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Thursday, December 12th, 2019

Spotlight on Research Integrity

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by November 24, 2016 Technology

With Singapore now a world-class research hub, the issue of integrity and ethics in research is becoming more critical.

To engage the research community on this important matter, a conference entitled Research integrity – A Singapore Approach was held on 22 November, co-organised by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), NUS, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). It drew more than 300 participants comprising senior leadership of academic organisations and funding bodies, researchers, educators, policy makers, administrators and students.

At the event, the four partners issued a joint statement outlining the research publication principles that their researchers must adhere to: leadership, honesty, reproducibility, proper citation, acknowledgement and reporting. The statement is a natural development from the Singapore Statement of Research Integrity issued in 2010, which aimed to develop unified codes of conduct and policies for better research integrity locally and worldwide.

In his opening address at the conference, A*STAR Chairman Mr Lim Chuan Poh highlighted three serious consequences of research misconduct: erosion of trust underpinning the entire research enterprise; waste of public resources; and widespread and lasting negative consequences. To align with international efforts, the Singapore Statement on Research Integrity was developed in 2010, the first such international initiative in developing unified guidelines for research worldwide. The present statement is a natural development from that.

Keynote speaker Professor Sir David Lane, A*STAR Chief Scientist, captivated the audience with his lively topic on “Good Science/Bad Science”. He illustrated high-profile cases of bad science such as a fraudulent paper that linked the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine to autism disorders in children. Prof Lane suggested ways to reduce such problems and gave useful pointers on ensuring reproducible experiments. He also shared his views on how Singapore can differentiate itself in ensuring research integrity island wide.

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Prof Lane (left) sharing a light moment with the capacity audience during his keynote speech on “Good Science/Bad Science” (Photo: A*STAR)

During the panel discussion on preventing misconduct and promoting responsible research, NUS President Professor Tan Chorh Chuan stressed the importance of building a culture of personal and collective integrity. He believes that establishing such a culture will in the long term make integrity breaches less likely in the research community.

NUS was the first institution in Singapore to introduce a research integrity code in 2006, with policies and code of conduct communicated and shared in a systematic way with colleagues, faculty, researchers and students, said Prof Tan. Despite growing pressure on investigators to publish and achieve high citations, “we need very strong and consistently balanced research integrity policies to remind everybody that while excellence is a worthy goal to pursue, it has to be done in ways that preserve the trust and integrity of the scientific process”, he maintained.

Other panellists who gave their insights into research integrity were Dr Raj Thampuran, A*STAR Managing Director; Professor Chong Tow Chong, SUTD Provost; and Professor Lam Khin Yong, NTU Chief of Staff and Vice President (Research).

Professor Barry Halliwell, Senior Advisor to NUS President who moderated the discussion, underscored that it is especially crucial to filter out bad science in the biomedical domain, as translation of inaccurate results into clinical care can harm people. He also noted that Singapore is increasingly recognising the need for social sciences and humanities research, and poor-quality work, if implemented into policies, could do enormous damage as well.

Questions from the audience included the interpretation of a Singapore Gold Standard in research integrity, and a system to ensure that every individual involved in research adheres to the integrity code.

Source: National University of Singapore(HighLights)

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