Towards a Research Integrity Culture at Universities: From Recommendations to Implementation

Authors : Inge Lerouge, Ton Hol

This advice paper identifies ways in which universities can develop a research integrity culture within their institutions. At a time when public trust in information is increasingly challenged by misinformation, the need for sound and trustworthy research has never been so important.

Universities have a key role in supporting research integrity as this maintains and strengthens confidence in their researchers’ work. This paper shows how this could be achieved.

The paper first examines how universities can tackle the issues of ‘sloppy science’ or ‘questionable research practices’ by improving research design, conduct and reporting, then identifies how researchers could be educated about research integrity.

It then gives ideas on the internal structures that could be put in place to deal with research integrity and incidents of research misconduct. It highlights the benefits of transparency and accountability at universities, and what universities can do to instil a culture of research integrity within their institutions.

The paper includes a section giving examples of how LERU universities are developing research integrity policies which may act as inspiration for other universities wishing to develop or further strengthen their own research integrity practices.

A summary of recommendations is included, this can be used by readers to identify elements of the paper which they may be particularly interested in, or act as a quick check list by which an individual university’s research integrity strategy can be assessed.

The paper’s key message is that research integrity is a vital issue for universities and that there are a number of ways in which this could be realised. The options employed by universities will differ based on their individual circumstances.

URL : Towards a Research Integrity Culture at Universities: From Recommendations to Implementation

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Should research misconduct be criminalized?

Authors : Rafael Dal-Ré, Lex M Bouter, Pim Cuijpers, Pim Cuijpers, Christian Gluud, Søren Holm

For more than 25 years, research misconduct (research fraud) is defined as fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism (FFP)—although other research misbehaviors have been also added in codes of conduct and legislations.

A critical issue in deciding whether research misconduct should be subject to criminal law is its definition, because not all behaviors labeled as research misconduct qualifies as serious crime. But assuming that all FFP is fraud and all non-FFP not is far from obvious.

In addition, new research misbehaviors have recently been described, such as prolific authorship, and fake peer review, or boosted such as duplication of images. The scientific community has been largely successful in keeping criminal law away from the cases of research misconduct.

Alleged cases of research misconduct are usually looked into by committees of scientists usually from the same institution or university of the suspected offender in a process that often lacks transparency.

Few countries have or plan to introduce independent bodies to address research misconduct; so for the coming years, most universities and research institutions will continue handling alleged research misconduct cases with their own procedures. A global operationalization of research misconduct with clear boundaries and clear criteria would be helpful.

There is room for improvement in reaching global clarity on what research misconduct is, how allegations should be handled, and which sanctions are appropriate.

URL : Should research misconduct be criminalized?


Research integrity: environment, experience, or ethos?

Authors : Bjørn Hofmann, Søren Holm


Research integrity has gained attention in the general public as well as in the
research community. We wanted to investigate knowledge, attitudes, and practices amongst researchers that have recently finished their PhD and compare this to their responses during their PhD fellowship. In particular, we wanted to investigate whether their attitudes are related to their experiences of their immediate research environment.

Material and method

Researchers (n = 86) awarded the PhD degree at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Oslo in 2016 were invited to answer a questionnaire about knowledge, attitudes, and actions related to scientific dishonesty. Seventy-two responded (83.7%). The results were compared with results among first-year doctoral students who responded to the same questionnaire during 2010–2017.


Overall, 13% of PhDs reported that they knew of people in their immediate research environment who had committed serious forms of scientific dishonesty. A small percentage of PhDs (1.4%) indicated that they themselves had committed such acts. About 3% of the candidates had experienced pressure to commit serious forms of dishonesty and nearly a third of respondents had experienced unethical pressure with respect to authorship during the course of their fellowship.

Thirteen percent reported that they had experienced unethical pressure in relation to other forms of dishonesty and 11% had experienced the consequences of some form of scientific dishonesty. Eighteen percent of the respondents believed that one or more actions, which in the literature were perceived as scientific misconduct, were not wrong. We find a connection between attitudes and the perceived research integrity of their research environment.

The results also show a difference between PhD students and graduated PhDs in terms of scientific dishonesty. In some areas, the PhDs’ norms are stricter, such as for the use of statistical analysis methods, while there is little change in others, such as in misconduct in order to expedite publications.


Many PhDs knew about serious forms of scientific misconduct from the research environment in which they are trained, and some also report misconduct themselves.

