Agents of Change in Research Integrity

The important work of research integrity promoters requires an acknowledged formal position and the co-effort of collaborative networks.

Loreta Tauginienė and Inga Gaižauskaitė

To understand how everyone perceives their role at work it is paramount to discuss the meaningfulness of work. Apparently, any work is meaningful in a sense we tailor it.  Similarly, research integrity promoters, acting at national level and, therefore, being in a unique position, carry out their role in a sensitive and responsible way that aligns with what research integrity is about.

Particularly, being enabled at national level implies that research integrity promoters (e.g. ombudspersons and research funding organisations) focus on systemic changes, such as changing the research community’s mindset towards research integrity and facilitating the addressing and prevention of research malpractice. Nevertheless, as agents of change their enormous work might have constraints related to political independence, objectivity, and confidentiality of their work.

How is the sense of work embedded?

As stated by Tauginienė & Gaižauskaitė (2022), the work of national research integrity promoters could be described through four senses. These are the senses of sensemaking, sensebreaking, sensehiding and sensegiving. Since all these are very complex, the article further focuses in more detail on the first two senses – sensebreaking and sensemaking – that connotate the positive orientation of change while promoting research integrity.

“You do not only solve an issue for one person, but you can already implement something at an institution or maybe at the whole organisation.

Excerpt from the interviews of research integrity promoters (Tauginienė and Gaižauskaitė, 2022)

Sensebreaking refers to how the sense of work is or might be shifted by altering the action-driven meaning of the work. For instance, research integrity promotion is immersed with the personal ethical thinking of national research integrity promoters. It is based on allegiance that serves to accomplish the mission, namely, to advance diverse systemic changes: these include development of legal clauses about research integrity, introducing rules, building up ethics infrastructure for research integrity, and raising awareness. From this perspective, if achieved, such changes make research integrity promotion purposeful and significant.

How is the sense of work enabled?

I get frustrated sometimes because I think, wow, why don’t people care? Why don’t people care like I care? Why, why? And then I have to say: well, they are not me, they are different. They have a different experience. They have different goals, uh etc. But then I have to also say: yes, but we need to set a baseline. A baseline of quality that everybody should live up to, no matter their situation or the country that they’re working in, or you know, whatever, whatever.

Excerpt from the interviews of research integrity promoters (Tauginienė and Gaižauskaitė, 2022)

Sensemaking refers to the way research integrity promoters work and feel about their work. Research integrity promoters pertain the meaningfulness of their work when they see the value it generates. In a longer run, such value is substantiated if tangible outcomes (e.g. national guidelines) are achieved and, more effectively, through interacting with others (e.g. research integrity education and training or shaping positive research integrity related perceptions). This also results in professional reward (e.g. broadening knowledge and competence horizons), apparent recognition of the value of their work (e.g. receiving positive feedback) and appreciation of their effort.

All of these are crucial for research integrity promoters to remain persistent in the light of their work challenges and to assess if and what kind of effect they can induce. Equally important is the supportive atmosphere at work and the presence of collegial relationships.

In other words, research integrity promotion work requires not only a firm stance of a national research integrity promoter as a singled-out position, but also collaborative networks both at national and international levels. Co-effort of those like-minded are the bedrock to make research integrity promotion a meaningful work and to achieve the aspired change.

So what?

Given the high responsibility of research integrity promoters, their meaningful work requires moral courage, togetherness and companionship through shared responsibility and diplomacy to fulfil changes and to succeed in redefining scientific ethos. Their work is expected to permeate research integrity culture of academia. Moreover, their work stands from the position that science is paramount for academia; therefore, research integrity promotion is a necessity to any trustworthy science. Otherwise, research integrity, as the entire pursuit of science, is in vain.

Loreta Tauginienė, Hanken School of Economics, Finland

Inga Gaižauskaitė, Lithuanian Centre for Social Sciences, Lithuania

Further reading

Loreta Tauginienė & Inga Gaižauskaitė. 2022. Jumping with a parachute – is promoting research integrity meaningful? Accountability in Research. DOI: 10.1080/08989621.2022.2044318