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Academic Integrity & Cosmetic Science Communication

November 17, 2021

One of the surprising joys of being back at University (part time, very slow progress, yes I’m getting there but…) is the reminder that Academic Integrity is not only expected, measured and tested, it’s the law.

My uni – Charles Sturt, here in the beautiful central tablelands of New South Wales, Australia, has put together a five module course on the subject and we all have to complete this before being allowed to graduate. The course takes anything from 1.5 hours to a day to complete, depending on your own pace and level of engagement/ understanding. I had forgotten about this part of the course and only took the final tests on Monday and that’s what made me think of you all!

You can find a link to the CSU Academic Integrity Policy here.

The concept, practice and importance of Academic Integrity has never been lost on me. It’s something I deeply value and try my hardest to uphold while knowing and admitting I occasionally sip up over. One example of how I can slip up at times is in the way I reference my source materials on the blog. My referencing can present as a mash-up of styles and occasionally I might miss something that really should be referenced. Academically this is a no-no and could at best be seen as sloppy and unprofessional and at worst as rude and fraudulent. Neither sounds too good to me!

Academic Integrity covers a whole range of attitutes and behaviours, correct referencing being just one part. It also covers how we handle material that’s under copyrite or license agreements, how other people’s words are quoted (and how much of them you use), how, why and where you paraphrase, how you make notes, prioritise and scheduling tasks, seek assistance (and from whom), collaborate/ work in teams and so on. It’s about how you respectfully build on other peoples ideas when constructing your own arguments. It covers methods and tools for checking for plagiarism and authenticity. In a nutshell, it’s about carrying out and representing your work honestly and fairly, respecting the work of others and taking responsibility for acknowleging the influence they had on you and the role they played in helping you form your own ideas. Ultimately it is about trust – about trusting that other people will value and respect your work and that you can be trusted to do the same. Doesn’t that sound great? So how does that apply here?

Integrity, Inshmegrity…

On the one hand I want to rant on about how ‘anyone can write anything on the internet and some of it is just shit and wouldn’t know integrity if it bit them on the bum’

While on the other hand I’m thinking ‘there’s horses for courses Amanda. Don’t be so judgemental and anyway, you are anyone writing anything aren’t you? Get a grip woman’…

So as you can see, I’m quite confused.

I attempted to work through my confusion around the topic I’d just chosen to make a blog-post out of (and therefore should really already know the point I was trying to make) and that helped a bit but not a lot.

So in the end I decided to zoom out and see if that helped. It did…

Communication in Context

Academic Integrity is the communication standard that is required by Universities. It serves to uphold their position as leaders in academic thought and helps their people understand how to go about exporing, developing and communicating their ideas. There are rules and guidelines within Academic Integrity that can be monitored and measured and consequences for falling short. Your reward for compliance is to bask in your own awesomeness of doing what you should and having people not think you are a shabby, unreliable ass hole – sounds motivating enough don’t you think?

Outside of academia, the standards upon which our communication is measured differ. We all accept that we communicate to our bosses, doctors or religious leaders in a slightly different way to that we would use with our pre-school family members, our pets or the friends we just met for an evening out. Outside of pure ettiquete or familiarity there’s the other legal frameworks we operate in. Get pulled over by the police for travelling 10Km over the limit and it’s probably not a great idea to greet them with a ‘hello darling, I love what you’ve done to your hair’. Likewise, if you end up in court for any reason I don’t recommend you use flowery analogies or interpretive dance to explain your movements on that dark night back in October. There are rules and there are consequences.

Cosmetic Science Communication is broad and covers everything from the highly academic and scientific to the opinions and thoughts of the layperson so how do we apply Academic Integrity in this context? I did a bit of brain-storming around this and decided the best way to tackle this was to break it down into bite-sized chunks, starting with this, my blog.

The 6 W’s of (even though one of them is a H) Communicating via my blog.

Why do I communicate/ blog about cosmetic science stuff?

My primary motivator around blogging is to use it as a teaching tool – a platform for sharing the process of investigating intellectually stimulating topics in a way that might persuade and /or influence and/or inspire others into doing rather than just consuming. I write this for intellectual Stimulation, as part of my own thought and planning process. I also do it to show solidarity and support to anyone who feels anxious or scared about the chemistry that’s in their cosmetics. To demonstrate how one can think and go about investigating these things. Finally I do it because I find it somewhat fun and quite therapeutic.

Why do others communicate cosmetic science stuff? I think that’s up to them to tell you but I suspect that their authentic answers will be most interesting and useful when it comes to deciding how you engage with their content.

What am I communicating?

