Looking back at the 4th WCRI

Last modified: May 21, 2017

Four colleagues look back at the 4th World Conference on Research Integrity, that took place in Rio de Janeiro in 2015.

Research Integrity: an interdisciplinary research field?


“The 4th World Conference on Research Integrity” shows that the general attention on research integrity and misconduct is shifting step by step towards the way science is structured. Gradually, the structure, the system and the various players and motivations that fuel them, come forward, rather than portraying the fraudulent scientist as an exception, as a rotten apple in an otherwise perfectly healthy basket. Yet the various players keep looking at each other when it comes to finding a solution: scientists, research funds, journals, universities, etc. Should we finance more replication research? Or should we give rewards for peer review? If so, who should assign these rewards? Should we obligate researchers to share their research data? And if so, who is responsible for checking up on it? Should we organise more training? Who should be trained: professors or students? Maybe we should develop a new guideline, which harmonises the current contradictions.
These and many other questions are fertile ground for further research. Gradually a research field of research integrity is taking shape, in which the matter is approached by researchers from an interdisciplinary perspective. In order to internalize ethics, a diverse approach is required. No single solution will solve the problem by itself. A combination of remedies can contribute to a culture of research integrity.
by Simon Godecharle
Simon Godecharle is affiliated to the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO) and the Centre for Biomedical Ethics and Law at KU Leuven.


A view from the side-line

This was my first visit to the WCRI, and therefore my impressions are just a view from the side-line and inspired by the fact that Wageningen University Research Centre not only exists of a university (top 3 in it’s field) but also of knowledge institutes that do research that is policy supporting and market focussed. Because of this, I conclude that the focus of these four days was mostly on universities. Other research institutions were barely discussed. Sessions about RI activities in industry and in relation to commercial activities drew little attention. I was startled by that, because the institutional context, the work culture and practical incentives are very different in these contexts. The problems with RI in these institutions fairly differ from those in universities.
During the focus track session in which there was only debate (to me the best part of the conference), it was attempted to image the issues in RI and diverse institutions in total, under the lead of Lex Bouter and Melissa Anderson. However, the university’s perspective predominated again.
Therefore I think it is a beautiful challenge to the NRIN to ascertain for the Dutch situation how RI is perceived and handled in the universities, governmental agencies (such as RIVM, Deltares and ‘Wageningen’), applied institutions (such as TNO and Sanquin) and industrial knowledge institutes (such as Unilever and Philips).
by Herman Eijsackers
Herman Eijsackers is chair of the science advisory board and member of the Scientific Integrity Committee at Wageningen University and Research Centre.


Moral values meet sultry samba

In early June, I was with my promoters Yvo Smulders and Lex Bouter at the 4th World Conference on Research Integrity in Rio de Janeiro. Conferences are often a great way to explore a field of research, expand your network and hear talks of inspiring people. This time I was somewhat ambivalent about the conference and it’s attendees. Because, what are researchers and policy workers on research integrity like? Is it indeed the scientific moralist force with exceptionally high ethical and moral values which they are tossing around to bandied and try to indoctrinate. And with which I immediately wonder whether our own scientific work meets their tight moral values? And how do these scientists relate to a lively and vibrant city like Rio de Janeiro, where in front of the conference venue a pristine white beach was situated, where Cariocas warm themselves by the tropical sun wearing minuscule Brazilian swimwear and where sultry samba jingles seductively presented themselves to our scientific values?
The conference was more inspiring than I expected. I met some hotshots from the field, received valuable feedback on my scientific work and as icing on the cake the whole scientific community danced the samba, including one of my promotors [ed.: and the author, as well as the editor, as well].
In two years, the conference will take place in Amsterdam. After this last experience, I now have nightmares about a clog dance in the program featuring one of my professors…
by Joeri Tijdink


Lessons from Rio: experiences from the 4th WCRI

From May 31st to June 3rd I visited the fourth edition of the World Conference on Research Integrity (WCRI). My job was to present my thesis research on selective reporting of the results of clinical drug trials during a doctoral forum, in which nine PhD candidates and four panel experts participated.
The forum lasted the full Sunday and was an interesting and informative experience. The projects had divergent topics, using both quantitative and qualitative methods. Some examples of topics include quantitative methods for detection of data falsification, the influence of perverse incentives on the process of science, and differences between European countries in laws and guidelines regarding questionable research practices. All candidates had to give a short presentation, followed by a 40-45 minute interactive discussion with the panel members and other candidates. It was very inspiring to share thoughts and experiences with the other PhD candidates, as we are carrying out the actual research. A nice sidebar was that my project won one of the four awards for the most promising project.
The follow-up of the conference consisted of workshops, educational tracks, symposia and brainstorm sessions on what research integrity is, how it can go wrong and how to prevent this. The speakers included research funders, editors of influential science and medical journals (Nature, Lancet, BMJ, BiomedCentral), and scholars from all disciplines in academia, governments and industry.
Important learning points were that research integrity needs to be addressed in all places in which research is conducted, thus not only in the integrity office of universities. Furthermore, integrity does not simply mean the absence of fraud, falsified data, or plagiarism. There is a huge grey area of questionable research practices on which the current system is built and in which we, whether a student, a teacher or a professor, more or less need to engage.
I look forward to the next edition, to be organized in 2017 in Amsterdam. Hopefully we will be able to start then with the conclusion that we did make some progress in the pursuit of healthy and responsible way of conducting research.
by Sander van den Bogert

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