Research Integrity: Challenges, Commitments, Culture – Erasmus MC, June 18th

Last modified: May 29, 2017

by Fenneke Blom

It was a positive event, in several ways. The focus of the program was on what we can do to change the culture, on creating opportunities in stead of complaining about the situation. This shift in focus – from the recognition of the prevalence and broadness of research integrity issues, towards starting to make a change – was illustrated by Hugh Whittall’s presentation on the research culture in the UK and his remark: “The question is: who will take the first step (and who will step with them)”. Ann Tenbrunsel then pointed out ethical ‘blind spots’ that hinder responsible conduct of research, and on which attention could (should) be focussed. One of these blind spots is the dark side of rewards. Lynn Stout also discussed this issue in her presentation on cultivating conscience by quoting George Washington: “Few man have the honour to withstand the highest bidder”. Don’t tempt researchers too much to be bad. She explained how the social context can stimulate prosocial behaviour, for example by having an authority telling you to do so and peers showing this behaviour. For the same reason, one bad apple can really spoil the whole barrel.

At the end of the day I won one of the books (Cultivating conscience – how good laws make good people by Lynn Stout) in the best-quotes-of-the-day contest, by quoting Lex Bouter: “Sloppy science is a larger evil than research misconduct”. So, I might be posting more about this topic!

Additionally to these speakers, a few short perspectives and several flash stories were shared and Pandemonium theatre performed their play ‘Con[science]’. The play was very well received and to my opinion this English version was even better than the original in Dutch.

Another positive note came from one of the organisers, Medard Hilhorst, in his flash story: we should not be naming and shaming, but focus on best practices instead.

It was a long day, but it certainly did not feel like that, time flies when you’re learning important things and having fun!

Fenneke Blom

Coordinator Research Integrity Network

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