That is fairly obvious here, cosmetic science, issues surrounding the industry and products. Sometimes trends and movements or philosophies. Other times it’s ingredients and/or research.

How do I communicate?

I try to ground myself when I’m writing and by that I mean, to feel each step and make each step clear rather than make assumptions, skim over things or cover my tracks. It’s more about using that saying ‘walk in my footsteps’ as a metaphor rather than taking it in the literal sense (don’t look up to me, come with me).

Where do I communicate?

Well here we are talking about this blog but I do use other methods and they each have their own nuanced styles and rules I guess.

Who am I communicating to?

The people who read this blog are quite a diverse bunch (yes you are, aren’t you) but they typically all share a love of cosmetic science, a desire to go deeper and invest more time than most, and a curious, creative mindset. Some of my readers do get lost in some of the more technical aspects of the odd blog post but are still able to pick up and appreciate the gist.

What does exploring the W’s do for our discussion on acedemic integrity?

It makes it easier for me to identify the similarities and differences between my blog and the blogging community and a Science Paper and the world of Academia.

The Solution – Applied Integrity.

As is often the case, I find my point while writing rather than planning it ahead of time. It is as if the labour of doing uncovers the right path in a way that just planning can’t.

The value system that underpins Academic Integrity is deeply important to me both personally and professionally. I can’t teach the importance of ‘doing’ science, of prioritising creating rather than copying and exploring rather than following if I don’t myself use and demonstrate best practice. Well I could but it would be hypocritical.

Integrity is integrity and I share all the values my Academic Integrity unit laid out but I need to find a way to demonstrate it that’s appropriate for this, a more diverse and less ‘institutionalised’ audience. If people are intimidated or interrupted by my integrity steps they won’t keep reading/ watching.

How blooming obvious!

I feel like I should have known this all along and that the time spent working on this article has been wasted..

But wait, I HAVE been doing this all along, it’s just that I’ve been doing it sub-consciously up to this point!

Most of us know that feeling of being able to do something ourselves with ease, something that takes up almost no brain space at all, something that just seems to flow, to happen, to get done. Most of us also know how these simple tasks can start to feel way more complicated and involved once we try to teach others! Maybe you experienced this when bringing up or interacting with young children or helping others or yourself recover some every-day life skills after a brain trauma or illness. Well that’s what’s happened here. I’ve re-freshed my Academic Integrity skills, reflected on how they are demonstrated at Uni and realised how I try and make them work in a blog setting. So now what?

Consciousness Raising – Making Integrity Visible In My Blogging Practice

To do things consciously is to pay attention, to become accountable, to choose and to lead rather than follow and let be. I love all of that and am exited to have another opportunity to practive that!

I’m going to work on replacing my somewhat hap-hazard, covert way of demonstrating integrity with a more conscious, deliberate and overt approach. In short I’m going to make this aspect of my work more obvious and organised. I’m not doing it this way because I think Integrity should be shoved down everyones throats, nor do I think my readers are too dumb to notice if I don’t point it out this way. It’s more out of respect for the fact people read blogs for many reasons, not least to be entertained and inspired. That my readers come to the blog with different levels of experience around this topic and that some may not realise there is ‘best practice’ and etiquette around this type of work. I’m also doing this as I can’t very well moan about the internet being full of rubbish while not helping my readers learn to identify how to tell.

So that’s that. I’m off to come up with a little table-type box format thing that I can pop at the end of each article (outside of this one as I’ve not made it yet) that explains what actions I’ve taken, resources I’ve used and people I’ve been influenced by in the writing of my articles. I’m hoping that an added layer of consistency will help my readers appreciate the value of what we all share, create and explore together.

Thanks for reading.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike permalink
    November 17, 2021 4:31 pm

    Yep….it’s important.

  2. Mike Thair permalink
    November 17, 2021 4:45 pm

    I think you may have issues with the comments section of your site…

    Kind regards,

    Mike

    Dr. Mike Thair

    Managing Director & Master Formulator

    =============================

    Indochine Natural Sdn. Bhd.

    Factory Retail Outlet

    16 Lebuh Lembah Permai 4, Tanjung Bungah 11200, Penang Island, MALAYSIA

    Office Phone: +60 4 890 9577

    Hand phone: +60 16 6579572

    http://www.indochinenatural.com

    Instagram

    >

  3. November 20, 2021 5:10 am

    Hi!
    I just discovered your site, THANK YOU for the wealth of good information you share! I appreciate your approach, and commitment to academic integrity.
    I’ve noticed a lot of your links and other site functions are broken … you probably need to update WordPress and plugins. It’s happened to me!
    Best of luck on your studies.
    Cass

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