Eindhoven Executive Board also waived an active call for an integrity survey

More than half of the scientists in the Netherlands regularly push the limits of what is permissible. This was announced last week in response to the results of the National Survey on Scientific Integrity. All researchers affiliated with a Dutch university have received this survey, says Renee Westenbrink, head of research policy. Many university boards decided not to actively call for participation for several reasons, including a too negative approach in the survey. TU/e is one of them.

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"Some TU/e researchers are sure to have participated in the survey, but the number is unknown," says Westenbrink. "No one (from TU/e, ed.) was directly involved in the survey." On Friday July 9 Cursor published an article about the results of the National Survey on Scientific Integrity. Incidentally, TU/e was not the only university to decide against urging its academics to participate. Ten of the country's fifteen universities took the same line, according to the Dutch national newspaper De Volkskrant. 

A variety of arguments motivated universities to restrain from actively appealing to their researchers to participate in the National Survey of Academic Integrity. For example, a survey was not considered the appropriate medium by which to study such a sensitive topic; the stance adopted was too negative; and no data was attributed to individual institutions. 

Pressure to publish

The survey findings have now appeared in two articles (article one, article two) not yet reviewed by peers. The response rate to the survey, 6800 completed and returned of the 62,000 sent to academics, is by no means poor. At universities where the executive board did appeal for participation, the response rate was 21 percent. Factors that could encourage fraud were addressed in the survey in various ways, with questions on working conditions, for example. Pressure to publish – due to being judged by the number of articles placed in leading academic journals with a high impact factor – stands out as being a particularly strong influence. 

Gowri Gopalakrishna, in charge of the survey and an epidemiologist at Amsterdam UMC, is quoted as telling De Volkskrant that "of pivotal importance is the criterion by which researchers are assessed, and that at present is quantity. What you want instead is for transparent, meticulous research to become the norm."

While, as Westenbrink remarks, ethics are "not entirely the same as research integrity," Daniël Lakens, the new president of the Ethical Review Board, could be heard on various occasions in Friday's news - including on Radio 1 - speaking on this topic.

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