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Research Integrity (RI)

by Claudia Lascar on 2022-10-11T15:28:10-04:00 | 0 Comments

Research integrity (RI) is crucial for all those involved in the creation, delivery, and assessment of scientific literature, including the research developed by faculty members, researchers, or students in an academic institution like The City College. Without a trusted record of research, it is impossible to efficiently develop new ideas, replicate results, or effectively utilize the outcomes. This means the absence of bias and prejudice. The figure represented below illustrate the reasons why research misbehaviors and questionable research practices (QRPs), are a threat to research integrity and to the validity of science (Bonn & Pinxten, 2021, pp. 8 Fig.1).

Fig.1 What makes questionable practices unacceptable?

Research integrity is often confused with research misconduct, such as fraud, fabrication, and plagiarism. However, the proponents of such ideas are wrong since research integrity is about “creating systems that boost the quality, relevance and reliability of all research” (Editors, 2019). Thus, research integrity means that research is conducted honestly and ethically. The integrity of research is based on adherence to the following core values: objectivity, honesty, openness, fairness, accountability, and stewardship (NASEM, 2017, pp. 30-8).

To gain an explicit understanding of research integrity, we need to consider the interpretation promoted by Steneck based on the study of the research behavior (2006). The responsible conduct of research (RCR) is simply “conducting research in ways that fulfill the professional responsibilities of researchers, as defined by their professional organizations, the institutions for which they work and, when relevant, the government and public” (Steneck, 2006, pp. 55). RCR has been divided into two subfields: 1) Research Ethics (RE) behavior guided by professional standards and 2) Research Integrity (RI) behavior guided by moral principles (Steneck, 2006, pp 56, Fig 2).

Research Integrity is under the control of the Office of Research Integrity (ORI), which oversees and directs Public Health Service (PHS) research integrity activities on behalf of the Secretary of Health and Human Services except for the regulatory research integrity activities of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). ORI is focused on preventing research misconduct and on promoting research integrity principally through oversight, education, and review of institutional findings and recommendations (Steneck, 2004).  ORI has the authority and the responsibility to review and monitor investigations of research misconduct allegations involving PHS funding. However allegations of extramural research misconduct are treated by NIH.

President Obama signed Presidential Memorandum on Scientific Integrity for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies (2009). Consequently, On December 17, 2010, the Director John P. Holdren of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued a Memorandum about scientific integrity. The OSTP Memorandum provides agencies with flexibility to create policies appropriate to their missions and scope of scientific work. Nek & Eisenstadt analyzed the responses from the twenty-four Federal departments and agencies who completed this task (2016). The scientific integrity policies vary in strength and scope as compared and contrasted by the table below.  Appendix B provides the scientific integrity policies of agencies listed in the table. 

Progress on Scientific Integrity Policies at Federal Agencies under the Obama administration 

The Trump administration is notable both for the sheer scale and scope of its violations as well as the unique spin of bullying, manipulation and lies.These violations extend against federal agencies, their leadership, and scientists (e.g., Department of the Interior (DOI), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)), elections and voting rights, unaccountable campaign finance spending, civil and human rights rollbacks, violatons of the Constitution, human rights denied (e.g., risks children's rights, risks right to seek asylum, risks right to healthy standards of living) and many others. I will exemplify Trump's research integrity violations with his response to COVID-19 pandemic.  Trump had censored, undermined, and attacked leading government scientists, undercutting input from experts ‘advice to wear masks, disregarded public health guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which led to a White House Coronavirus Outbreak, and then refused to allow the CDC to perform contact tracing (eventually allowing for some limited CDC involvement in investigating the outbreak). The politicization of testing came at a very high price, especially since Congress has allocated money for it. The administration restricted the ability of its scientists to speak directly to the public or media, as well as attempted to tell scientists what to say. For example, staff at the CDC were told to not use seven words—diversity, entitlement, evidence based, fetus, science-based, transgender, and vulnerable—in connection with a budget document they were submitting to the administration (Berman & Carter2018, pp 15). Trump also made false statements regarding possible treatments via Twitter or during the White House briefings with regards to hydroxychloroquine, chloroquine, and azithromycin (Niburski & Niburski, 2020). For more examples of Trump administration attacks on government science, ethical violations, and other abuses during the COVID-19 pandemic, see the Brennan Center for Justice.  

After the disastrous impact on scientific integrity during the Trump Administration, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) advanced the need of protecting the independence of government science with respect to scientific integrity. UCS released a report urging the US Congress “to codify scientific integrity policies in law and require all agencies to implement and enforce them”(MacKinney et. al, 2020, pp 2). The table below documents how widely the scientific integrity policies vary as of August 2020, before the presidential election. The Appendix  to this table provides agencies scientific integrity policies. It documents progress since Obama Administration, but much work needs to be done.

