The National Survey on Research Integrity

Last modified: February 8, 2018

Project group:

Author of proposal: Dr. C. L. S. Veldkamp

Project Team: Prof. dr. L.M. Bouter, Dr. C. L. S. Veldkamp, Dr. G. ter Riet, Prof. dr. J. M. Wicherts, Prof. dr. P. G. M. van der Heijden, Dr. M. J. L. F. Cruyff

Steering Committee: Prof. dr. G. Widdershoven, Prof. dr. H. J. Paul; Prof. dr. B. van der Meulen,
Dr. I. A.L. Stoop, Prof. dr. J. G. Bethlehem, Dr. J. Tijdink, Dr. P. Y. W. Dankers, Dr. S. Zuijdgeest,
Mr. dr. C. Ploem.

International collaborators: Prof. dr. M. S. Anderson, Dr. B. C. Martinson, Prof. dr. R. G. de Vries

 

Summary

To merit society’s trust and investment in science, the scientific enterprise has the responsibility to ensure that the science it produces is trustworthy. In order to adequately seize this responsibility, we need to invest in acquiring solid empirical knowledge on which to base evidence-based strategies to counter threats to the trustworthiness of science. One major threat to the trustworthiness of science arises when scientists engage in ‘detrimental research practices’ (DRPs): behaviors that range from subtle trespasses of ethical and methodological principles to outright scientific fraud. Although the importance of preventing these behaviors is widely recognized, the scope of engagement in DRPs is currently unknown. Estimates of occurrence cannot be validly and reliably based on previous studies because these studies employed methods that did not account for bias due to the sensitivity of admitting to DRPs, employed small samples, or focused on specific scientific disciplines. It is also unclear which strategies should be employed to decrease the occurrence of DRPs. Many initiatives aimed at promoting research integrity exist, but strong empirical evidence on how to actually reduce researchers’ engagement in DRPs is lacking. The relatively young body of empirical evidence addressing potential causes and solutions for DRPs provides a promising starting point, but mainly consists of discipline-specific studies that focused on limited sets of variables to explain engagement in DRPs (‘explanatory variables’). Moreover, most of these studies did not explicitly address the roles of different stakeholders in the complex science system, nor did their outcomes result in concrete recommendations on how to reduce DRPs.

The National Survey on Research Integrity is a globally unique endeavor in which the Dutch scientific community will take the lead in acquiring the necessary solid empirical basis for building strategies to reduce DRPs and thereby foster Responsible Research Practices (RRPs) in the Netherlands. This project is unique in multiples senses. First, the National Survey takes an approach that acknowledges both the need to take an efficient science-overarching perspective and the need to take into account the differences between scientific disciplines by distinguishing between four major domains of science. Second, it takes an approach that acknowledges the complexity of the science system by addressing the roles of all its five major stakeholders (researchers, academic research institutions, umbrella organizations of these institutes, funders, and publishers). Third, it will study the largest sample in DRP research to date: the entire population of academic researchers in the Netherlands. Fourth, the National survey will employ highly sophisticated and well-validated Randomized Response (RR) techniques to elicit more honest answers to questions about engagement in DRPs. Fifth, this project will examine the role of a broad range of potential explanatory variables for engagement in DRPs in one single study. This approach will result in 1) valid and reliable science domain-specific estimates of the occurrence of DRPs in the Netherlands, 2) thorough science domain-specific comprehension of which explanatory variables are associated with engagement in DRPs, and 3) shared understanding of the roles that each of the stakeholders in science can play in reducing DRPs.

The knowledge from the National Survey will first be transferred through a comprehensive Open Access publication in a renowned peer reviewed journal and through (inter)national conferences. The results will then be translated into concrete action plans on how to reduce DRPs and thereby foster RRPs in the Netherlands, tailored to the five major stakeholder groups and the four domains of science. These action plans will be generated through interactive, solution-focused work sessions with stakeholder representatives from each domain, in collaboration with a professional change implementation organization. The action plans will be disseminated to all stakeholder groups through stakeholder-tailored reports, through further scientific publications, and through the Netherlands Research Integrity Network. The action plans will be discussed at invitational conferences with representatives of stakeholder groups, where further steps to organize the implementation of the action plans will be taken.

The National Survey will be conducted over a period of three years. The first year will be devoted to thorough preparation and extensive piloting of the different aspects of the survey and the RR techniques. The second year will be assigned to data collection, analysis, and reporting. The third year will be dedicated to translation of the survey results into action plans and their dissemination. Across all three years, we will continuously assess and manage risks to the success of the National Survey.

 

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