Promoting research integrity for a bright scientific future
An EU-funded project reveals the important role that research institutions must play to promote and support research integrity and ensure continued public trust in science. It has created educational tools to help overcome the challenges to integrity.
© leowolfert #191639253, source: fotolia.com 2018
High-quality, reliable science and research integrity go hand-in-hand. That integrity must be upheld if we are to continue on the road of discovery which has already enabled advances in medicine and technology to improve the quality of life worldwide.
Today, scientific research is increasingly interdisciplinary, public-private partnerships are commonplace and there is large-scale global competition. These developments put integrity under pressure. The research community must promote integrity to maintain trust in science so that innovation and advancement can ensure a bright future.
By recording the opinions and experiences of researchers and students in labs, the EU-funded PRINTEGER project mapped the research integrity landscape. Now, the team can implement a plan to ensure the maintenance and promotion of research integrity in institutions and research facilities on a global scale. The aim is to uphold the reputation of the sciences through education while improving the integrity policies of national and international research organisations.
We need to take a systematic and institutional approach to overcome challenges to integrity, says project coordinator Hub Zwart of Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands. Research integrity must be supported by the research culture. This means we dont want a campaign against misconduct. Instead, we want to promote a campaign for good science research is teamwork and research integrity is teamwork.
Institutional approaches improve integrity
The PRINTEGER team conducted a European survey with more than 1000 participants, held focus groups and explored case studies to investigate the issues that threaten research integrity. They considered integrity from the point of view of those working in the labs and in the field.
Analysis of the data suggested that pervasive incentives push researchers to reach short-term targets and, as a consequence, they lose sight of the greater scientific picture. Increasing reliance on performance evaluation in industry and academia also puts the quality of research at risk.
Highlighting such issues enabled the PRINTEGER team to recognise that institutions and facilities play an important role in maintaining and improving research integrity. The scientific community needs to act collectively, with researchers receiving support from institutions, to ensure guidelines for best practice are developed and adhered to. The team will facilitate this by developing educational tools and policy advice.
We have used the outcomes of our investigations to develop educational tools that will be used by institutions to promote research integrity, says Zwart. They are engaging and interactive, requiring researchers to explore integrity scenarios, taking examples from movies and novels, and asking them to engage in dramatic scenes. They also make use of interactive voting systems and create a platform for discussion.
He adds: We have put together policy advice for research organisations and research managers. Through the promotion of positive integrity practices we can focus on science which is scientifically important and societally relevant.
An exchange of views
PRINTEGER has published a number of papers highlighting the seriousness of the integrity issue and how best to approach it. The project has also raised awareness of differences in practice between disciplines and cultures. In addition, Springer has published a book written by Zwart, Tales of Research Misconduct.
The project team has organised an international conference that took place in 2018. Journal editors, research policymakers, the media and the broader public, researchers at all stages of their careers exchanged views on how to effectively address emerging integrity challenges in contemporary research. The PRINTEGER team presented their educational tool and participated in a discussion on a consensus statement on research integrity.