Scientific writing of research papers and Ethics in Scientific Work

Prof Nadhir Al-Ansari from Department of Civil, Environmental and Natural Resources Engineering at Lulea University of Technology in Sweden, hold three day leatures and workshop on “Scientific writing of research papers and Ethics in Scientific Work” at the Koya University from 2-4th Feb 2014. 

The main themes were:
1.Course start. Background to scientific writing.

  • What is scientific writing?
  • Why is it important? How do you start writing?  
  • Where can I find support, help and instructions?
  • How can we in our group, subject, department individually and together create a good and creative environment for writing articles?

2.Writing articles.

  • In what journals should I publish?
  • Strategies for writing a good article by yourself and/or together with others?
  • Structure of an article?
  • References – handling and referring?

3.The review process.

  • What happens when I have submitted the article?
  • What can I expect as feedback from the journal?
  • How should I handle criticism and viewpoints that I get?

4. Citation and judgment of articles.

  • Different indices – what do they mean?
  • The importance of being cited. How could you be member of networks which give many citations?

5. Ethics in Scientific Work, This part included:

  • Ethics as a foundation.
  • Authenticity and Accuracy.
  • Originality.
  • Credit.
  • Ethical treatment of humans and animals.
  • Disclosure of conflicts of interest?

This is an interview with Prof Nadhir Al-Ansari by university correspondence Mr Hewa Salam Khalid.

Q: Dear professor could you give some information about yourself and your university please?

Prof: I am a professor in water resources and environmental engineering at Lulea University of technology. In fact we have a scientific agreement with Koya University, and the president of Koya University and vice president visited us, and they signed co-operation agreement. This is not my first visit; in fact it is the third visit. So, I work  very closely with faculty of engineering with Dr. Fuad Khoshnaw as a colleague and a friend. That is why I participated in the first conference that they did about the petroleum and minerals, and it was think of us from Lulea University, and then my next visit was in conference about develop of Koya city. Also, I tried to work with some of the stuff here. We proposed some sort of new method technic for this area which called water harvesting technique, and we calculated for them how much water they can gain, and the results were very nice. 

So, I presented a presentation about water resources and mineral. This is because whether we like it or not Iraq is facing a problem of crises of water resources, and then we continued to co-operate, for example Dr.Anwar is working with me for a proposal about water’s demand management in Koya University and then for the development of the city as well. The main purpose of my visit now is to a training course to the staff. 

Q: Does your university have a relationship with the universities in Kurdistan region, especially Koya University?

Prof: In fact we have signed agreement with the ministry of higher education in Kurdistan Region, then we signed another co-operation with Sulaimanya University and Salahaddin University, but the first agreement that we signed was with Koya University.

Q: Have your university offered scholarship for Kurdish students?

Prof: Yes, now we have a student, he is doing his PHD in Sulaimanya University, and the president of Sulaimanya University is a supervisor and I am the Swedish supervisor for that student. Tomorrow I am going to Sulaimanya to meet them, and there is another student he holds the Swedish nationality and he is a member of parliament in Sweden, but he is Kurdish. That one his name is Rebwar, I accepted him as a PHD student in our University. So and again in the end of this month I am 
coming back in the end of February.

Q: Could you tell us what is scientific writing? Why is it important?

Prof: The difference between the schools and the university is that the lecturers teach only in the schools, same book and same material, but the universities are different in fact. There is development, and the developments come from the researches. So, when you write the research, if you cannot tighten and the scientists all over the world it does not worth anything. So, how to write this, it is called paper, and you send your paper form to a scientific journal, and then published, and then to be internationally known, and recognised. So, in fact the standard of the universities and the main points to evaluate the university is how many papers the published each year in international scientific journals. That is why, my aim here, we were concentrating on this topic. How to write a scientific paper? 

Q: What is ethics in an academic work?

Prof: This is the second part of the training. In fact I was talking about the ethics of scientific research; there are plenty of things people do not know. When I was in Iraq nobody told me what is scientific ethics, when I went abroad, then I heard about it. Nobody told us how to write a scientific paper. So, we were working trying a dealer. This is very time consuming in fact. That is why it is very important to tell people what is the scientific ethics. What to do and what not to do, because if you do something wrong scientifically, and people then notice it. You are going to corrupt the reputation of yourself and your university. So, it is very important for me to tell the staff here what is the scientific ethics, and then I will tell them how to write a paper in a proper way to fulfil international standards of scientific journals. So this is what I am doing now. 

Q: I would like to talk about journals, obviously there are plenty of journals, and what kind of journals do you recommend to the researchers to publish their work in?

