Guidelines for research institutions on research integrity – Results of the SOPs4RI co-creation workshops
Authors: Krishma Labib, Noémie Aubert-Bonn, Joeri Tijdink, on behalf of the SOPs4RI project
Background: Research integrity (RI) can be understood as performing research according to high professional standards. It is increasingly acknowledged that RI is not merely the responsibility of individual researchers, as multiple stakeholders influence RI. Research institutions, in particular, are important as they determine the local circumstances in which researchers operate and therefore have a crucial role in supporting researchers to engage in responsible research practices. While there are guidance documents available to research institutions on how to address some of their responsibilities related to RI (e.g. setting up ethical review boards, dealing with misconduct allegations, etc.), there is a gap in guidance on what concrete institutional policies research institutions should implement to create a responsible research environment, deliver RI education and training, and prove responsible supervision and mentoring.
Aim: In this study, we aimed to co-create guidelines targeted at research institutions on how to 1) create a responsible research environment, 2) deliver RI education and training, and 3) provide responsible supervision and mentoring, together with RI officers, policy makers, institutional leaders and researchers.
Methods: We conducted 12 co-creation workshops online with research stakeholders using the virtual collaborative whiteboard Software MIRO and Zoom. Four workshops addressed each topic (i.e. the institutional research environment, RI education and training, and supervision and mentoring.) in two consecutive sets, with the first set (i.e. the first two workshops) preceding the second set (i.e. the last two workshops) by two months. During the first set of workshops, we asked participants to create ideas for guidelines on each of the topics, based on which we drafted a first version of guidelines. In the second set of workshops, we asked participants to discuss the draft guidelines in order to further refine them.
Results: During the workshops, participants generated numerous concrete suggestions for guidelines on how institutions can foster RI. For instance, in the research environment workshops, participants proposed that research institutions should enable an open discussion between management, research support, and researchers, and that they should involve junior researchers in diverse institutional tasks such as RI committees and hiring decisions. In the RI education and training workshops, participants highlighted that RI education and training should be a continuous process that targets all researchers, using both mandatory formal training and informal discussion events. The supervision and mentoring workshop participants also developed a number of ideas on how institutions can support responsible supervision, such as creating peer support systems for supervisors. Many participants also explained that the institutional research environment, RI education and training, and supervision and mentoring are inherently interlinked and have an influence on each other.
Conclusion: Based on the outputs generated in the workshops, we created institutional guidelines on the 1) institutional research environment, 2) RI education and training, and 3) supervision and mentoring. These guidelines provide institutions with concrete guidance on how to address each of the topics. The next steps should focus on the challenges that may arise when implementing these guidelines