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Good practices

Frustrated ambitions

In recent months, a group of researchers from the Netherlands has been working on a large multidisciplinary survey on scientific integrity at Dutch universities and research institutions: more than 40,000 researchers were invited to complete an online questionnaire on topics such as questionable practices and misconduct. The results, however, fell far short of initial ambitions, with only 15% of targeted participants having responded by the December 7 deadline.

Of 15 universities invited to collaborate in the study, only five agreed. Lex Bouter of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam founded the initiative, and assured university leaders that the survey would not be used to rank misbehavior, but there were still concerns about the excessive emphasis on issues related to misconduct. “I thought it was biased,” Henk Kummeling, president of Utrecht University—one of the institutions that declined to participate—told the journal Science. “If you only ask for questionable research practices, you already know what you will get out of the survey.”

The list of questions was expanded to try to make the study more palatable, adding subjects such as data sharing and open science, but the attempt to break down the resistance failed. Jeroen de Ridder, a philosopher of science at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam with no involvement in the study, said he was disappointed with the snub and the lost opportunity to analyze problems related to scientific integrity in the country. He denies the survey has methodological flaws: “It is the most careful and thorough survey one could wish for,” he said.