This report is the result of an EMBO project to analyse whether and how a more coordinated approach in Europe would contribute to improving the integrity of research and meeting the challenges of handling cases of research misconduct. We analysed potential functions for a European body, the main ones being investigatory, advisory, and oversight. We also looked at other mechanisms, including the coordination of procedures used by European research performing organizations, funders and publishers. The project included a literature search, and input from an international group of experts through interviews and a workshop organized in partnership with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Global Science Forum (GSF).
To ensure trust in scientific knowledge, scientific1 research must be conducted responsibly and to the highest standards. However, scientific research is not immune from problems: breaches of good practice, accepted norms, regulations and ethical behaviour.
In the past 20 years or so, an increasing number of cases of breaches of good research practice worldwide have been reported and have reached public attention. Most well known cases involve practices considered to be serious misconduct, which are generally identified as fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism (FFP). However, many other less sensational practices often referred to as questionable research practices (QRP) also threaten the quality of research outputs. Evidence from surveys of researchers’ practices, and statistics related to problematic images found in scientific papers, shows that the incidence of QRP is high (e.g. Fanelli, 2009; Pulverer, 2015; Bik et al., 2016). To protect the quality, validity and reliability of research results, and public trust in scientific research, all breaches of good research practice must be addressed appropriately.
Table of contents
1. Introduction 1
2. Methodology 4
3. Advantages and disadvantages of existing systems 5
4. An international body: Potential advantages and disadvantages 12
4.1. Structural options: Intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations 13
4.2. Potential role: Investigatory, oversight, advisory, platform for information exchange 14
4.3. Potential domain: Scientific organizations, law enforcement organizations, labour organizations 18
4.4. Options for funding 19
5. Options for implementing specific mechanisms 20
5.1. An international body established by a European scientific organization 20
5.2 An international body established by a European funder or a group of funders 22
5.3 An international body established by an international NGO 23
5.4 An international body established by a private entity 25
6. Other mechanisms: coordination of procedures 26
7. Conclusions 2
8 Acronyms 31
Appendix 1 Biographies and institute information 36
Appendix 2 Workshop and interview information 37
Participant list 40 Interviewees 41