National Academies release report on fostering integrity in research

By | April 18, 2017

On Tuesday, April 11, the National Academies released a new report, Fostering Integrity in Research, an update of the 1992 report, Responsible Science: Ensuring the Integrity of the Research Process. A panel of scientists, ethicists, and others began looking to see whether  an update  was needed in 2012,  ultimately concluding that “changes in the research environment and the extent of the current challenges posed by research misconduct and other detrimental research practices that clearly damage research required the development of a substantially new report.”

The new report reaffirms the central finding from the 1992 report—that responsibility for research integrity falls on individuals and institutions—and maintains the original definition of misconduct as fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism. It does, however, add a new concept: detrimental research practices (e.g., misleading use of statistics and irresponsible actions taken by research institution and journals).

While concluding that the research environment is changing in ways that affect efforts to foster research integrity, the report asserts that the research enterprise is not broken. That said, however, it is clear that it is facing serious challenges and needs to “strengthen the self-correcting mechanisms that are an implicit part of research.”

This report calls for an expanded role of research institutions, stressing that they should do more to create environments that support integrity. Failure to do this, the report concludes, constitutes a significant threat.

The report offers 11 major recommendations:

  1. All stakeholders in the research enterprise—researchers, research institutions, research sponsors, journals, and societies—should significantly improve and update their practices
  2. Institutions should maintain the highest standards for research conduct, going beyond simple compliance by:
    1. Creating and sustaining a culture that fosters integrity
    2. Monitoring research activities
    3. Sustaining investigative capacity
    4. Ensuring that senior institutional leaders (including the president) are engaged in the preceding three tasks
  3. Institutions should ensure that good faith whistleblowers are protected
  4. A Research Integrity Advisory Board (RIAB) should be established as an independent nonprofit organization to share expertise and approaches for addressing and minimizing research misconduct
  5. Societies and journals should develop clear authorship standards, including the following:
    1. All authors should approve the final MS
    2. One or more authors should be identified and held responsible for the entire work
    3. All author roles should require disclosure
    4. Honorary authorship should be banned
  6. Publishers should ensure that information sufficient for reproducing reported results be made available to those knowledgeable about the field and its techniques
  7. 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
  8. Researchers should routinely disclose all statistical tests carried out, including negative findings
  9. Government agencies and private foundations that support research should fund research to quantify, and develop responses to, conditions in the research environment that may be linked to research misconduct and detrimental research practices
  10. More effective education programs should be developed and assessed
  11. International collaborations on research integrity should be supported