World Conference on Research Integrity announced
The European Science Foundation (ESF) and the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Research Integrity (ORI) join together in announcing plans to hold a World Conference on Research Integrity in Lisbon, Portugal on 17 to 19 September 2007. ESF and ORI are working together as co-organisers for this event which is being hosted by the Portuguese Ministry for Science, Technology and Higher Education as part of the forthcoming EU Portuguese Presidency.
Research integrity has emerged in recent years as a critical topic in policy research and has acquired a significant political dimension worldwide. It needs to be addressed at systemic and institutional levels, including organizational, governance and legal issues.
The impact of globalisation on research has been uneven. Intellectually, most major fields of research became global a century or more ago under the influence of the Scientific Revolution. More recently, improved electronic communication has made engaging in research a borderless endeavour. Through the Internet, researchers any place in the world can brainstorm ideas, share results, and collaborate on publications on a real-time basis. Professionally, however, research today is in many ways as local as it was a century or more ago and to some extent growing more local as the professional organization of research daily grows more complex.
This uneven impact has important implications for integrity and the responsible conduct of research. Colleagues from different countries working together on research projects have many things in common. They share basic assumptions about the physical world, use the same methods and research equipment, and read the same journals. Narrowly conceived, their "research world" is truly global. However, their broader "professional world," the world that shapes and regulates their professional lives, is not. Research regulations and commonly accepted research practices vary significantly from country to country and among professional organisations. For instance, the need to foster the development of new knowledge to deal with large public risks calls for a particular focus on the institutional integrity of scientific organizations, including universities and research organizations.
In addition, every profession has its “rogue” elements and clear rules and methods are needed for their identification and control. Research, which prides itself on its internal self-governance and its integrity is now faced with a number of well publicised cases of misconduct, fraud and questionable research practices. The research community worldwide has to face this challenge in order to retain public confidence and establish clear best practice frameworks at an international level. It must do so at a time when there are increased pressures on governments, research institutions and research groups to deliver results against increasingly short timeframes, to which funding is coupled. Also, there are cases where scientific institutions may choose to overlook facts or results, or to suppress issues from the scientific agenda because of external pressures (e.g. from funding entities, governments, or the media) and, in extreme cases, to transmit false information.
It should be noted here that it is not only misconduct that needs to be addressed, but also questionable research methods and environments in which such methods are tolerated. This complex set of issues needs to be addressed at a global level through a World Conference.
A Planning Committee has been established to plan the World Conference which includes representatives from the Portuguese Ministry for Science, Technology and Higher Education, ESF, ORI, the European Commission, , the US National Science Foundation (and the Office of Science and Technology Policy -OSTP), the US National Institutes of Health, the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, ICSU (International Council for Science), ALLEA (ALL European Academies), EMBO (European Molecular Biology Organisation), COPE (the Committee for Publication Ethics), UK Medical Research Council, the Max Planck Gesellschaft, the European Forum for Good Clinical Practice and the OECD Global Science Forum (representatives from NSERC, Canada and the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology and the Global Science Forum Secretariat) plus two independent advisers from France and Poland (Professors Toulouse, Ecole Nationale Supérieure, Paris and Gorski,, Polish Academy of Sciences). A broader Advisory Committee is also being formed.
At the same time, the OECD Global Science Forum, acting on a Japanese proposal, is also conducting a study into issues relating to research integrity and there is close liaison between both activities for mutual benefit.
The Conference brings together ESF Member Organisations, similar organisations from outside Europe and inter-Governmental aspects of this complex subject. A dedicated Web Site will be established for the Conference within the ESF Web Site where further announcements and information will be posted.
Tony Mayer | alfa