Whose responsibility is responsible conduct of research, i.e. research integrity?

1. Ultimately the individual researchers – they bear the responsibility for their research practices and the results they publish – whether they work individually or in teams

2. But research integrity is also a collective responsibility

2a. It is an institutional responsibility – Institutions such as universities and research institutes are responsible for their quality control:

For the  monitoring procedures and incentives they have in place for research activities, in short for the transparency of research activities and research administration

For making sure that the senior researchers understand their responsibilities towards the junior researchers (supervisers may insist on bad habits  in projects, have too much power over the junior researchers and their careers because of their precarious position in the research community)

2b. It is a political responsibility for the science-political decision makers who

Decide how research performance is measured (which performance criteria are used and what types of metrics are used in allocating public funds to research)

In the current  new public management -style measuring climate, political decision makers need to be able to give convincing answers to researchers on such questions as:

How can predominantly quantitative criteria be used to measure quality?

Are you sure that your criteria encourage researchers to novel, experimental, interdisciplinary approaches?

Do your criteria encourage researchers to curiosity-driven research and risk-taking? 

Do your funding criteria allow researchers to define their own research questions?

Current issues in responsible conduct of research

The emphasis on competitiveness and dependence on external, often relatively short term grants creates a vicious circle of the number and frequency of publications- citation indexes –  impact factors – funding decisions.

Do these interdependencies really encourage researchers to what is best for science and scholarship?

These interdependencies have lead to gray area practices in research, to

the manipulation of  authorship, honorary authorship, manipulation of the bibliography of the study, etc.

“self-plagiarism”, salami publishing, selective reporting of results to improve the validity of results, manipulation of observed data.

Do the same rules apply in frontier research (e.g. gene therapy) as in a more traditional research?

Yes, but in order to make basic  research possible and fundable, the criteria need to take into account that research takes time,  that failing to prove your hypothesis can still be good research, encourage to interdisciplinary approaches

Science must, above all, help the decision-making process to be based on facts

The overemphasis on innovation and technology has lead to a situation in Europe where mainly research that is application-oriented is considered to be strategic and of importance to our societies

The chief scientific adviser to the president of the European Commission does not have in her current mandate advice that would include arts and humanities and social sciences play only a minor part in the interdisciplinary approaches.

The advice the EU  seems to need for its fact-based decision-making  is narrow in scope and only covers the so-called exact sciences and technological viewpoints. 

Cultural needs, history,  communication needs, human development and behaviour are not of interest to European decision makers.

Self-regulation and in responsible conduct of research 

The European model of promoting research integrity is firmly rooted in self-regulation– and  this aspect  of the freedom of science  is worth defending and fighting for,  but it means that we need to make sure that self-regulation is practiced and that we need to be vigilant and aware of both the need for independencies and  the effects of interdependencies  between science,  ethics and  politics. It is the only way to maintain trust in science.