The motivation for carrying out the ARCA project is that there is little data on what motivates people to adhere to their integrity in academic research. The current idea is that three overall factors influence whether people misbehave in science: the individual (personality traits could be of influence here), the system (i.e. how we reward scientists, how funding works) and the culture/climate that researchers work in. This is where ARCA comes in.
It is becoming more and more evident that the climate researchers work in determines their ideas of what is “normal”, what is good science, what are misbehaviours, or whether they feel supported by their organisations. ARCA is one of the pioneering studies that looks at ways to foster responsible research practices by assessing the research climate. To do this, we first need to get insight into which determinants play a role in stimulating responsible conduct of research, but also which determinants fuel research misconduct or questionable research practices.
ARCA seeks to provide a baseline measure of the academic research climate, which is needed if science wishes to improve itself. This is why all active researchers from the 4 academic institutions in Amsterdam have received an invitation to fill out the ARCA survey. We collected researchers’ views on the organisational research climate they work in on a daily basis, the extent to which they experience publication pressure and how they view good science as well as detrimental research practices. The organisational research climate for integrity is an intricate concept, influenced by many factors. Key factors we study are the degree to which researchers are aware of integrity policies, whether they feel like their organisational leaders take integrity seriously, do they feel as if their department had set fair expectations for them regarding publishing and obtaining grants, among other things.
Of course, survey results are not the final answer. ARCA uses mixed methods to get the best perspective the research culture in Amsterdam. Therefore, we use focus groups to collect in-depth perspectives and perceptions of current research climate. We are currently recruiting a diverse population of researchers for the focus groups. By means of focus group interviews in the second year of the project (2018), we hope to deepen our understanding of the survey results by organizing focus groups to discuss the optimal research climate. These groups will also be used for (perhaps more importantly), investigating which factors researchers themselves identify as promoting or hindering responsible conduct of research. Finally, we will pilot two interventions, one relating to dilemma-based debates about research integrity dilemmas and the other will be a training for PhD supervisors on responsible mentoring.
The results of the survey are to be published in an academic journal. We also are determined to provide the academic community the results of our research to get more insight in their own climate. Therefore, all faculties/research institutes from the VU, UvA and the Amsterdam UMC will receive a short report with average and aggregated information (note: only if more than 25 researchers from that subunit actually responded, to protect the privacy of respondents). In the long term, we are hoping to use the information gained in the survey and focus groups to design effective interventions. You can learn more about those by reading about us or by reading our protocol.
The publications and preprints of the project can be found here.