Taxonomy of non-integrity

Last modified: May 24, 2018

As an outsider, a Croatian researcher, I was blessed to be selected for a postdoc position in Amsterdam. This enabled me to participate and present at both NRIN conferences, and to get to know the projects and the people working on research integrity and replication in the Netherlands. And what struck me most, is that even though we are talking about a wide range of detrimental or questionable researcher practices, and not only of the FFP (falsification, fabrication, and plagiarism), the “agreed-upon” list of these is not known nor is anyone really taking upon themselves to make such a list. In their paper, Bouter et al.[1] have surveyed attendees of international research integrity conferences regarding 60 misbehaviours, but the research presented and the discussions held at the 2nd NRIN conference made convincing arguments that the scientific community should not only be concerning itself with actions done by an individual or a group of researchers, but also how funding is distributed, how scientists are promoted and selected for their positions, and what kind of oversight and responsibility institutions have of the research process itself and of the researchers’ behaviours. Additionally, as nation wide surveys are being undertaken in Norway and the Netherlands, and hopefully soon in other countries, it will be interesting to see what they will include, and shall the scientific community soon start collecting data that will allow countries and fields not only to be compared by metrics such as citations or funding, but also on research integrity indicators.

Of course, any research or a survey, needs not to be all-inclusive, but I wonder should not the institutional or national codes be? Which brings me to the other impression the conference left on me, and that is the restraint I felt researchers had from moving from talking about integrity, to actual law or punishment for non-integrity actions. A debate was held, whether intention to do commit these practices was as important as in criminal law, and what kind of negligence and liability could be claimed from researchers, funders, ethics committees or intuitions? Retraction Watch’s database is steadily growing, its classification of reasons for retractions is being developed [2] so perhaps in the future, we may hope for similar databases, such as those of errata, filled complaints, and all non-integrity behaviours the research community faces. And I have no doubt, that the next NRIN conference, as did this one, will showcase the progress the research integrity field has made.

References

  1. Bouter LM, Tijdink J, Axelsen N, Martinson BC, Ter Riet G. Ranking major and minor research misbehaviors: results from a survey among participants of four World Conferences on Research Integrity. Res Integr Peer Rev. 2016;1:17.
  2. The Retraction Watch Retraction Database [Internet]. 2018. Available from: http://retractiondatabase.org/.

About the author

Mario Malicki, MD, PhD
Postdoc at the Academic Medical Center
University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam
Project website
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Keynote lecture by Prof. Wicherts
Discussion 1: Future or scholarly communication
Discussion 2: Do we need to redefine questionable research practices?
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