troopers. I don’t know if any recognized moral philosophers have a similar approach.

I'm an engineer and I did have engineering ethics classes, which covered much of the practical application of ethics to engineering practice.
I think (it was a long time ago) that engineering ethics was covered in my introductory engineering class as a small topic. Scientific ethics is different from engineering ethics, so it should have been covered separately.

All of ethics/morality has basis in logic, but it is human-logic not math logic, and it is hard for some to identify the correct starting assumptions and goals.
Yes, here the goal is to avoid conflicts of interest and the starting assumption is that people often cannot recognize their own conflicts of interest. So the standard is to consistently report employment and other financial relationships, always err on the side of over-disclosure, and let readers judge the possible conflict. Once you know the goal and the assumption the standard is reasonable, but you should know the ethical standards of your profession even if the goals and assumptions are unclear.
 
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  • #31
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Yes, here the goal is to avoid conflicts of interest
and also apparent conflicts of interest. Could I fairly avaluate a paper written by a family member? Sure. But isn't it better to recuse myself?
 
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  • #32
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While I still don't see any conflict of interest, it seems that not disclosing the university could create lots of problems and it is, hence, and unwise course of action. So better not doing it.
 
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  • #33
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While I still don't see any conflict of interest, it seems that not disclosing the university could create lots of problems and it is, hence, and unwise course of action. So better not doing it.
As @Vanadium 50 hinted at above, the most obvious reason editors will want to know your affiliation to avoid conflicts of interest is when assigning peer reviewers. This potential conflict will exist regardless of the content or findings of the paper, as it is inherent in the publication process itself. For that reason, editors will generally not assign reviewers to a manuscript when the authors are from the same institution.

The reason I’m on the fence about labeling this a conflict of interest specifically is that, at least for most of the journals I publish in, there’s a specific required conflict of interest statement that is separate from the place where the institutional affiliation is listed, and institutional affiliation (at least in academia/government—obviously if you work for a company where a conflict is clear, you’d list it) is rarely—to my knowledge—explicitly listed in this statement. I guess if I were going to leave the institutional affiliation section blank, I’d probably have to include my affiliation in the conflict of interest statement, but it’s honestly never occurred to me not to list affiliation if you are actually affiliated with an institution.
 
  • #34
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I still don't see any conflict of interest,
And that is exactly the reason that the ethical standards requiring such disclosure are not discretionary.
 
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  • #35
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The reason I’m on the fence about labeling this a conflict of interest specifically is that, at least for most of the journals I publish in, there’s a specific required conflict of interest statement that is separate from the place where the institutional affiliation is listed, and institutional affiliation (at least in academia/government—obviously if you work for a company where a conflict is clear, you’d list it) is rarely—to my knowledge—explicitly listed in this statement.
The APS makes it clear that employment can create a conflict of interest and thus must be disclosed. How a journal chooses to implement that in their forms doesn’t change the ethical standard.
 

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