What is Research Integrity?
Science, in the words of the renowned physicist Richard Feynman, is the belief in the ignorance of experts. Scientific progress is fuelled by debate, scepticism, and challenging the status quo. In that sense, science is never settled. Trust in science is therefore not the result of scientists always being right – which they are not – but the result of the process taking place in a reliable, honest, independent and impartial way. This integrity is threatened by a wide range of forces: unethical attempts to advance careers, government censorship, commercial interests, as well as the negative impact of ideology and politics on universities and researchers. This wide variety of threats implies that the responsibility of research integrity is shared by all stakeholders in the scholarly ecosystem: funders, governments, universities, repositories, publishers, and of course researchers themselves.
Publishers make important contributions to research integrity through the editorial process (e.g. the screening for plagiarism, image and data manipulations, conflicts of interest, the validation of author identities), the peer review process, and building and maintaining a permanent record of scholarly information. In addition to that, publishers ensure that the publication process is transparent, predictable, correctible, and accountable.
STM is working on specific projects addressing these topics.
Image alterations and duplications
An STM Working Group on Image Alteration and Duplication Detection has published best-practice recommendations which provide the outline of a structured approach to support editors and others applying image integrity screening as part of pre-publication quality control checks or post-publication investigation of image integrity issues at scholarly journals. Read the recommendations here.
Currently, the working group is developing a list of requirements that software screening for image integrity issues should comply with. These requirements are planned to be launched in June of 2022.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) plays an increasingly important role in society, but also in publishing. Tools to detect fraud are often based on this technology. A working group was formed to bring together the current thinking on how STM publishers contribute to the ethical and trustworthy development, deployment, and application of artificial intelligence. This resulted in the publication of a White Paper which can be downloaded here.
Peer Review Terminology
STM recognised the need for identifying and standardizing definitions and terminology in (open) peer review practices. A peer review taxonomy that is used across publishers will help make the peer review process for articles more transparent and trustworthy. STM’s Peer Review Taxonomy is currently in the process of being formalized as an ANSI/NISO standard
STM’s Research Data Program
FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable) data is a crucial element in making research more robust, reliable, reproducible, and cost-efficient. The published article is an important hub for the sharing, linking and citing research data that is built upon (or refers to) the published content, making research data findable and accessible within the scholarly ecosystem. STM is running the Research Data Program with its members to stimulate the sharing, citing and linking of high-quality research data alongside publications.
Duplicate submissions detection
Manuscripts that are illicitly submitted simultaneously to multiple journals are a big burden for journal editors and reviewers, and are frequently associated with paper mills (illegal commercial organizations that produce, sell and/or submit fraudulent scientific manuscripts on demand). A working group was established to investigate the size of the problem, and explore possible solutions to detect duplicate submissions. A report with first findings is pending.
STM is involved in several cross-industry projects on research integrity, including a COPE working group on paper mills, a NISO project on a recommended practice for retracted research, and a NISO project on Quality Badging.
Ideas for other initiatives? Contact STM’s Director of Research Integrity, Joris van Rossum, at email@example.com.