Principles are the basis of integrity in research. They should guide individual researchers as well as other parties involved in research, such as the institutions where it is conducted, publishers, scientific editors, funding bodies and scientific and scholarly societies – all of which, given their role and interest in responsible research practices, may be expected to foster integrity. This Code is based on the following five, widely supported principles:
Honesty means, among other things, reporting the research process accurately, taking alternative opinions and counterarguments seriously, being open about margins of uncertainty, refraining from making unfounded claims, refraining from fabricating or falsifying data or sources and refraining from presenting results more favourably or unfavourably than they actually are.
Scrupulousness means, among other things, using methods that are scientific or scholarly and exercising the best possible care in designing, undertaking, reporting and disseminating research.
Transparency means, among other things, ensuring that it is clear to others what data the research was based on, how the data were obtained, what and how results were achieved and what role was played by external stakeholders. If parts of the research or data are not to be made public, the researcher must provide a good account of why this is not possible. It must be evident, at least to peers, how the research was conducted and what the various phases of the research process were. At the very least, this means that the line of reasoning must be clear and that the steps in the research process must be verifiable.
Independence means, among other things, not allowing the choice of method, the assessment of data, the weight attributed to alternative statements or the assessment of others’ research or research proposals to be guided by non-scientific or non-scholarly considerations (e.g., those of a commercial or political nature). In this sense, independence also includes impartiality. Independence is required at all times in the design, conduct and reporting of research, although not necessarily in the choice of research topic and research question.
Responsibility means, among other things, acknowledging the fact that a researcher does not operate in isolation and hence taking into consideration – within reasonable limits – the legitimate interests of human and animal test subjects, as well as those of commissioning parties, funding bodies and the environment. Responsibility also means conducting research that is scientifically and/or societally relevant.
As a junior researcher, I participated in the writing of an international research proposal which was approved. Now the principal investigator tells me that we will be changing the scope of the research. As a result, half of the original research questions will not be answered. The professor tells me that one should be flexible in conducting research for which external funding is required. What do I do?