The Preventative and Punitive Sides of Research Integrity
Many universities and federal agencies have research integrity policies that focus on misconduct and improper behaviors, whereas few provide principles of research integrity explaining model behaviors to which researchers can aspire and why such behaviors are important to the research process. By focusing on the negative aspects, research integrity becomes a punitive action associated with compliance and policing. Putting a positive spin on research integrity is an opportunity for providing professional development to researchers. It would be great to see more universities and federal agencies expounding the positive side of research integrity by developing principles that align with their missions and offering researchers professional development training that reinforces these principles of conduct.
Principles of Research Integrity
Few universities have research integrity principles that outline expectations that are positive and preventative. One example is Boston College’s Research Integrity Principles, which includes the following statements.
"As members of the Boston College community of scholars, we will be open and attentive to new observations and discoveries; employ our intellect and reason to analyze these observations and discoveries with honesty and without bias…”
Boston College, like many academic centers, also has a document on Research Integrity Policy and Guidelines of Misconduct that defines misconduct and explains procedural processes. Within the U.S. government, the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) generated 14 general principles that apply to all governmental employees, 8 of which explain what governmental employees should do and the rest explain what not to do. The Environmental Protection Agency has Scientific Integrity Principles.
OGE: “Employees shall put forth honest effort in the performance of their duties.”
EPA: “EPA employees, whatever their grad level, job or duties must ensure that their works is of the highest integrity; represent their own work fairly and accurately…”
Codes of Conduct
Many professional societies have codes of conduct or ethics statements explaining responsible research and teaching practices and noting the importance of professional and public service. These tend to have a positive tone overall and may call attention to irresponsible actions.
- American Anthropological Association, Principles of Professional Responsibility
- American Association of University Professors (AAUP), Statement on Professional Ethics
- American Chemical Society, The Chemical Professional’s Code of Conduct
- American Mathematical Society, Ethical Guidelines
- American Physical Society, Guidelines for Professional Conduct
- American Psychological Association, Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct
- National Society of Professional Engineers, Code of Ethics for Engineers
The National Academy of Engineering oversees the Online Ethics Center. Go to its webpage on Ethics Codes and Guidelines for more information.
Research Integrity Policies and Procedures for dealing with Misconduct
Policies available through universities tend to cover procedural process for dealing with misconduct. The statements are typically issued by the Research Integrity Officer (RIO) and/or the compliance entity within the office of research or its equivalent.
- University of Notre Dame’s Research Integrity Policy explains the processes for reporting misconduct and investigating allegations of misconduct. The Vice President of Research is the RIO at Notre Dame.
- University of California, Berkeley has a Research Misconduct: Policies, Definitions and Procedures statement and misconduct is investigated by the RIO.
- Michigan State University has a RIO and Procedures Concerning Allegations of Misconduct in Research and Creative Activities.
What principles and policies has your professional society or employer issued?
Look up the principles and policies that your employer has issued. Do they provide more guidance on what to do or what not to do? Look up the principles and codes that your professional society has issued. What do they say about your personal, professional, and public obligations?
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