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Scientific integrity should be the responsibility of the enterprise

Scientific integrity should be the responsibility of the enterprise

news | Editors

September 5, 2022 | Upholding scientific integrity is not the same in every European country. This is evidenced by international research into scientific integrity in the Netherlands, Croatia and Spain by the Free University, among others. The researchers argue that the responsibility for scientific integrity should be placed at the institutional level.

Photo: Miguel Henrique (@Unsplash)

Concerns about the quality and credibility of scientific research in recent years have led to normative guidelines and practical handles for the practice of responsible research. Individual scientists are encouraged to follow certain reporting rules, and institutions are encouraged to provide training in scientific integrity and support open science broadly.

In the European context there is also European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity (ESF-ALLEA), which holds institutions responsible for a healthy research culture, Write the authors. Accompanying support should focus on the specific problems that scientists face. Is this the case also? The authors attempted to answer this question on the basis of qualitative research at universities in three European countries: the Netherlands, Croatia and Spain.

The three countries were chosen because of their differences and commonality. All three countries have national scientific integrity laws and regulations and use ESF-ALLEA, but differ in research activities, geographic location, language and culture.

Scientists from three countries

Data was collected between October 2017 and February 2018 through interviews with researchers and editors of scientific journals, among others. 59 people participated in the study, including 25 Dutch. About forty percent of them are between thirty and thirty-nine years old, and just under half are women. The largest group of participants was researchers, followed by members of scientific integrity boards or scientific ethics boards. However, the authors wrote that nearly all participants fall within multiple stakeholder groups.

Scientists from the three countries have experience in upholding scientific integrity at four levels: institutional and structural – related to teaching and supervision and at the infrastructure level – technological and everyday research practice.

Scientific integrity requires managerial dedication

Dutch, Croatian, and Spanish participants reported that some researchers are not familiar with institutional frameworks for scientific integrity. They also shared their frustration with the insufficient efforts made by, for example, administrators to translate the guidelines into practice. If there is no specific implementation on the part of the officials, it will lead to dissatisfaction among the researchers. In addition, they emphasized the importance of personnel dealing specifically with scientific integrity.

Some Croatian researchers even called for compulsion Search audits from the EU, but their European colleagues saw in this unnecessary bureaucracy and relied on the model of self-cleaning science.

There is no shortage of commissions

This bureaucracy can actually be annoying, and it has been made clear during discussions about structural support for scientific integrity. Dutch flag has several organizational positions that focus on this: scientific ethics committees, clinical research advisors, scientific integrity committees, scientific integrity advisors, etc.

Helpful, all that support – until you, as a researcher, receive three different tips, a Dutch researcher said. The privacy officer, The Clinical Research Office The Medical Ethics Committee has offered various advice on whether or not to remove privacy-sensitive links in the data. This summer, the National Commission on Scientific Integrity warned against legal fragmentation on integrity issues.

Little Impact of Scientific Integrity Committees

In the other two states, it turned out to be more difficult to get support. Spain and Croatia do not have special commissions that are concerned only with potential violations in the investigation. While Spanish researchers mainly turned to consultants in the field of research methodology, Croatian researchers often reported that they had difficulty finding independent advice. In Spain, these commissions are adopted for this purpose. A Spanish researcher said that even after agreeing to start an investigation, they still sometimes knock on the door to verify. But in Croatia, commissions have little say in identifying scientific violations. If the Dean didn’t want to take their advice, nothing would happen.

According to the study, the Dutch Committees for Scientific Integrity have little guaranteed effect. Integrity committees in individual organizations, for example, often report directly to the Executive Board, which thus has the option of simply ignoring advice and conclusions.

Integrity Course

The importance of educating about scientific integrity was mentioned by participants from the three countries. The Netherlands seems to be ahead of Spain and Croatia. For example, a course in Scientific Integrity in the Netherlands is sometimes a mandatory part of a PhD programme. In Spain and Croatia, such courses depend to a large extent on the volunteer effort of the pioneers.