The publication of the Hong Kong Principles comes at a time when there has never been more scrutiny of research. In this pandemic, the importance of science has been reinforced time and time again, but the importance of efforts to enhance reproducibility and transparency in research has also come to the fore. What the Hong Kong Principles do is provide a framework whereby research practices that strengthen integrity in research – a core component of reproducibility and trustworthiness – can be recognised, supported and rewarded.
The principles came out of an initiative led by David Moher and Paul Glasziou, which were then further developed and refined at the 6th World Congress of Research Integrity, held in Hong Kong in June 2019 in what was a much less challenging time for the world.
The principles are built around the concept of responsible research practices and are as follows:
Principle 1: Assess researchers on responsible practices from conception to delivery, including the development of the research idea, research design, methodology, execution, and effective dissemination
Principle 2: Value the accurate and transparent reporting of all research, regardless of the results
Principle 3: Value the practices of open science (open research)—such as open methods, materials, and data
Principle 4: Value a broad range of research and scholarship, such as replication, innovation, translation, synthesis, and meta-research
Principle 5: Value a range of other contributions to responsible research and scholarly activity, such as peer review for grants and publications, mentoring, outreach, and knowledge exchange
These are of course not the first piece of work that aim to address research assessment and to recognise the perverse effect that research assessment has on researcher behaviour. The San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) has been advocating for reform since 2013, initially with a focus on moving away from the Journal Impact Factor (JiF). More recently, DORA has expanded into work that seeks to understand the culture of research that informs research assessment, including the biases that affect assessment. The DORA declaration has been signed by many individuals and organisations worldwide and for example is supported by cOAlition S funders.
The Hong Kong Principles complement DORA and, by expanding on specific areas of research assessment and research practices, they also provide a link to other initiatives that seek to improve the quality and reliability of research, including in Australia work by the NHMRC through their Research Quality Steering Committee. Critically, the Hong Kong Principles call attention to the fact that the behaviours that support responsible research are time and resource intensive and may result in a smaller number of grants and publications. Hence, current measures of research productivity cannot adequately assess them.
Through a framework of research assessment throughout the research lifecycle, the Hong Kong Principles also reinforce the concept that integrity is not a static concept, but that reproducibility and quality of research require a whole of system approach.
What the publication of the Hong Kong Principles has highlighted is that, for many of the principles, there may be no uniformly accepted or easily comparable indicators. For example, the tracking of sharing of data and code (Principle 3) – key elements of reproducibility – are far behind citation indicators for journal publications. Even harder to track is the work done to support culture within institutions – such as the mentoring, committee work and other leadership and academic citizenship work (Principle 5).
The publication of the Hong Kong Principles includes examples of good practice at institutions that already exist but there is an urgent need for more examples and evidence regarding the effectiveness of implementing any of the principles. As noted in our recent article (Moher et al., 2020), “Research institutions are key to the HKPs. They are the home of current and future researchers, where promotion and tenure assessments are carried out.” By building a database of good practices, the hope is that the HKPs will provide specific routes for institutions to adapt to their own needs.
There has never been a more important time to build a culture that supports integrity in research and to ensure that researchers can be supported in these practices.
Moher, D., Bouter, L., Kleinert, S., Glasziou, P., Sham, M. H., Barbour, V., Coriat, A. M., Foeger, N., & Dirnagl, U. (2020). The Hong Kong Principles for assessing researchers: Fostering research integrity. PLoS biology, 18(7), e3000737. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3000737
Ginny Barbour is Director of the Australasian Open Access Strategy Group and is Co-Lead, Office for Scholarly Communications, Queensland University of Technology (QUT)
David Moher is Director, Centre for Journalology, Clinical Epidemiology Program, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, Ottawa, Canada.
Ginny Barbour is Chair of the DORA Advisory Group and is on the NHMRC’s Research Quality Steering Committee
David Moher declares no conflicts of interest.
This post may be cited as:
Barbour, G. & Moher, D. (29 September 2020) Hong Kong Principles Research Ethics Monthly. Retrieved from: https://ahrecs.com/hong-kong-principles/