Promoting Virtue or Punishing Fraud: Mapping Contrasts in the Language of ‘Scientific Integrity’

TitlePromoting Virtue or Punishing Fraud: Mapping Contrasts in the Language of ‘Scientific Integrity’
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsHorbach, SPJM, Halffman, W
JournalScience and Engineering Ethics
Date PublishedJan-12-2017
ISSN Number1353-3452
AbstractEven though integrity is widely considered to be an essential aspect of research, there is an ongoing debate on what actually constitutes research integrity. The understanding of integrity ranges from the minimal, only considering falsification, fabrication and plagiarism, to the maximum, blending into science ethics. Underneath these obvious contrasts, there are more subtle differences that are not as immediately evident. The debate about integrity is usually presented as a single, universal discussion, with shared concerns for researchers, policymakers and ‘the public’. In this article, we show that it is not. There are substantial differences between the language of research integrity in the scientific arena and in the public domain. Notably, scientists and policymakers adopt different approaches to research integrity. Scientists tend to present integrity as a virtue that must be kindled, while policy documents and newspapers stress norm enforcement. Rather than performing a conceptual analysis through philosophical reasoning and discussion, we aimed to clarify the discourse of ‘scientific integrity’ by studying its usage in written documents. To this end, large numbers of scientific publications, policy documents and newspaper articles were analysed by means of scientometric and content analysis techniques. The texts were analysed on their usage of the term ‘integrity’ and of frequently co-occurring terms and concepts. A comparison was made between the usage in the various media, as well as between different periods in which they were published through co-word analysis, mapping co-occurrence networks of significant terms and themes.