Professor Lex Bouter works in the Department of Methodology and Integrity at Vrije Universiteit.
In July 2019, he spoke at the Amsterdam Scholarly Summit, sharing his expertise on different aspects of the research integrity landscape.
Research integrity means conducting research according to the highest professional and ethical standards, so that the results are trustworthy. It concerns the behavior of researchers at all stages of the research life-cycle, including:
Research integrity can be confused with research ethics and publishing ethics. Although these terms are connected, there are differences. Research ethics is specifically concerned with the ethical issues which may arise when conducting research involving animals or human subjects.
Publishing ethics is related to the integrity of the publication process, rather than the conduct of the research itself. Publishing ethics cover a range of issues, such as:
Professor Bouter pictures research integrity on a sliding scale, with responsible research at the top. This is research which is valid, accurate, and reproducible, meeting the highest professional and ethical standards. The results are highly trustworthy.
In the middle of the scale, there is research following questionable practices, which Professor Bouter terms ‘sloppy science’. This is a grey area, where researchers make honest mistakes or cut corners in their research.
At the bottom of the scale is FFP (Falsification, Fabrication, and Plagiarism). Researchers guilty of FFP conduct research in a knowingly dishonest way, and do not adhere to accepted standards of integrity. Findings from research in this category are not trustworthy, and can damage the reputation of science and academia more broadly.
Research integrity is important because it upholds the trustworthiness and validity of academic research. Without rigorous adherence to research integrity guidelines, the value of research findings is called into question.
In today’s landscape of ‘fake news’, with so much information available to the public, it’s crucial for academic research to be trustworthy. To achieve this, researchers must work with responsible conduct, in an ethical research environment.
Selective reporting bias is when results from scientific research are deliberately not fully or accurately reported, in order to suppress negative or undesirable findings. The end result is that the findings are not reproducible, because they have been skewed by bias during the analysis or writing stages.
Selective reporting is one type of bias which undermines the integrity of academic research. It is a large contributor to the current ‘reproducibility crisis’ facing scientific publishing.
As Professor Bouter explains, selective reporting bias can incorporate a number of other types of bias, such as :
Selective reporting bias, FFP, and other examples of research misconduct, all contribute to a culture of mistrust in science and academia. However, journal editors can play a role in helping change this perception, by upholding a culture of research integrity on their journals.
Professor Bouter shares eight suggestions for journal editors looking to promote research integrity:
Taylor & Francis is committed to publishing high quality research which meets the highest standards of research integrity and publication ethics. Please read the Taylor & Francis Editorial Policies, including our guidance on research ethics and consent. If you have any concerns or questions about research integrity on your journal, contact your Portfolio Manager at Taylor & Francis.
Are you a researcher? For more information on responsible research conduct, read our ethical guidelines for authors.