Report: ‘Deliberate steps’ required to preserve, foster integrity in scientific research

The U.S. scientific research enterprise must improve its practices and policies to protect the integrity of research, according to a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

“This report does not conclude that the research enterprise is broken,” members of the entity’s committee on responsible science wrote in the report. “However, the research enterprise faces serious challenges in creating the appropriate conditions to foster and sustain the highest standards of integrity. To meet these challenges, deliberate steps must be taken to strengthen the self-correcting mechanisms that are an implicit part of research.”

The report, titled “Fostering Integrity in Research,” called on all stakeholders — including researchers, institutions, funders, publishers, scientific societies and federal agencies — to improve their policies and practices to respond to threats to research integrity.

The authors outlined the need for actions that help clarify authorship standards, ensure availability of data necessary to reproduce research, protect whistleblowers, and ensure that both positive and negative research results are reported.

The report also called for the creation of a nonprofit, independent advisory board designed to support efforts to strengthen research integrity, as well as reduce and address research misconduct.

“The research process goes beyond the actions of individual researchers,” committee chair Robert M. Nerem, PhD, MSc, BS, professor emeritus at the Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience at Georgia Institute of Technology, said in a press release. “Research institutions, journals, scientific societies and other parts of the research enterprise all can act in ways that either support or undermine integrity in research.”

A report released by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in 1992 described and analyzed a variety of issues related to research integrity.

The definition of scientific misconduct established in that document — “fabrication, falsification or plagiarism in proposing, performing or reporting research” — remains valid, according to authors of the new report. However, the updated version suggests research practices that had previously been characterized as questionable — such as failure to retain research data, or misleading use of statistics — should now be considered “detrimental.”

“The research process goes beyond the actions of individual researchers,” Nerem said. “Research institutions, journals, scientific societies and other parts of the research enterprise all can act in ways that either support or undermine integrity in research.”

The committee recommended the following actions to protect and foster research integrity:

  • All stakeholders in the research enterprise should significantly improve and update their practices and policies to better align the realities of research with its values and ideas;
  • Research institutions should maintain the highest standards for research conduct, going beyond simple compliance with federal regulations in undertaking research misconduct investigations and in other areas;
  • Research institutions and federal agencies should work to ensure that those who raise concerns about the integrity of research are protected, in that their concerns are assessed and addressed in a fair, thorough and timely manner;
  • A research integrity advisory board should be established as an independent nonprofit organization to provide a continuing organizational focus for fostering research integrity that cuts across disciplines and sectors; to work with all stakeholders in the research enterprise to share expertise and approaches for addressing and minimizing research misconduct and detrimental research practices; and to foster research integrity by stimulating efforts to assess research environments and improve practices and standards.
  • Societies and journals should develop clear disciplinary authorship standards for specifying all authors, providing identification of those responsible for the entire work; requiring disclosures of all author roles and contributions; and specifying gift or honorary authorship.
  • At the time of publication, research sponsors and science, engineering, technology and medical journal and book publishers should ensure that sufficient information is made available for individuals knowledgeable in their field to reproduce results;
  • Federal funding agencies and other research sponsors should allocate sufficient funds to enable the long-term storage, archiving and access of datasets and code necessary for the replication of published findings;
  • Researchers should routinely disclose all statistical tests carried out, including negative findings, to avoid unproductive duplication of research and to permit effective judgments on statistical significance;
  • Government agencies and private foundations should fund research to quantify and develop responses to potential conditions that may be linked to research misconduct and detrimental research practices;
  • Researchers, research sponsors and institutions should continue to develop, assess and widely adopt more effective education programs to support the integrity of research; and
  • International collaborations should leverage partnerships to foster research integrity through mutual learning and sharing of best practices.

“The research enterprise is not broken, but it faces significant challenges in creating the conditions needed to foster and sustain the highest standards of integrity,” Nerem said. “To meet these challenges, all parties in the research enterprise need to take deliberate steps to strengthen the self-correcting mechanisms that are part of research and to better align the realities of research with its values and ideals.” – by Kristie L. Kahl

Reference:

National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Fostering integrity in research. 2017. The National Academies Press. Available at: https://www.nap.edu/catalog/21896/fostering-integrity-in-research. Accessed on April 12, 2017.

