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Workshops scientific integrity at ARCNL, DIFFER and NSCR

NWO Institutes discuss scientific integrity with reference to dilemmas

NWO-I has made scientific integrity (SI) a priority. In 2020 ASTRON brought in expert Ralph Wijers to introduce SI to the institute. Recently the institutes DIFFER, NSCR and ARCNL organized workshops in which colleagues discussed scientific integrity. With the help of both fictive and real-life dilemmas, scientific integrity was given a face, and the workshops also had an additional teambuilding effect.

DIFFER organised the session “500 shades of grey, the many facets of research integrity”

Luca Consoli is an associate professor at the Institute for Science in Society in Nijmegen. He is an expert in the area of scientific misconduct and scientific ethics. DIFFER invited Luca to give a workshop at the institute earlier this year, on 24 June. He asked the participants to ponder the question as to whether tightening the procedures and drawing up new rules is the best way to tackle violations of scientific integrity. Anouck Vrouwe, ambassador for scientific integrity at DIFFER: ‘Of course, the answer was that the culture within your organisation is the most important factor. Subsequently, practical examples were discussed in breakout sessions. For example, what do you do if a referee asks you to add an article to your references and you suspect that it is his or her own article? It was a lively discussion. Follow-up planned: We are now itemising which trainings our researchers have had.’

NSCR: Dilemma Game app is an ideal conversation starter

‘Everybody knows the external examples of violations of scientific integrity, but it concerns the everyday choices and decisions too’, says Wim Bernasco, who is ambassador for scientific integrity at NSCR together with Wouter Steenbeek. On 23 September, they organised a workshop for the institute in which about 50 colleagues took part, ‘young and old, from all layers of society’. After a brief introduction, Wouter and Wim made use of dilemmas from the Dilemma Game app to get the discussion going. Wouter explains: ‘Ghislaine de Meij, P&O NWO-I office, enthusiastically brought this to our attention, and rightly so, because the dilemmas are an ideal conversation starter. The game can be played without the need to share personal experiences.’ The discussion groups have a very diverse composition. Another advantage of that was that the individual participant became acquainted with different roles through the various dilemmas. Wouter explains: ‘As a PhD, you do not know the dilemmas and choices a supervisor faces, and a professor has less insight into the conflicts that can occur between PhDs. For example, we learned from the junior researchers that they found it interesting to make acquaintance with subjects they knew nothing about, such as peer review. The workshop also had a teambuilding effect.’

Wim: ‘Our aim was to initiate a dialogue and to ensure that colleagues confronted with a violation know what they can do.’ During the workshop, the new NWO-I confidential counsellors for scientific integrity Kulkens and Palstra, introduced themselves. They emphasised that they were open to every question in this area. NSCR has plans for more follow-up meetings. Initially, the emphasis will be on developing practical skills that are relevant for scientific integrity, such as preregistration, data management, writing reviews and recording of the contributions by authors.

ARCNL: Every researcher is confronted by it sooner or later

One-act play for two researchers at ARCNL
Joost: Our Zoom session has not really started yet, and nobody can hear us, Roland. I want to ask you something. Our paper about thin-film alloys incurred some delays last semester, but we are going to submit it next week.
Roland: Great, we are also planning to complete our paper about pulsed laser disposition of alloys next month. Our subjects are pretty similar. Perhaps we could use this to benefit the output of both our groups? I could certainly benefit from co-authorship of your article for my interim evaluation and, in turn, I’ll add you to the article that we will submit in October. That way, we both benefit. What do you think?
Joost: Sounds like a good deal.
Subsequently, Joost turns to the Zoom public, which is listening speechless and shocked:
‘What do you think? Is this indeed a good idea?’

With this short one-act play from ARCNL director Joost Frenken and ARCNL researcher Roland Bliem, 55 PhDs and postdocs from ARCNL were immediately on track. Joost and Roland, ARCNL ambassadors for scientific integrity, introduced the fictive dilemma at the opening of the online workshop scientific integrity, held recently on 27 September, to show that dilemmas arise close to home and that sooner or later, every researcher will be confronted by these. After that, Prof Ralph Wijers (Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy, University of Amsterdam) gave an introduction to what scientific integrity is and why it is relevant for everybody’s research. He used examples to illustrate where dilemmas occur in scientific work. Subsequently, the ARCNL colleagues discussed the dilemmas in breakout sessions. Who is the first author of an article and when do you have the right to be called an author? Another dilemma concerned intellectual property, which was close to home due to the relationship between ARCNL and industrial partner ASML. What do you do if you come across errors in already published data? Opinions about this differed. The outcomes of the breakout sessions were discussed in the plenary setting. Roland explains: ‘The discussion, with a broad range of opinions, reflected the fact that dilemmas occur at a wide range of levels, but that there is not a single correct answer and that strong convictions can shift as a result of other insights. Our aim was to create awareness about this. And from the positive feedback we received, we can conclude that this was successful.’ ARCNL also presented the possible steps that colleagues can take if they are confronted by a small or large violation, including consulting the confidential counsellors for scientific integrity.

Text: Anita van Stel
Newsletter Inside NWO-I, November 2021

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