Bill of Health Blog Symposium: Research Integrity and Trustworthy Science: Challenges & Solutions

We are pleased to host this symposium featuring commentary from participants in the University of Minnesota’s Consortium on Law and Values in Health, Environment & the Life Sciences event, “Research Integrity and Trustworthy Science: Challenges and Solutions.”  Below, Susan M. Wolf tees up the issues.  All posts in the series will be available here.

By Susan M. Wolf, JD (Chair, Consortium on Law and Values in Health, Environment & the Life Sciences; McKnight Presidential Professor of Law, Medicine & Public Policy; Faegre Baker Daniels Professor of Law; Professor of Medicine, University of Minnesota)

Trustworthy science is crucial to progress in scientific understanding, patient care, and product development. Yet threats to the integrity of science and to public confidence loom large. Researcher misconduct, inadequate education of new researchers, concerns over the reproducibility and rigor of scientific research, predatory journals that fail to perform thorough peer review, and oversight lapses all constitute significant threats to sound science and public trust.

A 2017 report from the National Academies on Fostering Integrity in Research carefully analyzed “detrimental research practices.” The report called for significant changes in the policies and practices of journals, research institutions, and researchers. Among the proposals was creation of a Research Integrity Advisory Board (RIAB) as an independent nonprofit. Further recommendations called for changes to allow researchers to reproduce results, including archiving datasets and code.

In March 2018, the University of Minnesota responded to the emerging research challenges and solutions by sponsoring a conference on “Research Integrity and Trustworthy Science: Challenges and Solutions.” We invited leading analysts to address the challenges for researchers, journals, and research institutions. In this blog symposium, plenary speakers from the conference examine three foundational elements of credible research:

Challenges for researchers — Sound research methods. John P.A. Ioannidis, MD, DSc (Stanford University) discusses approaches to data and clinical studies that ensure the validity and replicability of research. Ioannidis is author of “Why most published research findings are false,” the most highly accessed article in the history of Public Library of Science.

Challenges for journals — Rigor and transparency in academic publishing. Barbara A. Spellman, JD, PhD (University of Virginia) diagnoses problems in academic publishing and offers strategies to address them. Spellman is former editor-in-chief of Perspectives on Psychological Science and chair of the TOP (Transparency and Openness Promotion) Coordinating Committee of the Center for Open Science.

Challenges for research institutions — Effective institutional oversight. C.K. Gunsalus, JD, was a member of the National Academies committee that issued the 2017 report “Fostering Integrity in Research.” She is Director of the National Center for Professional and Research Ethics (NCPRE), and an expert on how universities and other institutions can prevent research misconduct and should respond to failures in research integrity.

The “Research Integrity and Trustworthy Science: Challenges & Solutions” conference was sponsored by the University of Minnesota’s Office of the Vice President for Research and presented by the Consortium on Law and Values in Health, Environment & the Life Sciences in partnership with Masonic Cancer Center. It was part of the University’s Research Ethics Week and ongoing work focusing on professional development and best practices to ensure safety and integrity in research. Video of the conference, including the plenary speeches upon which these posts are based, can be viewed here.