Grading Scientific Integrity Policies at Federal Agencies

US President Biden early in his administration has created an interagency Scientific Integrity Fast-Track Action Committee Task Force of 46-members –44 from the federal government and two leaders from OSTP to respond to his Memorandum on Restoring Trust in Government Through Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking (Biden, 2021). The Committee was made up of scientists, statisticians, engineers, lawyers, and policymakers with a diversity of experiences and in due course received input from hundreds of outside experts from academia, the nonprofit sector, industry, and the public.

The task force assessment of scientific integrity policy and practices report was released in January 2022 by OSTP, with the title of Protecting the Integrity of Government Science. The report specified from the very beginning in its Executive Statement that “scientific integrity aims to make sure that science is conducted, managed, communicated, and used in ways that preserve its accuracy and objectivity and protect it from suppression, manipulation, and inappropriate influence—including political interference and identified five principles “good practices” for this protection (2022). 

Professional codes of ethics are formal documents addressing their respective professional community with the moral standards required to guide their behavior in the job environment. In some disciplines these moral standards also address research and publication activities. The large online collection of professional codes of ethics created and maintained by The Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions (CSEP) from the Illinois Institute of Technology, with a grant from NSF has been analyzed, (Komić, Marušić, & Marušić 2015). The authors showed that out of 795 surveyed professional organizations codes of ethics 182 (23%) of them used research integrity and research ethics terminology in their codes. This terminology was most common in professional organizations in social sciences (82%), mental health (71%), and sciences (61%) (Komić, Marušić, & Marušić, pg 1.  2015). 

The Center for Scientific Integrity plays an important role in increasing openness, integrity, and reproducibility of research through the Retraction Watch Database which has nearly 36,000 retractions, doubled the number of retractions since its launched-on October 26, 2018 (it was created in 2014).  Due in part to the Retraction Watch Database we know that  scientists are often deceived into publishing in hijacked journals, which are “cloned” journals that mimic legitimate journals by adopting their titles, ISSNs, and other metadata without permission from the original journal. Please check your journal against the Retraction Watch Hijacked Journal Checker.  You may also want to consider the  Beall's list of potential hijacked journals and the Centre for Publication Ethics (CPE) list of potential hijacked journals . More than 50 COVID-19 papers have been retracted (Watch, 2020). The Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre (CCDC) added notes to 992 structures in its database, according to a notice posted to its website in May since they were linked to a paper mill (Bimler, 2022).

Many journals are covering the subject of research integrity including Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics, Journal of Medical Ethics, The Journal of Ethics, Science and Engineering Ethics, Ethics and Information Technology, Teaching Ethics, and Research Integrity and Peer Review.


I would like to encourage all of you who respect science, scientists, STEM/ HASS education, research integrity, government science, diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility to vote this November 2022.



Aubert Bonn, N., & Pinxten, W. (2021). Rethinking success, integrity, and culture in research (part 2)—a multi-actor qualitative study on problems of science. Research Integrity and Peer Review, 6(1), 1-18.


Berman, E., & Carter, J. (2018). Policy analysis: scientific integrity in federal policymaking under past and present administrations. Journal of Science Policy & Governance, 13(1), 26. Online at:  Accessed October 7, 2022.


Biden Joseph R.  (2021). Memorandum on restoring trust in government through scientific integrity and evidence-based policymaking. The White House Office of the Press Secretary. Released January 27,2021. Online at: Accessed October 7, 2022.


Bimler, D. (2022). Better Living through Coordination Chemistry: A descriptive study of a prolific papermill that combines crystallography and medicine. Research Square


Editors (2019). Research integrity is much more than misconduct. Nature, 570 (7759), 5


Goldman, G., Reed, G., Halpern, M., Johnson, C., Berman, E., Kothari, Y., & Rosenberg, A. (2017). Preserving Scientific Integrity in Federal Policymaking: Lessons from the Past Two Administrations and What's at Stake Under the Trump Administration. Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. Online at: Accessed October 7, 2022.


Holdren, J. P. (2010). Memorandum for the heads of executive departments and agencies, December 17. Washington, DC: Office of Science and Technology Policy. Online at: Accessed October 7, 2022.


MacKinney, T., Carter, J. M., Reed, G., & Goldman, G. (2020). Strengthening scientific integrity at federal agencies. Union of Concerned Scientists. Online at:  Accessed October 7, 2022

Obama, B. (2009). Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies; Subject: Scientific Integrity. The White House Office of the Press Secretary. Released March 9.


Online at: Accessed October 7, 2022.


Nek, R., & Eisenstadt, A. R. (2016). Review of federal agency policies on scientific integrity. Institute for Defense Analyses. Online at: Accessed October 7, 2022.


Niburski, K., & Niburski, O. (2020). Impact of Trump's promotion of unproven COVID-19 treatments and subsequent internet trends: observational study. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 22(11), e20044. Online at: Accessed October 7, 2022.


Scientific Integrity Fast-Track Action Committee. (2022). Protecting the Integrity of Government Science. Online at: Accessed October 7, 2022.


Steneck, N. H. (2004). ORI introduction to the responsible conduct of research. Government Printing Office. Online at: Accessed October 7, 2022.


Watch, R. (2020). Retracted coronavirus (COVID-19) papers. Retraction Watch



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