A National Survey on Research Integrity

From The Embassy of Good Science

A National Survey on Research Integrity

What is this about?

The online National Survey on Research Integrity (NSRI) is a project focusing on the variability in research integrity in practice of researchers in the Netherlands. News about researchers faking results, cutting corners and having to retract their works often reach the media. What motivates researchers? Are truth, ambition, fame or other ideals important drivers? Do such goals collide and result in questionable research questions? The NSRI will shed light on these questions. The questionnaire will target a large sample of over 30,000 researchers in the Netherlands from several universities and university medical centres. Completing the questionnaire takes 15 minutes and it aims to include a broad range of disciplines, from humanities to particle physics.

Why is this important?

Many researchers work in environments that stimulate responsible behavior. However, scholarly environments are also complex and full of competition. Competition can stimulate people to work hard, but may also have downsides. What are optimal research environments? What working conditions are detrimental to good research practices? Fostering responsible research and preventing questionable practices is important. However, the causes behind the variability in engagement in responsible and questionable practices are largely unknown. Once known, strategies to enhance responsible research practices while reducing questionable practices can be developed and evaluated. The NSRI attempts to play an important role in solving this puzzle.

How will the privacy of participants joining the NSRI be guaranteed?

Given the sensitivity of the topic, NSRI pays very close attention to fully ensuring the protection of the identity of the participants and their research institutions. Our privacy protection measures include:

  1. No personal identifying data except disciplinary field and academic rank (PhD, A/Prof, Full Prof) is asked in the survey
  2. The use of the Randomized Response (RR) technique for the two most sensitive questions. RR which has been proven in research on doping and social security fraud to reduce the effect of social desirability and thereby elicit a greater sense of trust with respondents. It does so by creating a probabilistic rather than direct association between the answers of respondents and the sensitive question (see also Meta-Analysis of Randomized Response Research- Thirty-Five Years of Validation. Sociological Methods & Research 2005; 33 (3): 319-348)
  3. All data will be collected by a trusted third party, Kantar Public so the research team never directly receives any personal data.
  4. IP addresses are not collected. The research team only receives anonymized data by disciplinary field and academic rank.

Because of these measures, no data can be analysed or published that can be traced to individual participants or specific research institutions.

What makes the NSRI unique?

The National Survey of Research Integrity (NSRI) is unique in a number of ways:

  1. It aims to provide valid disciplinary field-specific estimates on the occurrence of Responsible Research Practices (RRPs) and Questionable Research Practices (QRPs) across the biomedical sciences, the humanities, natural science and engineering, and the social and behavioral sciences.
  2. It targets the entire population of academic researchers in The Netherlands, the largest sample ever studied in research integrity to date.
  3. The survey will employ a technique known as the Randomized Response (RR) which has shown to elicit more honest answers around sensitive topics.
  4. It will examine a broad range of factors that may impact on scholars engagement in Responsible Research Practices (RRPs) and Questionable Research Practices (QRPs).

For whom is this important?