responsible conduct of research, reliable research results, teaching and learning
Communicating science in an innovative way: The project launches its own podcast on Teaching & Learning Research Integrity
More innovation, growth, and high-quality jobs are all dependent on research integrity. It leads to more efficient, relevant, meaningful, and credible scientific evidence for policymakers and businesses, resulting in improved decisions based on research findings. In accordance with this, Path2Integrity recently published its brand new podcast titled "Teaching and Learning Research Integrity". The podcast is hosted by the writer, science administrator and member of the P2I advisory board Dick Bourgeois-Doyle and can be found on P2I’s YouTube channel.
The first episode features an interview with Professor Julia Priess-Buchheit, the coordinator of the P2I project. She currently works as a research professor at the Coburg University of Applied Sciences in Germany. In addition to education, she has studied pedagogy, psychology, economics, and criminology. Her teaching background, how she became interested in research integrity, and the initiative she now leads were all discussed on the episode.
Listen to the interview with Dick Bourgeois-Doyle and Professor Julia Priess-Buchheit and/or read the interview below:
Dick Bourgeois-Doyle (DBD): I guess before we talk specifically about teaching, research integrity and the project that you're involved with right now, maybe it might be helpful to talk a bit about your background, particularly how that led to your interest in research integrity and then ultimately to how to teach it.
Julia Priess-Buchheit (JPB): My background actually is education. So, I studied education, psychology, and criminology. I studied it at Kiel University, and it's a quite specific place to study education because at Kiel University, you have the empirical studies in education, but at the same time, you can have a look into hermeneutics and the history of education. And they use qualitative processes to look at their content. So, when I grew up academically, I got to know the empirical side of social science and the non-empirical side in a sense of the hermeneutical and theory-building side. And with this, the question arose in my head, "What actually is research?" because I have these two sides, and I couldn't grasp them at the first moment. And when I entered my PhD studies, this was the question I had in my head, and I was going around looking for people to help me with this question. And I found one group - it's an open discussion group, everybody who wants to can join, and they are discussing different projects in the field of education. And their specific point of view is how to conduct reliable research. And I joined this group, I think at the end of my studies and at the beginning of my PhD, and I was fascinated. I was just the observer. But I was fascinated with how they did research and what questions they had and how they tried to solve them. And actually, I’ve stayed until today, so I'm still in this group. And it brought me to the topic of research integrity.
DBD: It brought you to the topic of research integrity because the questions that popped into your mind were around what makes quality research? Is it empirical? Or is it theory? Or is it a blend of each? Or does it change with the subject matter? Are those the kind of questions that you were discussing?
JPB: Yeah, especially in Germany, we have quite a specific situation in social science because there are like these two main groups, the empirical group and the non-empirical group. And it always depends on whom you belong to. And then they say, okay, you're doing good research. But actually, my question was above it, it was the question, "Okay are not both good research?" And when do you want to do the empirical on the non-empirical research, what does it mean? What is good quality on the one hand, or in this group, and what is good quality to the research in the other group. I haven’t solved it today. I'm on my way to solve it with a lot of other people. And I think we do need both pillars in social science to solve the big questions in education and in other fields.
DBD: So, the same questions would arise in other fields of science, not just social sciences. I mean, there is theoretical physics and applied physics, the same in chemistry, biology, there's different spheres of research. So, a lot of people consider research integrity and the kind of questions you're talking about as not peripheral, but sort of a side issue to their main focus for research. But you assumed this to be the central issue for your studies and your research. I guess in a way you could describe the worth of research integrity as a focus for research is because it is in a way the most important issue: what good research is and primordial to everything else.
JPB: The interesting thing is when you come from education, you always have two perspectives. So, you have the perspective of doing research in the educational field. Yeah, for example, which training is the best one, which training is effective. But on the other hand, we also train people. So, in my PhD time, I started to give seminars for younger students. And then of course, the same question arose there. They asked me, "Okay, how should I write this paper?" or "How should I write my thesis?" So, then I suddenly had to answer all these questions, or it is a real practical question in a sense of okay, what is good quality in doing research, sometimes it's easy to answer. And sometimes it's not. And it takes a while, and it takes a lot of people and guidelines to answer these questions.
DBD: So that's where you sort of crossed over into not just pondering the issues around research integrity and quality research, but actually trying to train others in it. Was that at Kiel? Or was it where you are situated now in Coburg University?
JPB: So, I started to teach at Kiel University, then actually, my first step away from Kiel was when I went to the University of Flensburg, also in the north of Germany, and then yes, I changed my position to Coburg University of Applied Sciences and got in charge of a quite big interdisciplinary program. And actually, this step allowed me to look not only at research integrity in educational science or in economics education, which I come from, but also in other disciplines. What does it mean to do good research in natural science or in the medical field?; we have now six faculties at the University of Coburg. It was at first a challenge, but it is a task. I really like to look at research integrity from an interdisciplinary angle.
DBD: So, all this laid the groundwork and provided the context for you to apply for this funding from the EU Horizon 2020 program for the Path2Integrity project. Can you tell me a bit about what prompted you to try and go for that funding and put a multidisciplinary project together like this?
