Rethinking the local context – how to successfully implement research integrity guidelines?
It is commonly understood that the path to a successful implementation of research integrity policies has to be aligned with the local context in which the guidelines are to be used. However, it remains unclear what exactly characterizes the local research context. Is it the research group? The institution at which research is carried out? The country in which the research is conducted?
In our paper, we look into the question of what the relevant ‘local context’ for implementing research integrity policies might be. We argue that although we have to consider organizational, institutional, and national characteristics when implementing research integrity policies, it is even more important to pay attention to disciplinary and epistemic cultures. These cultures are not bound to organisational models, geographical localities or physical places. Instead, they cut across time and space, formed as they are by historical and contemporary research practices.
We want to propose a theoretical model for understanding the local research context in connection with the implementation of research integrity policies. This model will inform new research integrity regulations. It builds on an understanding of science as a communal enterprise embedded in social institutions. Rather than treating local contexts as a given, fixed entity, our model assumes that contexts are in flux. The introduction of novel guidelines not only shapes the behaviour of researcher, but also shapes the community that he or she is embedded in. In fact, research integrity guidelines, by making visible accepted norms and values, may facilitate researchers to make sense of their community and its constitution (Horbach, Breit, & Mamelund, 2018; Weick, Sutcliffe, & Obstfeld, 2005).
In our work we build on previous notions of academic community building, notably the concepts of the ‘new invisible college’ (Wagner, 2009), epistemic culture (Cetina, 1999), new localism (Guttinger, 2020), transnationalisation and cosmopolitanism (Beck, 2006; Sørensen and Schneider, 2017). Over the past decades, academic research has quickly expanded into a truly global and interdisciplinary enterprise. Research is carried out in ever larger, often interdisciplinary teams spanning multiple countries or continents. In addition, researchers themselves have become more and more mobile. This has given rise to notions of the ‘new invisible college’ in which delineations along the boundaries of nation-states and disciplinary edges are no longer tenable or at least increasingly insufficient to meaningfully categorise research and its practitioners.
Nevertheless, when policymakers are to implement new rules and regulations, hence needing to align with ‘the local context’, stakeholders still commonly seem to assume ‘the local context’ to be defined by geographical or spatial characteristics. This has led to considerable heterogeneity across integrity policies in different national contexts (Godecharle, Nemery, & Dierickx, 2014). In our paper, we argue for the inclusion of further relevant characteristics, such as methodological, disciplinary and epistemic cultures, to be combined in a coherent model.