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Research Integrity

Tilburg University is committed to protecting and guaranteeing scientific integrity.

Research misconduct

There is not much confusion about what constitutes misconduct in research: fabrication, falsification and plagiarism are generally considered violations of research integrity.

  1. Fabrication: fabricating or making up data that are presented as actually obtained research findings. This touches the heart of science - finding the truth.
  2. Falsification: falsification of data and/or surreptitiously rejecting research results obtained. Data unacceptable to the researcher may never be adjusted to expectations or theoretical results. Data may be left out only on demonstrably good grounds.
  3. Plagiarizing (parts of) publications and results of others. Science functions only with the honest recognition of the intellectual property of each person’s own contribution to knowledge. This holds for the whole range from students’ projects and theses to scientific publications and dissertations. This concerns not only literal copying, but also paraphrasing, leaving out notes or listing of sources, surreptitious use of data collected by and designs or tables made by others. Copyright offers the victims the possibility of recourse by way of the courts, but even if there is no direct victim (anymore), a researcher can be charged with plagiarism.

Other violations of scientific integrity are for example:

  1. Intentionally ignoring or not acknowledging contributions by other authors is a form of misconduct that is related to the commission of plagiarism. Intentional and gross violations that cannot be resolved within the scientific community itself require an independent judgment by the Scientific Integrity Committee (SIC).
  2. Wrongfully passing oneself off as (co-)author A researcher may only call him/herself or have him/herself called co-author of a publication if he/she has made a demonstrable contribution to it in the form of ideas and expertise, research conducted or formation of a theory. A researcher who associates his/her name with a publication must be informed as thoroughly as possible of the correctness and integrity of the contents.
  3. Knowingly and willingly using (statistical) methods incorrectly and/or knowingly and willingly misinterpreting results The (statistical) interpretation of research data and empirical results is part of the scientific discourse, and that also concerns the question whether or not the interpretation is wrong. It can be considered misconduct only in case of persistent misrepresentation of the facts and presentation of groundless conclusions, if the scientific committee has formed an uncontested opinion on it. If necessary, the SIC can form such an opinion with external peers.
  4. Committing reprehensible inaccuracies in conducting research There is misconduct only if the researcher goes beyond mistakes and sloppiness and does not adjust his/her conduct after serious and well-founded criticism. The SIC can have an investigation conducted whether this is the case.
  5. Allowing and concealing misconduct by colleagues A researcher or manager has a duty of care with respect to science as a whole and particularly with respect to the researchers in his/her immediate surroundings. One should recognize that authority relationships in science, for example between a major professor and a doctoral candidate, will not always make it easy to bring charges against colleagues.

 

Dilemma

I am using data from a widely used data source within my institute. While processing the data, I come across some systematic problems (missing values, outliers) that apparently nobody has ever bothered about before. Remedying the error accurately would take me half a year. My supervisor suggests following “common practice”, without specifying. Common practice is not to report the problem. Alternative sources are not readily available. What do I do?
A: I take extensive time to analyze the problems, even if that implies that my PhD will be delayed.: 124 votes (35.43%)
B: I go to the head of the institute and ask for an investigation into past and current research based on the data set. The results might be problematic.: 166 votes (47.43%)
C: I change the scope of my research project so that I no longer have to use the data.: 32 votes (9.14%)
D: I contact researchers who published earlier on the database. If they agree with the supervisor, I follow common practice.: 28 votes (8%)
Total Votes: 350