International survey identifies key areas for organisations to strengthen research integrity

  • Date

    Tue 10 Jan 23

Nick Allum

A survey of over 47,000 researchers across the US and Europe has found that while researchers overwhelmingly reported some confidence in their own ability to meet high standards of research integrity, many universities struggle to provide support, with just under a quarter of European researchers having "not much" or "no" confidence in their organisation's ability to ensure the appropriate standards of research.

Professor Nick Allum, expert in public understanding of science and research integrity in the Department of Sociology at the University of Essex, who is leading the International Research Integrity Survey (IRIS) said: “Many institutions struggle to implement comprehensive policies and procedures to promote research integrity. Our project aims to help with this task.

“The survey also found that, in comparison to their American counterparts, European researchers were more likely to admit to questionable research practices, such as inappropriate authorship, selective citation and inadequate peer review, and were less confident in their ability to maintain high standards of research integrity. In both the US and Europe, many researchers judged their organisation as falling short of best practice when it comes to research conduct.

“Set against this, are positive signs of a readiness to adopt research and organisational practices which are believed to be conducive to enhancing responsible research conduct.”

The results show that while researchers overwhelmingly reported some confidence in their research integrity, only half of European researchers said they were "very confident" compared to three quarters of American researchers surveyed.

European researchers were less confident in their organisation's ability to ensure that the appropriate standards of research are maintained, with less than a quarter reporting either "not much" or "no" confidence compared to 29% of American researchers.

US-based researchers reported higher levels of training provision on research integrity than their European counterparts as well as more organisational research integrity policies in general.

There were high levels of support for research integrity training, particularly among European researchers, to reduce detrimental practice.

The Standard Operating Procedures for Research Integrity (SOPs4RI) is a European Union funded project that has identified nine key areas that institutions should address in their efforts to promote research integrity, including training, mentoring, counselling, and the creation of codes of conduct and research integrity committees. Scoping reviews, interviews with research integrity experts, a Delphi study involving a panel of research integrity policymakers, and focus groups across European countries, all emphasized the importance of creating a culture of research integrity and the need for institutions to commit to and support research integrity efforts. The project has produced a toolbox of guidelines and procedures to help institutions create their own research integrity promotion plans (RIPPs).

The online survey is the largest ever of its kind and included over 2,300 researchers based in the United States and over 45,000 in Europe, including the UK, Norway, Iceland, and Switzerland.

Professor Allum said: “Despite these findings, all researchers surveyed recognized the benefits of research integrity, including the production of reliable knowledge and the trust of colleagues and the public. There was also support for more training, particularly among European researchers.

“To create and maintain a culture of integrity in scientific research, the authors of the study conclude, a collective commitment from researchers, their institutions, and funders is needed.” 

Project webite

SOPs4RI (Standard Operating Procedures for Research Integrity) is a four-year (2019-2022), multi-partner project funded by the European Commission. SOPs4RI aims to stimulate transformational processes across European Research Performing Organisations and Research Funding Organisations (RPOs and RFOs).

Journal article

Researchers on research integrity: a survey of European and American researchers


Nick Allum, Abigail Reid, University of Essex, UK; Miriam Bidoglia, George Gaskell, London School of Economics, UK; Noémie Aubert Bonn, Amsterdam Public Health Institute, The Netherlands; Ivan Buljan, University of Split, Croatia; Simon Fuglsang, Serge Horbach, Aarhus University, Denmark; Panagiotis Kavouras, National Technical University of Athens, Greece; Ana Marusic, University of Split, Croatia; Niels Mejlgaard, Aarhus University Denmark; Daniel Pizzolato, KU Leuven, Belgium; Rea Roje, University of Split, Croatia; Joeri K. Tijdink, Amsterdam Public Health Institute, Netherlands; Giuseppe A. Veltri, University of Trento, Italy