An article published on 30 August 2022 in Springer’s journal on “Science and Engineering Ethics” offers a qualitative analysis of research integrity support in the Netherlands, Spain, and Croatia. As the authors write: “It is particularly important that cross-country studies compare the experience of support from the perspective of the study participants because RI [Research Integrity] support may look different in different countries…” That is true – not just for counties but also for different disciplines. The authors chose these three countries “to represent European countries that have national laws, bodies, and codes governing RI, but which are diverse in terms of research and innovation activities (European Commission, 2017), geographical location, language and culture.” The interviews took place “between Oct 2017 and Feb 2018” and involved a total of 59 people. Such interviews are important because individual experience with integrity issues varies greatly.
One problem is that looking broadly across a wide range of fields and cultures makes it hard for any study to offer focused suggestions that are not overly general. One of the problems that the study uncovered is that the “provision of RI education was described as piecemeal, often voluntary, and mostly lacking for senior researchers.” The authors emphasized the need for training at all levels of research staff including doctoral students and technicians. The exact nature of that training is not discussed in the article, and that is unfortunate because training needs to address specifics like plagiarism and data falsification and image manipulation in terms that are directly relevant to the researchers themselves.
Any successful Research Integrity training program needs to provide participants with a chance to ask their own questions in order to understand potential integrity problems in ways that do not fade into generalities. One of the study’s conclusions is to put “the emphasis of responsibility for RI on institutions rather than individual researchers.” Academic institutions certainly need to take direct and active responsibility, but one of the risks is that the institution tries to provide a single form of training. The experience of those doing training as part of the Information Integrity Academy is that no single approach makes sense for all fields.
1: Evans, Natalie, Ivan Buljan, Emanuele Valenti, Lex Bouter, Ana Marušić, Raymond de Vries, Guy Widdershoven, and the EnTIRE consortium. 2022. ‘Stakeholders’ Experiences of Research Integrity Support in Universities: A Qualitative Study in Three European Countries’. Science and Engineering Ethics 28 (5): 43. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11948-022-00390-5. Photo by Brett Jordan on Pexels