Promoting Integrity in Science (PRINTEGER): an EU Horizon 2020 project

Last modified: May 18, 2017

In the current integrity debate, a lot of attention goes to scientists accused of, or guilty of research misconduct. In response, research managers, the media and policy makers wonder what measures should be taken to prevent misconduct and improve research integrity, often aiming at increased supervision and control. However, misconduct is also a consequence of larger changes in the academic world. Scientists are under considerable pressure to generate income (input) and publications (output) in a competitive and business-like world, in which ‘performance indicators’ (often ‘perverse incentives’) quickly become more important than scientific content or societal relevance. The primary question is therefore not whether scientists behave. Rather, it is important to develop a critical perspective on the way the current research landscape is organised.

There is a lot of need for research into the nature and causes of scientific misconduct. Misconduct is often presented as an individual problem: a character flaw of an individual scientist who gives in to the temptation of scientific fame and success. However, we need to ask whether the current work climate at universities and research institutes is not stimulating fraud. We also need to ask why a few spectacular cases of data fraud and plagiarism get so much attention, while administrative misconduct or undue influence of funders on research agendas is overlooked. And what does plagiarism actually mean anyway, in a world of rapid changes in e-science, changing authorship patters and new forms of publication? Just think about how the meaning of authorship is changing in a time of multiple authorship, in which the number of authors is systematically increased to boost citation scores.


The PRINTEGER project

PRINTEGER is not aimed at generating rules and control mechanisms, or at tracking down fraudsters, but at initiating a process of reflection and self-reflection. For this, we first and foremost aim at three target groups: How can we initiate a bottom-up process of change based on experiences of scientists, so that scientists can get more control over the course and quality of science? How can we prepare future scientists (active inside and outside of universities) for future challenges to integrity? How can we initiate a process of self-reflection among managers and funders of science so integrity can once again become part and parcel of research quality?

PRINTEGER includes

  • A multidisciplinary review of research integrity and misconduct, aimed at conceptual clarification of integrity in a rapidly changing research system;
  • An overview of policies, procedures, organisational structures addressing misconduct and promoting integrity in science governing;
  • An analysis of integrity from the perspective of the work floor, including psychological and socio-economic pressures;
  • An analysis of key scientific codes and guidelines addressing misconduct in universities and other research organisations;
  • An assessment of how integrity policies are received and work out in practice;
  • Tools for research leaders, managers, policy makers as well as researchers, including educational material.
  • The project consists of partners from the universities of Brussels, Trento, Leiden, Bonn, Oslo, Bristol and Tartu, co-ordinated by Radboud University and led by Dr. Willem Halffman and Prof. Dr. Hub Zwart. PRINTEGER started on 1 September 2015 and will run for three years.
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