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Research integrity

If scientific and scholarly research is to perform this role properly, research integrity is essential. Researchers who are not guided by the principles of honesty, scrupulousness, transparency, independence and responsibility risk harming both the quality and the trustworthiness of research | VSNU, 2018

Scientific integrity is essential for the proper functioning of science. Scientific integrity is an umbrella term for the behavioural norms to which a scientist should adhere to ensure that research is reliable and of good quality. In this section we will discuss the codes of conduct in which these types of norms are laid down.

Five principles

Standards of conduct for scientific integrity are laid down in codes of conduct such as The European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity (ALLEA, 2017) and The Netherlands Code of Conduct for Scientific Integrity (VSNU, 2018). The latter states that the following five principles form the basis of ethical research: 

  • Honesty
  • Scrupulousness
  • Transparency
  • Independence
  • Responsibility

In order to prevent research data from being invented, fabricated or falsified (intentionally manipulated or misinterpreted) and to stimulate reproducibility, a transparent researcher makes clear on which data he or she bases the conclusions and how these data were collected. If research data cannot be made openly accessible, the researcher must state the reasons why this is not possible.

Scientific integrity is also part of the research evaluations at universities and colleges:

Standard Evaluation Protocol 2015-2021 (Universities)

Whether institutions do enough to ensure scientific integrity is taken seriously is part of periodic research evaluations.

The so called Standard Evaluation Protocol (SEP, VSNU, 2016) provides guidelines for evaluating research and research policy in Dutch universities. The protocol requires research units to present their policy with regard to safeguarding scientific integrity. A lot of attention is paid to the correct and open handling of research data. The following is said about this in the protocol:

The assessment committee considers the research unit’s policy on research integrity and the way in which violations of such integrity are prevented. It is interested in how the unit deals with research data, data management and integrity, and in the extent to which an independent and critical pursuit of science is made possible within the unit  | VSNU, KNAW, NWO (2016)  

Brancheprotocol Kwaliteitszorg Onderzoek 2016– 2022 (Universities of Applied Sciences)

In the 'Brancheprotocol Kwaliteitszorg Onderzoek' ['Industry protocol for Quality Assurance Research'] (Vereniging Hogescholen, 2015 (in Dutch)), integrity is not mentioned literally. However, demonstrable use of research data is mentioned as an indicator for the evaluation of research.

Integrity and ethics

Integrity also means that - if applicable - the interests of research participants are taken into account. Privacy protection - which we discuss in more detail in chapter V - is part of that. Universities have many years of experience with ethical review committees and Universities of Applied Sciences are also setting up ethical review committees (van der Sande, 2018; Cardol, 2018, both sources are in Dutch).

Undertake ethical reviews where necessary; for example, by setting up one or more ethical committees and providing them with adequate support. These committees can provide researchers with binding or non-binding advice on issues such as the use and treatment of patients, human and animal test subjects, the possible risks of publishing data, the use of human tissue, risks to the environment or cultural heritage and potential conflicts of interest | VSNU, 2018

In the spotlight

Research integrity files

Want to know more about reserach integrity? View the files of VSNU (n.d.), KNAW (n.d.) and NWO (2019).

Dilemma game - a card game with temptations on the integrity path

Erasmus University developed a dilemma game (Erasmus University, 2016), a card game with common dilemmas and temptations that researchers can divert from the integrity path. The intention of this game is to help put professionalism and integrity on the agenda as a point of discussion and to keep it alive.


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ALLEA (2017). The European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity. Revised Edition.

Cardol, T. (2018). Onderzoek hogescholen langs de ethische meetlat. [ScienceGuide]

Erasumus University Rotterdam (2016). Dilemma Game Professionalism and Integrity in Research.

KNAW (n.d.). Research Integrity.

NWO (n.d.). NWO Scientific Integrity Policy.

Van der Sande (2018, 19 juni). Vrees voor ethische adviescommissies is ongegrond. [Scienceguide].

Vereniging Hogescholen (2015). Brancheprotocol Kwaliteitszorg Onderzoek 2016– 2022. Kwaliteitszorgstelsel Praktijkgericht Onderzoek Hogescholen.

VSNU (n.d.). Research integrity.

VSNU (2016). Standard Evaluation Protocol 2015 – 2021 Protocol for Research Assessments in the Netherlands Amended version, 2016. 

VSNU (2018). Netherlands Code of Conduct for Research Integrity.