Bioethics Blogs

The Culture of Scientific Research: where next?

Guest blog by James Parry, Chief Executive of the UK Research Integrity Office (UKRIO). The Council and UKRIO are hosting a second follow-up workshop in November to discuss the findings from the Council’s report on The Culture of Scientific Research.

Reading the Nuffield Council on Bioethics’ report on The Culture of Scientific Research in the UK was a mixed experience. That isn’t a criticism of the report, which was excellent; rather that I came away feeling both disappointed and strangely pleased.

Disappointed because the report described a remarkably high level of concern about the pressure that scientists experience to focus on and report positive results, and how this could lead to corners being cut. Scientists were also highly concerned about inadvertent perverse incentives to fabricate data, to alter, omit or manipulate data, or ‘cherry pick’ results.

I was pleased for two reasons. Firstly, because of the good news that, despite the issues that they were facing,  the report found UK scientists generally have high expectations of themselves and others, that they aspire to do rigorous, ethical work, and that they value the influence of standards for research practice. Secondly, because the report had provided evidence where there had previously been, for the most part, only anecdote.

A key function of my charity, the UK Research Integrity Office, is to provide an advisory service for people and organisations with questions about the conduct of research – a helpline if you will. We’ve been running this since we were set up in 2006, covering all disciplines, from medicine to the arts and humanities.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.