Academies promote core values for scientific research integrity

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 18 October 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e7023
  1. Bob Roehr
  1. 1Washington, DC

The responsibilities of researchers, research institutions, funding agencies, and journals for upholding ethical working practices are spelt out in a new report.1

The InterAcademy Council (IAC) and the Global Network of Science Academies (IAP), which have collaborated on the report, say that researchers have the primary responsibility for upholding standards of responsible conduct in research, but they are not alone.

Global research and development expenditures nearly doubled between 1996 and 2009 to $1.3 trillion (£0.8 trillion; €1 trillion). That research is increasingly complex, interdisciplinary, and international in scope.

The report identifies fundamental values and principles that researchers should incorporate into every part of the process, from developing a research plan to reporting results, and communicating with policymakers and the public.

It focuses upon two central ideas or themes. “First, responsible conduct is an essential component of excellent research. Responsible conduct allows the self correcting nature of research to operate effectively and accelerates the advance of knowledge.”

Second, while acknowledging the need for policy and procedures to deal with misconduct, the report emphasizes the importance of “preventing irresponsible conduct and ensuring good practices through mentoring and education.”

Seven values—honesty, fairness, objectivity, reliability, skepticism, accountability, and openness—have special implications in the context of research and “explain why trust is a fundamental characteristic of the research enterprise.” That applies within the community of researchers and in interacting with the public.

Research institutions need to establish clear rules of responsible conduct and ensure that policies are effectively communicated; personnel are trained; procedures are established and implemented to deal with misconduct; and an atmosphere is created to foster research integrity.

Funding agencies have a responsibility to focus on the quality of research rather than quantity. They should provide adequate support to enable ethical research and oversight of the research process.

Journals have a responsibility to “use technological means to protect the integrity of the research literature.” They should make retractions visible; take steps to avoid duplicate publication; and “refrain from citations designed only to boost the journal’s impact factor.”

Indira Nath, co-chair of the authoring committee and emeritus professor at the National Institute of Pathology, New Delhi, India, said, “Humanity has placed its trust in science to solve many of the world’s toughest problems and researchers must preserve that trust by working ethically and responsibly. All researchers have an obligation to act in accord with the values and principles of research integrity.”

IAC co-chair Lu Yongxiang, former president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said, “Shared scientific core values are critical for public confidence in science.”

Robbert Dijkgraaf, IAC co-chair and director of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey, US, and former president of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences, said, “This important report can serve as a catalyst for developing international consensus on responsible scientific conduct.”

Mohamed H A Hassan, IAP co-chair, chair of Council, United Nations University, and former president, African Academy of Sciences, said, “National scientific academies throughout the world can play a critical role in promoting the establishment and maintenance of standards of scientific integrity and we look forward to new global and regional initiatives on behalf of the academies.”


Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e7023


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