Periodic Reporting for period 2 - PRINTEGER (Promoting Integrity as an Integral Dimension of Excellence in Research)
Reporting period: 2016-12-01 to 2018-08-31
A unique feature of PRINTEGER is the focus on a hands-on, bottom-up approach, starting from what is happening in real practice. For this reason, focus groups with researchers, research managers and other research actors have taken place to explore questions such as the effectiveness of integrity policies, definitions of research integrity, and barriers and challenges to integrity. But we also conducted case studies analyses in combination with an extensive European research integrity survey. The results were used for the development of tools for management, education and reflection for researchers, managers, publishers, teachers, and other stakeholders.
PRINTEGER focusses on internal integrity drivers rather than on external measures. Our results indicate that in order to address integrity challenges successfully, the focus should not be on external forms of control, such as more surveillance, more regulations, etc., but rather on the internal integrity drivers of research, on the fact that integrity, responsibility, transparency, reliability, commitment, etc. are already part and parcel of conducting research. Moreover, rather than on individualisation (punishing individual deviance, in accordance with the “rotten apple” metaphor) the focus should be on institutional responsibilities for creating a viable research ecosystem where integrity challenges can be discussed and addressed. Both in terms of diagnostics and in terms of therapy, there is a tendency in current integrity discourse to focus on strategies of individualisation, but PRINTEGER aims to focus more explicitly on environmental factors, e.g. on the quality and resilience of research ecosystems, on institutional rather than individual responsibilities, and on the quality and viability of the research culture. Not only because, in most disciplines, research is team-work, involving intense collaboration and mutual dependence, but also because many authors discern a connection between integrity issues (also in top quality science) and the extent to which the global research arena is becoming increasingly competitive, resulting in wide-spread symptoms such as “productivism”, the increase of pace and scale, output indicator fetishism and the focus on quantity over quality. In other words, high visibility cases (revolving around exposed science celebrities) seem symptomatic of increasing tensions between performance indicators and quality care. Our major conclusions:
1. Fostering research integrity should be a bottom-up process, informed by practice, by integrity work in every-day research settings
2. First and foremost, research integrity should be strengthened, not via individualisation (i.e. surveillance, detection, exposure and punishment of individual deviance) but via institutionalisation (i.e. promoting care and concern for research ecosystem quality)
This shift of focus from individual deviance to institutional quality care should be the starting point, not only for developing integrity policies, but also for designing educational tools for future researchers.
During the second stage (WPIII and WPIV), we moved into the more detailed analysis and assessment of the processes behind research integrity and the future options via media analysis, case studies, focus groups and the PRINTEGER survey (1126 respondents).
On the basis of the information gathered in WPII, WPIII, and WPIV, insights were combined into policy reports written for three specific target groups: research policy makers, research leaders and managers, and research supporting organisations (such as editors). Finally, on the basis of our results, we developed an interactive educational tool named UPRIGHT.