Research integrity in practice: dealing with everyday dilemmas

From The Embassy of Good Science

Research integrity in practice: dealing with everyday dilemmas

What is this about?

For some, an important aspect of research integrity (RI) training is to make clear links between educational material and the “real life” practices of researchers. Discussing dilemmas in practice can be a valuable method to reflect broadly on how to be ‘good’ researchers.

Why is this important?

As researchers, we often face RI dilemmas. For example, a dilemma about the inclusion of an extra author in a publication. Most of the time, dilemmas are implicitly or explicitly related to relational aspects (e.g. collaboration with a supervisor or boss). Although guidelines and codes of conduct provide us with guidance on how to act, often we face difficult situations in which contrasting values are at stake. While developing RI training, it is important to reflect on researchers’ day-to-day dilemmas in addition to theoretical knowledge of RI issues (e.g. codes of conduct, best practices, and regulations). This, however, can be challenging. It entails building a bridge between theory and practice, and reflecting on how to act in situations of ethical uncertainty.

For whom is this important?

What are the best practices?

The European Commission funded VIRT2UE project has designed a set of practical tools for recognizing and dealing with RI dilemmas in practice. One of these tools is the so called ‘Virtues, Values and Norms in Perspective’ exercise. In this exercise, inspired by a virtue ethics approach to RI education, [1]participants are asked to reflect on a concrete dilemma experienced by one of the participants. By engaging in a dialogue, trainees are asked to put themselves in the shoes of the people involved in the case at stake and reflect on which values would be important for each of them. Then they are asked to reflect on which virtues are required to deal with the dilemma at stake: are they in conflict with each other? How are they related to salient norms? Which virtue is the most important in this situation? What is needed (concretely) to act in accordance with that virtue?

This exercise aims at fostering reflection in oneself by means of understanding the concepts of virtues/values and norms and their relationship with practice.

Another initiative is the Rotterdam Dilemma Game, [2] which focuses less on virtue ethics but nonetheless provides structure to discuss RI dilemmas.

  1. Pennock T. R., O'Rourke M. Developing a Scientific Virtue-Based Approach to Science Ethics Training. Sci Eng Ethics. 2017; 23(1): 243–262.
  2. Dilemma game. Available at:

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