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Virtue based ethics and Integrity of Research: Train-the-Trainer program for Upholding the principles and practices of the European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - VIRT2UE (Virtue based ethics and Integrity of Research: Train-the-Trainer program for Upholding the principles and practices of the European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity)

Reporting period: 2019-09-01 to 2021-11-30

Researchers are confronted with various, and sometimes conflicting, demands. They should, for instance, support and cooperate with each other, but also strive for individual success. How can researchers find a balance in this situation, so that society can trust their work, and benefit from trustworthy research results? Dealing with conflicting demands requires not only adherence to general rules, but also the ability to reflect on what makes a ‘good’ scientist and to act with integrity in daily practice. Researchers should be able to recognize ethically sensitive issues and learn how to deal with dilemmas. This requires the development of moral character or virtue.

The VIRT2UE project aims to develop a train-the-trainer blended learning program, based on a virtue ethics approach to research integrity. Online materials are designed for individual learning and reflection and provide an introduction to the main ERI issues and philosophical concepts while the face-to-face training aims to foster the development of teaching skills and create opportunities for interactive, reflective and case-based group activities. The program will be implemented and disseminated across Europe, and result in 3050 trained trainers in Europe. VIRT2UE will make use of The Embassy of Good Science to make tools accessible.
VIRT2UE has developed a train-the-trainer blended learning programme enabling contextualised research integrity teaching across Europe focusing on understanding and upholding the principles and practices of the European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity.
The programme is guided by the theoretical and conceptual frameworks of 1) virtue ethics, 2) ethos of science, 3) learning by doing, and 4) learner-centred teaching. The programme combines online modules with group sessions using participatory exercises. Trainers are taught how to guide researchers through a series of structured exercises for fostering reflection on scientific virtues, and how to promote understanding of the European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity and its application in practice. Trainers experience the programme as participants and learn how to deliver the content themselves. Trainers are provided with adaptable tools and resources that can be used and combined in different ways in their own teaching.
The programme implementation began in Spring 2020 and 470 trainers have participated in the programme to date. The programme elements have been positively evaluated using a process evaluation, and a number of institutions have embedded the approach in stand-alone courses and integrated into existing courses.
At the moment, trainers have educated over 3300 researchers in Europe using core elements of our virtue-based approach. The VIRT2UE TtT programme fosters research integrity by providing trainers with exercises and tools which enable them to stimulate the development of good researchers across Europe.
The consultations with stakeholders will contribute to creating a unified and systematic information framework about scientific virtues important for research integrity so that they can be addressed in the training materials developed by the VIRT2UE project.

In order to enable contextualized ERI teaching across Europe, the VIRT2UE Train-the-Trainer program is flexible; it is composed of several modules, containing offline and online exercises and materials, which are adaptable to the context. Together they represent a toolbox from which trainers, once having completed the training, can pick to build their own training programs, in the way which suits the characteristics of the audience.

While all modules are connected through a virtue ethics approach to research integrity, it is possible to embed the training program into various teaching formats. Trainers are encouraged to adapt the modules and materials according to their needs and tailor them to their audiences, as long as the virtue ethics underpinning and learner-centeredness are maintained.

The VIRT2UE toolbox is completely open source and available on The Embassy of Good Science, an online wiki-platform which serves as a hub for all of those who want to learn and provide education on how to do good science. The wiki functionalities of this platform will allow for an extra level of flexibility as they will enable the trainer to directly work on the training material online, suggest changes, build new modules and share them with the community of trainers.
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