On 22nd March, the AE Cardiff Hub hosted an international webinar on the issue of scientific misconduct and support of early-career researchers in reporting such cases. A joint event with the Young Academy of Europe, SAPEA and the European Group on Ethics (EGE), it attracted an audience of almost 200 from 33 countries.
Four of the panellists – Baruch Fischhoff, Barry Dewitt, Nils-Eric Sahlin and Alex Davis – have published a paper entitled ‘A secure procedure for early career scientists to report apparent misconduct’. This paper set the scene for the webinar.
Baruch Fischhoff emphasised the potential damage that scientific misconduct can cause to individuals and to society. He depicted the dilemma facing early-career researchers in deciding whether to report apparent misconduct. Barry Dewitt then described the mechanism set out in the paper, which aims to protect the wellbeing of early-career researchers involved in the process. It would involve an institutional ‘scientific integrity official’, with the appropriate experience, skills and knowledge to manage the process effectively and fairly.
The respondents were Gemma Modinos and Moniek Tromp, representing the Young Academy of Europe. The aim of the proposed system in protecting the early-career researcher was appreciated by the YAE. At the same time, assurances were needed that the appointed official would be fully independent. Moniek Trump considered some of the major factors that might lead to potential misconduct, such as the heavy workload of the academy and the pressure to publish.
Nils-Eric Sahlin completed the panel presentations by reflecting on the diverse range of national approaches to the problem. He advocated for a harmonised international procedure.
A lively Q&A session reemphasised the complexity of the problem, encompassing social, legal and financial aspects. The panellists again underlined the importance of an international approach. They explored the means by which to promote the necessary cultural change, which would require a new system of rewards and incentives. Evaluation systems for career progression should include wider criteria, such as teaching, management and policy work, not just high-impact publications. There was praise for bottom-up movements such as open science, which has been pursued actively by early-career researchers.
Watch the webinar
- Professor Baruch Fischhoff, Howard Heinz University Professor, Institute for Politics and Strategy, and Engineering & Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University
- Professor Nils-Eric Sahlin MAE, Professor of Medical Ethics, Lund University, Member of the SAPEA Working Group on Making Sense of Science for Policy and Member of the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies (EGE)
- Dr Gemma Modinos FYAE, Sir Henry Dale Fellow, Kings College London, Chair of the Young Academy of Europe
- Professor Moniek Tromp FYAE, Professor of Materials Chemistry, University of Groningen, Vice-Chair of the Young Academy of Europe
- Dr Barry Dewitt, Postdoctoral research scientist, Department of Engineering & Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University