On 22 March, the Young Academy of Europe, SAPEA, the European Group on Ethics (EGE) and the AE Cardiff Hub organized an international webinar on the issue of scientific misconduct and support of early-career researchers in reporting such cases. The webinar was chaired by the Vice-President of Academia Europaaea, Professor Ole Petersen MAE. Almost 200 participants from 33 countries joined the live webinar and participated in the lively Q&A session.
The panelists of the Research Integrity webinar
The webinar was based on the article ‘A secure procedure for early career scientists to report apparent misconduct’, published by Professor Baruch Fischhoff, Dr. Barry Dewitt, Professor Nils-Eric Sahlin and Dr. Alex Davis. As highlighted by the authors of the paper, scientific misconduct can lead to potential damage for individuals as well as for society at large. The authors pointed out that early-career researchers often face the dilemma of whether they should report misconduct or not. A way to protect the wellbeing of early-career researchers could involve an institutional ‘scientific integrity official’, with the appropriate experience, skills and knowledge to manage the process effectively and fairly.
YAE Chair Gemma Modinos and Vice-Chair Moniek Tromp were among the panelists responding to the report. They pointed at the major factors that might lead to potential misconduct, such as heavy workload in the academy and the pressure to publish. Moniek Tromp highlighted that “The problem for young academics is still the hierarchy and their dependency. Groups are often very small and tight so the anonymity is very difficult to maintain – even if the person is not named, it can often be traced back.”
The panel presentations ended with Nils-Eric Sahlin’s reflections on the diverse range of national approaches to the problem. He advocated for a harmonized international procedure.
The webinar closed with a vivid Q&A session, where participants further highlighted the complexity of the problem, involving social, legal and financial aspects. The panelists once again emphasized the importance of adopting an international approach to the issue and pointed out that evaluation systems for career progression should include wider criteria which extend beyond high-impact publications to also include teaching, management and policy work.
The full recording of the webinar can be found on the Academia Europaea Cardiff Hub YouTube channel.