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H2020

PRINTEGER Report Summary

Project ID: 665926
Funded under: H2020-EU.5.f.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - PRINTEGER (Promoting Integrity as an Integral Dimension of Excellence in Research)

Reporting period: 2015-09-01 to 2016-11-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

PRINTEGER’s mission is to enhance research integrity by promoting a research culture in which integrity is part and parcel of what it means to do excellent research, not as an external control system. To promote such a culture, an improved governance of integrity and responsible research has to be informed by practice: the daily operation of researchers and the tensions of a complex research system.

Hence PRINTEGER aims to promote research integrity through:

1. Systematic review of integrity cultures and practices, including multi-disciplinary scoping reviews of how integrity and misconduct are understood.
2. Analysis and assessment of current challenges, pressures, and opportunities for research integrity in a demanding and rapidly changing research system, including an analysis of the drivers of integrity from the perspectives of researchers and research managers through an e-survey and representative in-depth case studies, also covering institutional reactions to misconduct and the operation of organisational procedures in practice.
3. Development and testing of tools and policy recommendations enabling key players to effectively address issues of integrity, specifically directed at science policy makers, research managers and future researchers, recommendations for optimal procedures and policies, stimulating coordination of initiatives, and tools for communication and education, appreciating the specificity of European research cultures and the diversity of the sciences.

PRINTEGER will develop four types of tools:
1. Advisory tools for science policy makers,
2. Tools for reflection and action for research leaders and research managers,
3. Advice for research support organisations, especially on IT tools to promote integrity,
4. Educational tools for researchers, notably including future scientists and early stage researchers.

PRINTEGER addressed four strategic target groups in particular:
1. Science policy makers, including research organisations such as academies of science, research funders (national and international, notably European), integrity boards and committees (both national and in research organisations or universities), university boards, professional associations;
2. Research leaders and managers, implementing best practices and deliberations on integrity as an integral part of responsible research, in academic, but also in industrial and commercial research;
3. Research support organisations dealing with integrity and misconduct: journal editors, companies producing IT tools such as plagiarism scanners, research communicators, or scientific publishers.
4. Future and early stage researchers, including PhD researchers, students, and interns.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

Phase one of the project involved a range of exploratory tasks, making maximum use of diverse disciplinary perspectives, involving the gathering of information and review of literature and concepts. This involved six overviews of relevant literature and conceptual input from the teams. The first study by RU involved a conceptual clarification of integrity’s different connotations over time and between different discourses (policy, media, research literature). The main observation from this study is that integrity policy is increasingly moving towards enforcing norms, while researchers expect more from encouraging integrity values.
The tension between integrity as value (virtue-based) and as norms was also noted in the reconnaissance from the ethical perspective. Further clarifications involved the requirement to specify what integrity is a property of: of the research system, research organisations, or individuals. Most often, integrity is understood as a property of the individual, although this may be problematic. As an individual problem, integrity is seen as a matter of a failure to internalise professional norms and values.
The legal reconnaissance points at the specificity of legal conceptions of misconduct, in contrast to the ethical perspective. Legal conceptions of integrity also struggle with variation in the meaning of the term, e.g. based in integrity as wholeness or integrity as trustworthiness. While approaches differ considerably in Europe, to a large extent countries combine legal and non-legal mechanisms. Particularly problematic are the shifting notions of what counts as ethics and what as legal requirements, or the drawing of boundaries between ethics and, for example, data protection.
The criminological analysis points out that misconduct is also a matter of a social response to deviant behaviour. This response may involve attempts to repair damaged reputations, reinforce shared values, or demonstrate a willingness to take action, rather than merely keep deviant behaviour in check. A major complication is the diversity and plurality of research practices, for example between research fields or approaches.
This perspective on integrity as a social phenomenon, returns in integrity from the perspective of organisations, following experiences with integrity in other sectors of society. This results in a model that distinguishes between an institutional setting of changes in the research system and organisational conditions, both of which providing a context for individual misconduct.
Presently, the project has entered the next phase of more in-depth studies of integrity. The media-analysis of UK and Italian press, observes rising attention for integrity, albeit driven by misconduct cases. However, the media have more attention for misconduct and fraud, rather than positively defined ‘integrity’. While the media seem to focus on the nature of the research system (commercial pressure, ‘publish or perish’ culture) and seek solutions in improved peer review, it also reports the implementation of policies that rather focus on investigation and sanction.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

While most activities so far have involved review activities (using exiting literature, rather than new information), the Printeger project is clearly moving towards a new perspective on research integrity. This perspective extends beyond the narrow focus on individual misconduct in the performance and reporting of research (FFP/QRP), to shift attention to systemic pressures threatening integrity, the social response to misconduct, or organisational settings that are conducive to research integrity as a more collective responsibility. This will have to be articulated more systematically on the basis of observations of the second phase.

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