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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 1 - 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: 2018-06-01 to 2019-08-31

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.
As a basis for the train-the-trainer program, we mapped the virtues that are crucial for good scientific practice and their relation to the principles of the European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity. We also made an overview of RI educational material, as well as the lacunas and the needs regarding the existing learning material. We mainly focused our attention on the educational material that is free available online since it can be used in full autonomy and without any constriction by both, trainers and trainees.

We developed the VIRT2UE Train-the-Trainer program, which consists of an online module and three days of face-to-face training.

The online modules are an introduction course to a virtue ethics approach to RI. It provides a basic understanding of relevant concepts, like virtues, values, norms, moral dilemma and moral conflict. The modules also aim to provide an overview of the main principles of RI and the ECoC. They are interactive, i.e. they aim to facilitate reflection among participants on their individual experience. It is crucial for participants of the training to take this course in advance, in order to get a shared understanding of the concepts the training builds upon, and to reflect upon them before the face-to-face part of the training.

In the face-to-face part of the training, participants experience and apply five exercises, supervised by a trainer. This part consists of two meetings. The first meeting takes two days, the second one day. During the first meeting, participants learn to do the five exercises and gain insight in the relationship between the exercises and the field of ERI. Between the two meetings, participants apply the exercises in their own institution or context. In the second meeting they reflect upon the experiences in practice, discuss questions related to those experiences and again apply the exercises under supervision.

We also compiled a list of ERI trainers from the EU member states, Turkey, Switzerland and Norway, and analyzed the ERI trainers list in order to support the organisation of regional trainings.

We designed the different elements for the platform to co-exist with resources collected in the EnTIRE consortium. The initial design for the front-end of the platform, a functioning Q&A and initial resources can be found online at https://discussions.embassy.science.
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 will be 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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