With the research world beleaguered by a “reproducibility crisis,” and the Netherlands in particular challenged by a recent spate of buzzworthy fraud cases pertaining to scientific misconduct, the country is launching an effort to put an end to the troubling trend. Let’s take a closer look at the initiative, along with why research integrity is paramount.
The Pervasiveness of “Sloppy Science”
Three years ago, The Economist issued a strong statement on escalating complacency in the world of scientific research. Its assertion? “Modern scientists are doing too much trusting and not enough verifying – to the detriment of the whole of science, and of humanity. Too many of the findings that fill the academic ether are the result of shoddy experiments or poor analysis.”
Unfortunately, the repercussions of this phenomenon are far-reaching with massive detrimental impacts on scientific standards.
Taking Action in the Netherlands
In response to the increasingly prevalent problem, the Netherlands has debuted a two-part plan. It comprises the Fostering Responsible Research Practices initiative, through which all researchers will be surveyed about their own conduct; as well as a fund to reproduce critical “cornerstone” studies. The price tag for understanding and solving the problem? $9 million.
As it turns out, this is not the first survey of its kind, but it is expected to be the most accurate. A 2009 study which determined that two percent of scientists were engaged in the falsification of data is largely regarded as a significant underestimate.
And while the natural assumption might be to expect scientists to recent the implications of inquiries into their verification processes, this is far from the case in contemporary times, says Professor Lex Bouter, a major advocate for the plan. In fact, Bouter reveals that while researchers might once have objected to being questioned about the integrity of their research, there’s no longer any pushback.
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