Scientific integrity

In general, researchers, research institutes and universities commit themselves to observe and to promote the principles of scientific integrity as described in ‘The European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity’. Since 1 October 2018, The Netherlands Code of Conduct for Research Integrity 2018, has entered into force. Both Codes set out the principles that should be observed by each individual concerned, which are the following basic norms: honesty, reliability, objectivity, impartiality and independence, as well as open communication, duty of care, fairness and responsibility for future science generations.

More information about how to deal with scientific integrity in the Master's research project, Master's writing assignment or PhD programme is available.

The text below is derived from: A European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity, Pieter J.D. Drenth, 2010.

Science is knowledge obtained through observation and experimentation, study and thinking. Scientific research is carried out to determine the nature and principles of what is being studied. It depends on arguments and evidence, i.e. observations of nature or of humans and their actions and products. In general researchers, research institutes and universities commit themselves to observe and to promote the principles of scientific integrity.

Both the definition of scientific misconduct and the specification for proper scientific practice are based upon principles of scientific integrity. These are principles that all scientific and scholarly researchers and practitioners should observe individually, among each other and toward the outside world.

These principles include the following:

  • Honesty, in presenting research goals and intentions, in precise and nuanced reporting on research methods and procedures, and in conveying valid interpretations and justifiable claims with respect to possible applications of research results.
  • Reliability, in performing research (meticulous, careful and with attentive to detail), and in communication of the results (fair, thorough and unbiased reporting).
  • Objectivity: interpretations and conclusions must be founded on facts, data capable of proof and secondary review; there should be transparency in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data, and verifiability of the scientific reasoning.
  • Impartiality and independence from commissioning or interested parties, from ideological or political pressure groups, and from economic or financial interests.
  • Open communication, in discussing the work with other scientists, in contributing to public knowledge through publication of the findings and in honest communication to the general public. This openness presupposes a proper storage and availability of data, and accessibility for interested colleagues.
  • Duty of care for participants in and the subjects of research, be they human beings, animals, the environment or cultural objects. Research on human subjects and animals should always rest on the principles of respect and duty of care.
  • Fairness, in providing proper references and giving due credits to the work of others, in treating colleagues with integrity and honesty.
  • Responsibility for future science generations: The education of young scientists and scholars requires binding standards for mentorship and supervision.

The text below is derived from: A European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity, Pieter J.D. Drenth, 2010.

Violating these basic norms leads to research misconduct, which is the crux of inappropriate behaviour in science. Research misconduct is damaging to science, because it may create false leads for other scientists or the results may not be replicable, resulting in a continuation of the deception. It is also harmful to individuals and society: fraudulent research may result in the release and use of unsafe drugs, in the production of deficient products, inadequate instruments or erroneous procedures. Furthermore, if policy or legislation is based on the results of fraudulent research, harmful consequences are not inconceivable. But damage is also done through the subversion of the public’s trust in science. The credibility of science would decline and trust in science as a dependable source of information and advice in respect of numerous decisions, so important for the welfare of mankind and society (environment, health, security, energy), would be subverted. This could lead to undesirable restrictions on permissible research, which could further damage the pursuit of knowledge.

The top three serious violations are:

  • Fabrication, making up results and recording or reporting them.
  • Falsification, manipulating research processes or changing or omitting data.
  • Plagiarism, the appropriation of another person’s ideas, research results or words without giving appropriate credit.