Lab Values will only take us so far

The systems that are meant to support research are far from perfect and I'm not just talking about the speed of peer review or a lack of data sharing. By this, I mean how we ensure the accountability and integrity of researchers themselves.  

We are currently developing a Lab Values document to agree on what is important to us as a group. This will help define the ways we want to work (see here for a great example). I expect that much of this will align with the values of our institution. 

But what about when those values are ignored or deliberately misconstrued? 

It is safer to assume that this will happen eventually. Sad to say I've observed many issues closer to home and further away. From individuals being abusive or misogynistic to grandiose authorship claims and data fabrication on an industrial scale. 

Such behaviors are likely to hurt someone's career and there are, of course, well-publicized cases where individuals have faced serious consequences. However, by and large, the consequences for such behaviors are approximately zero at most institutions.  

Even when the truth is obvious to all we constantly fall back on other parts of the system that sometimes appear reluctant and often poorly equipped to enact meaningful changes. 

I am not for one second suggesting that we should rush to conclusions when problems are flagged. There are two sides to every story. But the systems that are meant to support scientific integrity are largely not fit for purpose. Publishers and funders also talk about a good game, but don't actually do anything that could be described as 'adding value'.

Sitting on a variety of university committees and groups that aim to be proactive about issues surrounding academic integrity, I've come to the realization that we need to have professional services from across the university linked to these discussions from day 1. They will ultimately put any revised plans into action. Likewise, systems that support recruitment, retention, and reward need to map onto these values.  

Without their involvement, we will simply curate a theory with no application. 

It is incredibly important that the public feels that they can trust not just scientists, but also the systems that are meant to support scientific integrity and accountability. 

I continue to have more faith in the former than the latter. 


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