GARRI-9-2015 - Estimating the costs of research misconduct and the socio-economic benefit of research integrity
The Innovation Union Communication notes that “Europe must also develop its own distinctive approach to innovation which builds on its strengths and capitalizes on its values” These values frame the responsible and ethical conduct of research, a critical factor in achieving excellence and socially relevant impact. According to the Singapore Statement on Research Integrity, “the value and benefits of research are vitally dependent on the integrity of research”.
In the same spirit, the “European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity” states in its preamble that “science as the process of knowledge augmentation is embedded in a wider socio-ethical context, and scientists must be aware of their specific responsibility towards society and the welfare of mankind.
Research integrity is multi-dimensional and essentially entails that academic and industry researchers design their research taking into account its social impact, conduct the research in a responsible manner starting with the research design and the gathering of data. Integrity therefore implies the use of appropriate techniques and methodologies respecting the highest ethical standards. Once the results are available they should be reported in an accurate way and be widely and easily accessible. In all circumstances researchers should avoid any form of conflict of interest when performing, reviewing research or communicating research findings (notably in support to policy making). As regards scholarly publication, researchers should include all the necessary references to their work and to the work of others. Overall, research integrity thus covers the complete cycle of the process from the original idea to the output (paper, product, processes, scientific advice etc.).
Conversely, research misconduct can have two main consequences: (1) affect in the short and long run society trust in science as well as the trust in private and public research institutions, (2) harm people (including patients and other vulnerable populations) and the environment. For policy and funding institutions it has additional effects: if misconduct goes on undetected, it reduces return on investment of public and private funds, distorts the research funding market and can be seen as rewarding fraudulent behavior and tarnishing trust in the research management processes including peer review.
Accurate estimates of the social and economic impact of research integrity are difficult to ascertain. They range from tabulations of actual personnel and legal costs involved in adjudication procedures for selected misconduct cases, to attempts of pricing reputation loss through stock price decline. In addition to the above, and on the basis of selected cases, the proposed study will examine the possibility of devising an appropriate methodology in order to be able to calculate the cost of the various impacts of research misconduct, including:
- The impact on trust and reputation of research and innovation institutions (including loss of expertise and qualified personnel)
- The impact on researchers’ carrier (salary, promotion, loss of employment etc)
- The impact on the well being of citizens and on the environment. This should in particular cover the impact of inappropriate policies or products resulting from research misconduct. It notably covers (1) policy decisions based on falsified research results or biased scientific advice and (2) products (pesticides, medication etc.) put on the market further to a non rigorous scientific validation process.
Beyond the estimation of the economic impact of misconduct, the study should also, estimate the economic benefit that could be derived from a more responsible conduct of research (increase reproducibility of research findings, improving availability of research results, interactions with concerned actors when designing and performing research etc.) in the EU and worldwide. In addition to general figures, a few concrete and illustrative cases should be analysed to support the impact narrative.
The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of the order of EUR 1 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.
A better understanding of the economic and social impact of research misconduct and responsible conduct of research will support the development of a coherent and efficient research integrity policy in the European Research Area.
Type of action: Coordination and Support Actions.