rsm erasmus rotterdam school of management 2

Official complaint about scientific integrity RSM professor

According to the complaint, the professor failed to report that his research into the…

The principles in the code actually speak for themselves: honesty, care, transparency, independence and responsibility. These five principles have been developed into 61 norms. For example, you may not falsify data, and you must acknowledge everyone who has contributed to the publication. Plagiarism is forbidden and you must also be sure to cite your own work – although the code does not regard reusing introductory sentences as a problem, for example.

Grey areas

To a certain extent, it’s all very obvious, because everyone knows that you may not lie and cheat. “That’s the first thing that a class of PhD candidates says when you talk to them,” says Lex Bouter, former rector at VU University Amsterdam and for the last few years professor of methodology and integrity. He is one of the authors of the new code.

According to Bouter, it really gets interesting when you start talking about dilemmas and grey areas. “Outright fraud is relatively rare. Someone like Diederik Stapel is an exception. It’s often the little things that go wrong, and not always intentionally. You see something interesting in data that you’ve collected for another purpose; what do you do then?”

Research institutes must talk to their academics about the norms and values of good research, says Bouter. “This code says that the institutes have a duty of care, and that’s internationally unique. Institutes must draw attention to the code, organise debates, talk about dilemmas, offer support. The code must not just be put away in a drawer.”

Sloppy science

Such a code does not resolve all problems, Bouter realises. “We’re not under any illusion that we’ve covered every eventuality in the entire universe with these 61 norms. There are always peripheral cases. Each institute will have to refine this code. You also have to operationalise the code for different disciplines, which have their own traditions.”

But hopefully the code of conduct will help make researchers more resilient against ‘dubious  behaviour’, as Bouter calls it. Such behaviour (sloppy science) is currently the subject of attention worldwide. Particularly in biomedical sciences and psychology, there have been wake-up calls. Bouter: “The situation was woeful with regard to the reproducibility of all kinds of research. Now other disciplines are thinking more about it, which I feel is a very good thing.”

The code replaces the 2004 version. It officially comes into force on 1 October. The code is supported by the Dutch universities and universities of applied science, the academic hospitals, the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), research funder NWO, and TO2, the federation of institutes for applied research.

Also at DWDD

The code is not restricted to academic circles. Also in public presentations, academics must remain sincere and always make clear how hard or soft their knowledge is.

“You need to apply a bit of common sense,” says Bouter. “In De Wereld Draait Door, you can’t talk in footnotes, but such a media performance does now fall under the code.”