Academic research is undergoing important institutional transformations, partly triggered by media scandals— some mention “science crisis” and emphasize the need to preserve public trust in science. From 1990 onward, institutional transformations targeting questions of research integrity (RI) have resulted in diverse organisations at all geographical scales (Office of Research Integrity in the USA, British Concordat, Finnish National Board on Research Integrity, Office français d’intégrité scientifique, etc) and functions (Research Integrity Officers (RIO) of various sorts). An increasing number of soft law documents have appeared (e.g. “Corvol report”; European code of conduct; ENRIO documents; Singapour declaration). Some of these recommendations conflict with values that lie at the heart of research activity, like academic freedom. Links are commonly made between scientific misconducts and various features of contemporary research, like increased competition, “Publish or Perish”, evaluation, financing, etc, but they are seldom questioned from a scientific research point of view (Hiney 2015). In other words, RI policies are not sufficiently research-based and, consequently, the motivations that are put forward in favor of institutional transformations are not as sound as they should be. In order to fill this gap, it is therefore urgently needed to have a reflexive look at the field of research integrity along the following line, coupled with major practical challenges: Will institutional actions in favor of research integrity yield hoped-for results in terms of improvement of research practices.
Our main hypothesis is that in order to produce the expected positive effects, RI policies should be more sensitive to the actual structure and dynamics of the sciences, academic disciplines, as well as to the nature of ordinary research practices, in all their diversity. The main objective of this project is thus to explore the conditions at which institutional action and discourse on research integrity can improve research practices, to anticipate their impact on ordinary research practices and organization of research, and to propose recommendations. We have therefore delimited three complementary fields of inquiry, corresponding to the three tasks below, sharing the same practical end: improving the efficiency of institutional action in favour of research integrity.
Preliminary Task “Research integrity and related fields”
will allow us to clarify the tenants of the domain of research integrity compared with close domains that are research ethics and professional ethics.
“Mapping research integrity onto the diversity of scientific practices”
This task aims at drawing a map of the challenges associated with research integrity which is detailed and sensitive to the contemporary diversity of research practices.
“Investigating factors that promote RI or favor misconduct”
This task aims at enriching our understanding of which factors favor or disfavor research integrity by assessing the limits of empirical studies and causal analysis and by exploring interactions between the individual and the collective levels. Complementary insights from behavioral economics, social epistemology, and the sociology of deviance will be combined
“Highlighting tensions between scientific integrity principles”
This task will identify areas of tension between current recommendations relative to research integrity and scientific practices with respect to epistemological, legal, sociological, and organizational requirements.