Towards an open library on misconduct ?
In 2008, as a group of PhD students, we started a project named Scientific Red Cards. This project aimed to open a debate about scientific misconduct in the scientific community, in order to better understand and deal with this issue. Indeed, the occurrence of misconduct is significant: 1 in 3 researchers admits they have engaged in misbehaviour or questionable practices (Martinson, 2005; Fanelli, 2009; Tavare, 2012).
This blog now gathers resources and reflections we have developed through this project.
The project, in short
We constituted a collaborative database of scientific publications for which research misconduct has been assessed, coupled to an online platform on which scientific integrity could be openly and constructively debated. The database was open to contribution from individuals and institutions, and contained publications for which misconduct had been assessed by dedicated institutions (such as research integrity offices).
This database was accepted by the French authority responsible for online databases (the Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés, CNIL). This project was presented at several international conferences, such as the ESF Forum on scientific integrity in 2008, the EASE conference on Misconduct in Science Communication. It received verbal support from researchers and institutions. A correspondence in Nature was also published (Flutre, 2011).
And now ?
So far this project has not managed to gather strong enough participation from the scientific community. Neither institutions have joined as we hoped (completing the database with the publications they had assessed), nor have individuals significantly contributed.
Yet we believe that it is essential that the whole scientific community, from researchers to editors and research institutions, addresses the issue of scientific misconduct collectively and openly. In addition we think it is important not only to address “scientific misconduct” but also to address “questionable practices”.
As researchers, we still engage for scientific integrity, but we now do it locally rather than at an institutional level. For instance, we offer trainings on scientific responsibility (see the website of Atelier des Jours à Venir, a cooperative founded by some of the founders of Scientific Red Cards), and we raise awareness about this issue in discussions, lectures or other events, involving a diversity of actors of scientific community and society.