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Research Integrity under the spotlight

'Are the sources of the information we are given credible? Are the actors involved competent? And are they sufficiently motivated by the public interest?' asked EU Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik at the opening debate of the first world conference on 'research...

'Are the sources of the information we are given credible? Are the actors involved competent? And are they sufficiently motivated by the public interest?' asked EU Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik at the opening debate of the first world conference on 'research integrity'. 'In the face of concerns over food crises, possibilities of major epidemics, controversial new technologies and recent widely-publicised cases of scientific fraud and plagiarism, we must have positive answers to the[se] questions,' he said. Since the high profile misconduct case of the South Korean scientist Hwang Woo-suk shook the scientific community, the question of credibility and competence in science has come under the public spotlight. It has also become the focus of the first world conference on Research Integrity and Fostering Responsible Research, co-organised by the European Science Foundation (ESF) and the Office for Research Integrity (ORI) as part of the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union. In his opening speech to the conference, Mr Potocnik emphasised the high stakes for both science and society on this critical issue. 'The challenges lie not only with the behaviour of individual researchers and their institutions, but on the soundness of the system of scientific governance as a whole,' said Mr Potocnik. He emphasised the importance of these two complementary issues, and suggested twin tracks of action were required 'for robust, fair and proportionate systems of governance'. 'The issues are numerous and complex because we must address not only misconduct (in the form of fabrication, falsification and plagiarism) and questionable research practices, but also ethics, financial fraud and misrepresentation in the publication and interpretation of data and information,' stated Mr Potocnik. This is made all the harder by the increasing internationalisation of science and the difficulty this entails for any initiatives which may seek to converge definitions, guidelines and standards on research integrity and combating research misconduct. With more than 300 scientists, scientific managers and magazine editors from 52 countries in attendance, the event marked a milestone for the science community, linking stakeholders in a global effort to tackle the complex issue of research integrity head on.