It might seem self-evident that researchers who conduct commissioned research will encounter commercial pressure to conduct work that is at odds with good practice, from a research integrity perspective. The work reported by this open access paper certainly pointed to this. Nevertheless, responsible and quality practice can be commercially desirable. Institutions and research groups who hope to secure commissioned research opportunities should strive to make responsible and ethical research ‘part of its brand’. In this case good practice is practice that is attractive.
Competition and exposure to market forces can make it difficult for researchers to conduct their work with integrity. Some research organizations must acquire most of their funding through commissioned research, providing research services for paying clients. Studying such organizations can give insight into how researchers try, and sometimes fail, to balance academic norms with the need to secure funding. Based on interviews with social scientists in commissioned research organizations, this study shows how clients can exert an undue influence on the research process and how competition for funding can make it difficult to live up to academic quality standards. However, it also shows how commissioned research can be a source of identity and motivation. It involves a high degree of impact and access to good data, as clients commission research projects because they want knowledge to solve specific problems. Moreover, the participants discussed how they and the organizations where they worked learned from their experiences how to counteract the negative aspects of competition.
Research integrity, research ethics, commissioned research, competition research bias
(2021) Can research integrity prevail in the market? Lessons from commissioned research organizations. Accountability in Research, Publisher (Open Access): https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/08989621.2021.1937603