Some experienced pressure to serious forms of misconduct and a large proportion of the respondents had experienced unethical pressure with respect to authorship during their fellowship. Attitudes change during the PhD studies, but ambiguously. Scientific misconduct seems to be an environmental issue as much as a matter of personal integrity.

URL : Research integrity: environment, experience, or ethos?



A decade of empirical research on research integrity: what have we (not) looked at?

Authors : Noémie Aubert Bonn, Wim Pinxten

In the past decades, increasing visibility of research misconduct scandals created momentum for discourses on research integrity to such an extent that the topic became a field of research itself.

Yet, a comprehensive overview of research in the field is still missing. Here we describe methods, trends, publishing patterns, and impact of a decade of research on research integrity.

To give a comprehensive overview of research on research integrity, we first systematically searched SCOPUS, Web of Science, and PubMed for relevant articles published in English between 2005 and 2015.

We then classified each relevant article according to its topic, several methodological characteristics, its general focus and findings, and its citation impact.

We included 986 articles in our analysis. We found that the body of literature on research integrity is growing in importance, and that the field is still largely dominated by non-empirical publications.

Within the bulk of empirical records (N=342), researchers and students are most often studied, but other actors and the social context in which they interact, seem to be overlooked.

The few empirical articles that examined determinants of misconduct found that problems from the research system (e.g., pressure, competition) were most likely to cause inadequate research practices.

Paradoxically, the majority of empirical articles proposing approaches to foster integrity focused on techniques to build researchers’ awareness and compliance rather than techniques to change the research system.

Our review highlights the areas, methods, and actors favoured in research on research integrity, and reveals a few blindspots. Involving non-researchers and reconnecting what is known to the approaches investigated may be the first step to generate executable knowledge that will allow us to increase the success of future approaches.

URL : A decade of empirical research on research integrity: what have we (not) looked at?


Quality of reports of investigations of research integrity by academic institutions

Authors : Andrew Grey, Mark Bolland, Greg Gamble, Alison Avenell


Academic institutions play important roles in protecting and preserving research integrity. Concerns have been expressed about the objectivity, adequacy and transparency of institutional investigations of potentially compromised research integrity.

We assessed the reports provided to us of investigations by three academic institutions of a large body of overlapping research with potentially compromised integrity.


In 2017, we raised concerns with four academic institutions about the integrity of > 200 publications co-authored by an overlapping set of researchers. Each institution initiated an investigation.

By November 2018, three had reported to us the results of their investigations, but only one report was publicly available. Two investigators independently assessed each available report using a published 26-item checklist designed to determine the quality and adequacy of institutional investigations of research integrity. Each assessor recorded additional comments ad hoc.


Concerns raised with the institutions were overlapping, wide-ranging and included those which were both general and publication-specific. The number of potentially affected publications at individual institutions ranged from 34 to 200.

The duration of investigation by the three institutions which provided reports was 8–17 months. These investigations covered 14%, 15% and 77%, respectively, of potentially affected publications.

Between-assessor agreement using the quality checklist was 0.68, 0.72 and 0.65 for each report. Only 4/78 individual checklist items were addressed adequately: a further 14 could not be assessed.

Each report was graded inadequate overall. Reports failed to address publication-specific concerns and focussed more strongly on determining research misconduct than evaluating the integrity of publications.


Our analyses identify important deficiencies in the quality and reporting of institutional investigation of concerns about the integrity of a large body of research reported by an overlapping set of researchers.

They reinforce disquiet about the ability of institutions to rigorously and objectively oversee integrity of research conducted by their own employees.

URL : Quality of reports of investigations of research integrity by academic institutions


Open science and codes of conduct on research integrity

Author : Heidi Laine

The purpose of this article is to examine the conceptual alignment between the ethical principles of research integrity and open science. Research integrity is represented in this study by four general codes of conduct on responsible conduct of research (RCR), three of them international in scope, and one national.

A representative list of ethical principles associated with open science is compiled in order to create categories for assessing the content of the codes. According to the analysis, the current understanding of RCR is too focused on traditional publications and the so called FFP definition of research misconduct to fully support open science.

The main gaps include recognising citizen science and societal outreach and supporting open collaboration both among the research community and beyond its traditional borders.

Updates for both the content of CoCs as well as the processes of creating such guidelines are suggested.

URL : Open science and codes of conduct on research integrity