1.5 Core Values: Scientific Integrity

Though we haven't mentioned the phrase "scientific integrity", we have looked at the critical role it plays in replicability and Open Science. Integrity involves sticking to best practices for research that promote reproducibility through transparency and open access. At its root, this principle springs from a sense of responsibility for public welfare and from the honest pursuit of scientific truth.

In a literal sense, transparency is the property of an object that makes it so clear that you can see through it. But what about when we talk about transparency in government policy, or scientific research? In this context, transparency implies a high degree of disclosure — revealing clearly the exact reasoning and process used in coming to a decision or taking an action. As well, transparency means taking care to disclose important information in a respectful and responsible fashion.

Best Practices

Scientific integrity implies several practices:

  • basing research conclusions and public policy on solid information and analyses that are clearly evident to everyone;
  • evaluating scientific work using fair, rigorous criteria and procedures known to all involved;
  • publishing good science, period (not just flashy science);
  • fully disclosing study methods and outcomes regardless of the findings being "significant";
  • following best practices for creating hypotheses, collecting data, and analyzing results;
  • demonstrating sensitivity to stakeholders' ownership of knowledge and data; and
  • providing equitable access to all outputs of the research cycle.

As we saw in the last section, these form key elements of our ideal research ecosystem, where the public trusts science and studies can be tested and repeated.

One case where students want and need transparency is in grading. Most of you probably appreciate knowing how marks were given to questions on a midterm exam and what criteria the marker used to score each question. This provides you with both a reason for the assigned grade and a means of comparing your grade with those of your classmates.

Ultimately, this specific information can help you to address gaps in your knowledge and perform better on future assessments (such as the final exam). In the same way, transparency in research allows scientists to improve future studies and add to accumulated knowledge.