Research Integrity: How to conduct responsible research in a rapidly changing research environment

Course level
Master, PhD candidates and professionals from all disciplines
Session 2
11 January to 18 January 2020 
Coordinating lecturer                                     Dr. Fenneke Blom and Tamarinde Haven, MSc
Other lecturers
Prof Dr. Lex Bouter, or, Prof Dr. Guy Widdershoven
Form(s) of instructionIn-person meetings, online
Form(s) of assessmentSelf-reflection and essay
ECTS2 credits
Contact hours14 hours
Tuition fee

€800 - non-VU students and staff

€500 - VU students and staff

This course benefits PhD candidates or (research) master students that aspire to be well-prepared upon starting a professional career in academia. Some individual research expertise is required.  If you have doubts about your eligibility for the course, please contact us: [email protected]

The integrity of scientific research has received an increase in attention in recent years. Researchers, policy makers, politicians as well as universities at large have raised concerns about the way academic research is organized and about the influence of the research culture on research practice.

Academia is currently facing a challenging set of problems: first, the prevalence of research misbehaviour was found higher than desirable; second, the reproducibility crisis and the factors contributing to the impossibility to replicate a large set of research results; and third, the issue of research waste, which is mainly due to poor reporting and the failure to publish negative or ambiguous results.

By making PhD candidates or master students who are preparing for a career in research aware of these issues, and by training them in the required skills and tools needed to address these issues, we prepare them to remain responsible researchers in an environment that might lure them into sloppy science, even unintentionally.

This course reviews research integrity in academia in both the conduct of science, the evaluation of science, the peer review system and in the academic community at large. It is a highly interactive course where participants engage with different issues such as replication, the peer review crisis, and what a responsible research culture looks like. We also look into the future of academia and specifically open science.

Next to knowledge transfer and raising awareness, we deem it just as important that PhD candidates or master students develop their moral sense of research conduct and train their skills to put responsible research into practice. Therefore, the various parts of this Winter School have different goals: the reading materials and lectures focus on knowledge transfer and raising awareness; the tutorial and working groups focus on practicing skills. The moral case deliberation focuses on reflection, delaying judgement and conducting an explorative dialogue rather than discussion on sensitive issues in research. The participants bring the acquired knowledge and skills to practice in the assignments and reflection, which will be aligned with the exercised skills in the working groups.

PhD candidates or master students will visit a Research Integrity researcher in the workplace to conduct an interview.

In this course, students will learn:
•    What the current status of academic research requires;
•    Whether there is a replicability crisis and what remedies are coined to improve science;
•    How to apply the code of conduct for research integrity within student’s own work;
•    How to reflect on research integrity dilemmas within specific  fields;
•    How one can spot unprofessional conduction of research; and
•    What research integrity will look like in the future and how experts expect academic research to be organized.

ALLEA, The European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity

Brian C. Martinson et al, “Scientists behaving badly”, Nature 435.9 (2005),     pp. 737-738. 

Melissa. S. Anderson et al, “The Perverse Effects of Competition on     Scientists’ Work and Relationships”, Science and Engineering     Ethics, 13 (2007), pp. 437–461.

Richard Feynman, “Cargo Cult Science”, Engineering and Science (1974),     pp. 10-13.

Scientific Research: Dilemmas and Temptations (p. 7 -15, 19 -23, 36, 39,-    41, 45-55, 59-60, 67-68) 

The Netherlands Code of Conduct for Research Integrity

Dr Fenneke Blom has a biomedical background with a focus on epidemiology, communication and policy making. After defending her thesis on periconceptional folic acid supplementation, she coordinated the Netherlands Research Integrity Network. Fenneke now works as postdoc on the INSPIRE project where she is involved in collecting and classifying initiatives that foster research integrity, with a view to enable others to implement similar initiatives. She is an experienced moral case deliberation moderator and has (re)designed the Research Integrity course for the VU University Medical Center and for the Eindhoven University of Technology.

“Being a responsible researcher entails being honest about your limitations and choices. To properly do so, one first has to be aware of where the potential pitfalls in research lie”

Tamarinde Haven has a background in psychology and philosophy with a focus on bioethics. She is currently doing a PhD in research integrity where she investigates the academic research climate. Tamarinde is also a certified moral case deliberation moderator and has designed the compulsory course Research Integrity for the Graduate School of Humanities and is their current course coordinator.

“We have to be aware that science isn’t perfect and that making mistakes makes scientists no less human”