Disclosure: The study was sponsored by the U.S. Geological Survey of the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Office of Research Integrity of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Office of the Inspector General of the National Science Foundation, the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the Society for Neuroscience, and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

 

The U.S. scientific research enterprise must improve its practices and policies to protect the integrity of research, according to a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

“This report does not conclude that the research enterprise is broken,” members of the entity’s committee on responsible science wrote in the report. “However, the research enterprise faces serious challenges in creating the appropriate conditions to foster and sustain the highest standards of integrity. To meet these challenges, deliberate steps must be taken to strengthen the self-correcting mechanisms that are an implicit part of research.”

The report, titled “Fostering Integrity in Research,” called on all stakeholders — including researchers, institutions, funders, publishers, scientific societies and federal agencies — to improve their policies and practices to respond to threats to research integrity.

The authors outlined the need for actions that help clarify authorship standards, ensure availability of data necessary to reproduce research, protect whistleblowers, and ensure that both positive and negative research results are reported.

The report also called for the creation of a nonprofit, independent advisory board designed to support efforts to strengthen research integrity, as well as reduce and address research misconduct.

“The research process goes beyond the actions of individual researchers,” committee chair Robert M. Nerem, PhD, MSc, BS, professor emeritus at the Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience at Georgia Institute of Technology, said in a press release. “Research institutions, journals, scientific societies and other parts of the research enterprise all can act in ways that either support or undermine integrity in research.”

A report released by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in 1992 described and analyzed a variety of issues related to research integrity.

The definition of scientific misconduct established in that document — “fabrication, falsification or plagiarism in proposing, performing or reporting research” — remains valid, according to authors of the new report. However, the updated version suggests research practices that had previously been characterized as questionable — such as failure to retain research data, or misleading use of statistics — should now be considered “detrimental.”

“The research process goes beyond the actions of individual researchers,” Nerem said. “Research institutions, journals, scientific societies and other parts of the research enterprise all can act in ways that either support or undermine integrity in research.”

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The committee recommended the following actions to protect and foster research integrity:

  • All stakeholders in the research enterprise should significantly improve and update their practices and policies to better align the realities of research with its values and ideas;
  • Research institutions should maintain the highest standards for research conduct, going beyond simple compliance with federal regulations in undertaking research misconduct investigations and in other areas;
  • Research institutions and federal agencies should work to ensure that those who raise concerns about the integrity of research are protected, in that their concerns are assessed and addressed in a fair, thorough and timely manner;
  • A research integrity advisory board should be established as an independent nonprofit organization to provide a continuing organizational focus for fostering research integrity that cuts across disciplines and sectors; to work with all stakeholders in the research enterprise to share expertise and approaches for addressing and minimizing research misconduct and detrimental research practices; and to foster research integrity by stimulating efforts to assess research environments and improve practices and standards.
  • Societies and journals should develop clear disciplinary authorship standards for specifying all authors, providing identification of those responsible for the entire work; requiring disclosures of all author roles and contributions; and specifying gift or honorary authorship.
  • At the time of publication, research sponsors and science, engineering, technology and medical journal and book publishers should ensure that sufficient information is made available for individuals knowledgeable in their field to reproduce results;
  • Federal funding agencies and other research sponsors should allocate sufficient funds to enable the long-term storage, archiving and access of datasets and code necessary for the replication of published findings;
  • Researchers should routinely disclose all statistical tests carried out, including negative findings, to avoid unproductive duplication of research and to permit effective judgments on statistical significance;
  • Government agencies and private foundations should fund research to quantify and develop responses to potential conditions that may be linked to research misconduct and detrimental research practices;
  • Researchers, research sponsors and institutions should continue to develop, assess and widely adopt more effective education programs to support the integrity of research; and
  • International collaborations should leverage partnerships to foster research integrity through mutual learning and sharing of best practices.

“The research enterprise is not broken, but it faces significant challenges in creating the conditions needed to foster and sustain the highest standards of integrity,” Nerem said. “To meet these challenges, all parties in the research enterprise need to take deliberate steps to strengthen the self-correcting mechanisms that are part of research and to better align the realities of research with its values and ideals.” – by Kristie L. Kahl

Reference:

National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Fostering integrity in research. 2017. The National Academies Press. Available at: https://www.nap.edu/catalog/21896/fostering-integrity-in-research. Accessed on April 12, 2017.

Disclosure: The study was sponsored by the U.S. Geological Survey of the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Office of Research Integrity of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Office of the Inspector General of the National Science Foundation, the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the Society for Neuroscience, and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.