Prof: In fact, as you mentioned there are more than twenty thousand scientific journals, and the number is increasing every day. But you do not evaluate the journals in the same standard. There is something which is called impact factor. Impact factor is very important. So each journal has impact factor which you can publish in, but journals has not impact factor avoid them, because they are not recognised. What we have done in Scandinavian countries. There was a comity or several committees. They looked at all the journals, and then they selected a list of the journals which have very good scientific standard, and then they told all the universities, if you publish, you must publish in one of these journals. If you do not publish within the list of those journals, they will not recognize your work. So I gave the paper of that to Dr. Dilan the vice president at Koya University because he did his degree in our university in Sweden. I gave it to him so that they can follow it as well because we revise this list every six month, and if we see that some journals standard going down, we neglect them out of the list. If some journals they were outside of the list, and then the standard within international standard recommended, we will put them within the list so this list is not permanent list. It is usually been revised every 
six month. 

Q: As you know, plagiarism is a fundamental issue, how the researchers could cite their works to avoid plagiarism?

Prof: This is what I talked about yesterday and how to put others work and how to do with, and in fact we are going to talk about it today as well. So that they will not do something wrong and they will be accused of, and there are rules and calculations, which take time to describe them, but I gave them by the way. I gave them all the slides which I brought with myself. So, they have documents with themselves. Even I gave them some as well. I called them to solve the exercises and send them to me by e-mail, because there is no time to it with them here. Doing these things and describing all things for them, then they know what to do, they can avoid mistakes. 

Q: I would like to ask you about the review process, what can researcher expect as feedback from the journal? 

Prof: When you send your paper to a journal, first the chief-editor receive the paper, and then he will look at the title, and then he can distinguish in what category is that, let us say water resources or structure engineering or anything else. So, he knows the member of tutorial comity, each one has specialization. So, they will send to one who is in the field of that paper, and then the editorial members read the paper, the title, abstract and the paper. Sometimes when we read the abstract and we believe it is not good, we reject immediately. But, if we think it is good, then we will send it to two university researchers in different part of the word and ask them to review and there is not sort them of form, we send it them electronically. And they should fill the form, and then they recommend, ether publishing the paper without corrections or publishing the papers, but you have to do follow the corrections or rejecting the paper. So, let us say if it is accepted without any modification to be published. If with modifications, then we send the things and the reviewer’s ask to the author of the paper, and ask the author to do these things. 

Q: How should researchers handle criticism and viewpoints that they get?

Prof: For example if you get 10 comments from the reviewer and you take four of them, you have to do it, and then you do it. And the other six are not good enough, but you have to answer the comments. So, you answer and bring scientific facts and references. Then, you send it to the chief-editor. The chief-editor sends it to the reviewer who does the review. If the reviewer is convinced, the reviewer tells the chief-editor it is ok. If the reviewer does not convinced, the chief-editor will ask the author again to revise the work. If the author does it, it will be ok. If the author insists, he/she should answer the chief editor, and the chief editor will make a final decision. It is generally the process of reviewing.

Q: Thanks very much for taking the time to meet with me today. I really appreciate the opportunity. Please feel free to add more comments that I may have forgotten to ask. 

Prof: Well, the only comment I have is Koya University is a new university. A new university has advantage over old universities because old universities have tradition and style. It is hard to change the styles, but the new universities do not have tradition and styles.

So, they can implement new ideas very quickly, for old university it is hard to change a lab for example, but new universities can bring everything new and advanced. The most important point here is human resources development. If you develop your staff and they come up to the international level, then it will be reflected on the students as well. The students of the university will be within the international level. And that means a lot in fact. If a student wants postgraduate studies abroad, he/she will be accepted immediately. For a scholarship everybody will recognize the students, and they will get appreciation. Students in such universities will not find difficulties with their masters and PHD abroad. That is why I always concentrate on human resources development. Generally, the process in Kurdistan is really fantastic and I like it very much. Whenever I come I see new things. In the south of Iraq is progressing in a negative direct, which is sad, but what can we do. I like to work with Kurdish people because they are trusty and they like to develop themselves. Some of my former students are ministers in KRG for example the minister of agriculture and water resources. I know his capability and I feel proud when I see such people take such position, because I was a part of it indirectly as a teacher. By the way I am half Kurdish; my mother is originally from Kurdistan. But the goal is to serve human being, and this is our ambition of life as university professors. We have to help people and give them the knowledge we have, and they should build on that knowledge, and this is a fact of life.


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