Rethinking success, integrity, and culture in research (part 2) — a multi-actor qualitative study on problems of science

Authors : Noémie Aubert Bonn, Wim Pinxten


Research misconduct and questionable research practices have been the subject of increasing attention in the past few years. But despite the rich body of research available, few empirical works also include the perspectives of non-researcher stakeholders.


We conducted semi-structured interviews and focus groups with policy makers, funders, institution leaders, editors or publishers, research integrity office members, research integrity community members, laboratory technicians, researchers, research students, and former-researchers who changed career to inquire on the topics of success, integrity, and responsibilities in science.

We used the Flemish biomedical landscape as a baseline to be able to grasp the views of interacting and complementary actors in a system setting.


Given the breadth of our results, we divided our findings in a two-paper series with the current paper focusing on the problems that affect the integrity and research culture. We first found that different actors have different perspectives on the problems that affect the integrity and culture of research.

Problems were either linked to personalities and attitudes, or to the climates in which researchers operate. Elements that were described as essential for success (in the associate paper) were often thought to accentuate the problems of research climates by disrupting research culture and research integrity.

Even though all participants agreed that current research climates need to be addressed, participants generally did not feel responsible nor capable of initiating change. Instead, respondents revealed a circle of blame and mistrust between actor groups.


Our findings resonate with recent debates, and extrapolate a few action points which might help advance the discussion.

First, the research integrity debate must revisit and tackle the way in which researchers are assessed.

Second, approaches to promote better science need to address the impact that research climates have on research integrity and research culture rather than to capitalize on individual researchers’ compliance.

Finally, inter-actor dialogues and shared decision making must be given priority to ensure that the perspectives of the full research system are captured. Understanding the relations and interdependency between these perspectives is key to be able to address the problems of science.

URL : Rethinking success, integrity, and culture in research (part 2) — a multi-actor qualitative study on problems of science