A POSTnote that considers current approaches to promoting integrity in research.Jump to full report >>
Integrity in research refers to the behaviours and values that result in high quality, ethical and valuable research. This POSTnote considers current approaches to fostering an environment conducive to good research in the UK, and detecting and preventing practices that fall short of expected standards. It also examines the current mechanisms for supporting integrity in the UK, whether these are sufficient, or if another form of oversight, such as regulation, might be preferable.
Poor practice ranges from minor errors to serious misconduct. While deliberate fraud does occur, it is thought to be extremely rare. Questionable research practices are a more widespread concern, as they are thought to be more prevalent and have a greater impact on the research record.
There are concerns about how to maintain integrity in research, because of fears that the ‘publish or perish’ culture leads to poor or questionable research practices. While many mechanisms do exist for reducing poor practice, and these are thought to have a positive effect on reducing such behaviour, there remain concerns that the system is disjointed, lacks openness and transparency, and that the incentive structure is such that good practice is not recognised or rewarded. Strategies for tackling this therefore focused on reducing institutional pressures on researchers, through enhancing openness and transparency, improving oversight and training, and re-aligning incentives for researchers so that they are rewarded for engaging in rigorous and accurate research.
The key points in this briefing are:
POSTnotes are based on literature reviews and interviews with a range of stakeholders and are externally peer reviewed. POST would like to thank the following interviewees and peer reviewers for kindly giving up their time during the preparation of this briefing:
Authors: Sarah Bunn; Cressida Auckland
The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology produces independent, balanced and accessible briefings on public policy issues related to science and technology.