Report World conference on Research Integrity 2017

Zielhuis , Gerard

Report from Gerhard Zielhuis, contact person scientific integrity

As one of the contact persons for scientific integrity for the Radboudumc research institutes (the others are prof Dorine Swinkels and prof Hannie Kremer) RIHS gave me the opportunity to attend the 2017 World conference on Research Integrity (RI), this year held in Amsterdam (chair prof Lex Bouter).

I would like to share some impressions from this conference, don’t hesitate to contact me whenever you would hear more:

 

 

  • Surprisingly there is a fairly large international community of researchers professionally involved in RI studies and RI policy. The first world conference on RI was held in 2007 in Portugal with some 270 attendants. Ten years later this number has been grown to about 750 delegates. Of course not every one of the attendants has a full time job in RI research, but still I consider such a large group ‘big business for RI research.
  • Three days with plenaries, parallel sessions and poster sessions of high quality. These include distinguished speakers such as Daniele Vanelli (Stanford USA from the group of John Ioannidis who had to cancel his contribution for personal reasons), Ian Chalmers (Lind centre, UK), Paul Glasziou (Cochrane centre UK), Jet Bussemakers (minister OCW), Noa Pandor (minister Science and technology South Africa), Bertie Andersson (director Nanyang Techn Univ Singapore), Mai Har Sham, director Univ Hong Kong), Sowmya Swaminathan (Springer Nature) and Brian Nosak (Centre for Open Science).
  • A wide variety of themes; research culture, accountability, the replicability crisis, Open Science, Governance, publication practice and authorship, funding practices, education and training and many interesting case-studies
  • New for me was the concept of PubPeer (Barbour, Paris) that enables free commenting on every paper with a DOI (anonymous, moderated, based on verifiable information)
  • Openness facilitates Good Research Practice, but it may also produce nonsense of even major harm. The Wakefield case with a claim in 1998 for an increased risk on autism for children who participate in the national vaccination program, was subsequently extensively falsified, yet has caused major drop in vaccination coverage and was possibly responsible for the recent measles epidemic in Germany and other countries (Lewandowsky, UK)
  • Responsible research practice at an institutional level requires a combination of commitment, education and Quality Assurance (risk management) at all levels of the organisation. Hierarchy is not very helpful in that respect, but mandatory seminars for all staff members who want institutional approval of their research projects might be part of the institutional policy (Andersson, Singapore and Sham Hong Kong)
  • Horizon 2020 has several initiatives related to RI: a code for RI conduct (see www.allea.org), a RI paragraph required in every application, facilities for RI training and grants for RI research (Smits, Brussels)
  • Support from funding agencies and journals are crucial in the fight against the reproducibility crisis. We have to get rid of the perverse incentives and a cultural shift towards transparency (Walsh USA);
  • ‘Never waste a good crisis’ was the title of the presentation of Klaas Sijtsma, the dean of Tilburg about what followed the Diederik Stapel crisis. Such crises, although not intended, may speed up the necessary culture shift in RI.

All in all this was a very inspiring meeting. It confirms the notion that investing in Good Research Practice is a joined responsibility and a joined challenge in Science. RI might become ‘talk of the town’, and subject to open debate during all our scientific meetings. Feel free to share your observations, questions and hesitations with one of the independent RI contact persons of the radboudumc.

The next conference will be in Hong Kong in 2019. Much easier is to join the Netherlands Research Integrity Network (NRIN) for exchange of ideas and practices that work. See www.nrin.nl.


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