Scientific integrity

"Scientific integrity is a specific standard of conduct associated with the societal position of the researcher. It is about acting in accordance with the values of science, such as truthfulness, honesty and open reporting, even when no one is looking over the researcher's shoulder." - KNAW (Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences)(1)

    Main points

Scientific integrity is an umbrella term for the standards of conduct a scientist has to abide by. Ensuring that a study can be validated and reproduced is an important consequence of this principle. However, we start at the problematic side. There are roughly three ways to violate scientific integrity:

  • Fabricating.
    Research data fraud. Inventing and faking data. 
  • Falsifying.
    Manipulating or wilfully misinterpreting data, for instance by leaving out negative results. 
  • Plagiarism.
    Stealing other people's work and/or using other people's ideas without acknowledging the source. 



In a report 'Responsible research data management and the prevention of scientific misconduct'(1) the KNAW advised on possible improvements in existing data collection practices. The committee:

  • Advocates accessibility of research data.
  • Recommends that organizations organize activities to keep integrity rules alive. 


At the end of 2013, NWO (Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research) tightened its  policy for scientific integrity (Dutch).(2)  On starting their research, all researchers have to declare that they are familiar with the Netherlands code of conduct for academic practice by the VSNU (Association of Universities in the Netherlands).(3) In addition, NWO founded a Scientific Integrity Desk.(4)

At the same time, several movements have arisen from within the research community itself that advocate reproducible research. Science in transition(5) regards scientific functioning in light of the current pressure to publish. This group of scientists believes that adapting the scientific system is conditional for e.g. scientific integrity. 

In March 2014, NWO, KNAW and VSNU presented a new evaluation protocol(6) for research. The protocol emphasises quality instead of productivity. The protocol mentions scientific integrity as follows:

"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." 

If researchers want to guarantee the principles of proper scientific conduct, certain choices leading up to it have to be ingrained in their research design and data management plan. The planning phase is the appropriate phase to prepare for reproducible research.  


De Erasmus Universiteit ontwikkelde het zogeheten dilemma game(9): een kaartspel met veel voorkomende dilemma's en verleidingen die onderzoekers kunnen afbrengen van het integriteitspad. Het is de bedoeling dat dit spel helpt om professionaliteit en integriteit als gesprekspunt op de agenda te zetten en levend te houden.

   Sources and additional reading

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  1. KNAW. (2013). Zorgvuldig en integer omgaan met wetenschappelijke onderzoeksgegevens. Retrieved from
  2. DANS. (2012, September 21). Commissie Schuyt pleit voor toegang data. [news]. Retrieved from
  3. NWO. (2013, December 3). NWO scherpt beleid wetenschappelijke integriteit aan. [news]. Retrieved from
  4. VSNU. (2014). De Nederlandse Gedragscode Wetenschapsbeoefening. Retrieved from
  5. NWO. Meldpunt wetenschappelijke integriteit. Retrieved from
  6. Volkskrant. (2012, December 1). Drie demonen van de wetenschap. Retrieved from
  7. Over Science in transistion. Retrieved from
  8. VSNU, KNAW, NWO. (2014, March 21).  Wetenschapsorganisaties presenteren nieuw evaluatieprotocol voor onderzoek. Retrieved from
  9. EUR. (2013). Dilemma Game: Professionalism and Integrity in Research. Retrieved from

Additional Reading