JPB: Yeah, so back at Kiel University, I won an award for teaching. And this award already was about the topic of research integrity in economics education. So, I didn't look actually for the Horizon 2020 project. It was the other way around. Somebody called me and told me, "Julia, there is this call, and it totally fits you, you should go for it because it's about research integrity in social science, and it has an educational perspective." At first, I was a bit reluctant to go for such a big call. But then I did. I found wonderful partners who decided to go with me and yes, so we wrote the proposal. And we won it; it was quite a surprise for all of us. And we now try to do our best with Path2Integrity to support the culture of research integrity in Europe.
DBD: Am I correct? That was 2.5 million euros over three years?
JPB: Yes, it is. Yeah, it's quite a lot of money and gave us the opportunity really to have an impact on the research integrity culture in Europe. What we suggested to the reviewers was that we wanted to design innovative learning paths - not only for PhD students, but also for bachelor's students and master's students, and also for secondary school students. And that's the first somebody concentrated on secondary school students. And on the other hand, we suggested that we are going to do a campaign about facts on research integrity and to raise awareness on the general topic of that reliable research – why it is really important and supports trust in science. And that's what we are doing now in the last three years.
DBD: When you say, innovative teaching paths, I know that part of the approach is what they call dialogical learning, storytelling, and engagement. I know you have produced a number of learning cards to assist teachers and trainers in the classroom. Could you explain why you think those innovative approaches are particularly apt for the teaching of research integrity, and maybe describe a bit about how they actually are applied in the classroom?
JPB: Yeah, so there are a lot of, or not a lot of, but some approaches are already existing in supporting research integrity through training. And actually, I do think one of the most important things is that students are future researchers learn to argue in favor of research integrity. What does that mean? It means that they need to know what research integrity is, especially for their discipline. But it also means that they have the courage and the habit to stand up and speak for research integrity. So, it is a perspective actually that researchers are a member of the research community and that they conduct their research in a responsible manner. But that they also look at others and work with others and speak up if they think that something goes the wrong way. And this is what we implemented in our program. So, we focused on ensuring that students learn to argue in favor of research integrity and that they learn to refer to important codes of conduct, and that they learn to refer to facts which justify their arguments.
DBD: So am I correct and understanding the philosophy behind how Path2Integrity is approaching the issue of training and research integrity is that people can always go on the internet and find codes of conduct and rules about authorship and other elements of quality research, sort of the nuts and bolts about it, but a reasonable ambition in the context of the kind of training you're doing, particularly with undergrads and others, just through the role playing and through the participatory approach, they absorb the message that this is an important subject, this is an important thing. And if they are convinced of that, then they're more likely to speak up and more likely to seek out more training and more information. Is that a way of describing the sort of philosophy of Path2Integrity?
JPB: Yeah, it's a good way. What we actually want to do is we want to open doors for the students to enter the space and area to be a researcher. So, for what we said at the beginning, as a consortium, we said, okay, if you are a researcher, you are responsible for the conduct, which you do and what researchers around you do. And yeah, we want the students to learn how important research integrity is for the community so that they actually can enter the door into being a researcher inside the community.
DBD: So, one of the ways that you're spending the amount of money that we cited for the Path2Integrity project is in supporting original research on education in research integrity. Is there anything that has come to you in the results of that, evaluating the research, so far, that's been surprising for you?
JPB: Yeah, we have, we have quite extensive evaluation of the project. And we did a formative and a summative evaluation in the sense of the evaluation already started when we designed the learning materials and accompany that and gave feedback to what we can do better with the learning materials. So, the learning materials, which are on our website, right now, they're really evaluated, tested again, and tested again. And so that we can say now that they're really optimized learning materials. And also, on top of it, we have the evaluation results on what is the successful learning session and what is not, and there are a lot of results. But the most surprising results for me is that the younger students in a sense of master's, bachelor’s, and secondary school students, and as young as they get, they really have difficulties to connect with the topic research integrity. Even when we use storytelling and all the tips and tricks, we have from pedagogy to motivate them to go into the topic, still they do have problems to connect to the topic. Why? They say that they don't feel that they are researchers, and they actually don't want to be researchers. So yeah, of course, this is a statement which we have to face in the sense of okay, does it make sense to teach them research integrity. What we suggest now is actually that we do not drop the topic research integrity for these younger students, but that we alter it into topics about trust in science so that they can approach the topic as a citizen.
DBD: When you say approach the topic as a citizen, I presume you mean approaching the subject from the perspective of major international events like climate change and other things like that, that they can relate to as citizens, which would be a window into learning why quality research is important. Is that correct?
JPB: Exactly, exactly. Yeah. So that they can look at the topic research integrity, but not as a researcher or as a future researcher, but as a future citizen as they already are, and how important reliable research results are for the citizens and our future.
DBD: So that would be a very constructive bit of information in the broader context, not just for people interested in teaching research integrity, but recognizing the importance of trust in science in general. And I also am aware that when students, particularly younger ones and ones that don't see themselves as future researchers, do learn about the requirements of quality research, they do develop more trust in science.
JPB: What we actually can see is that before the training, they have very little knowledge about research integrity. So, as I said, we have an extensive evaluation going so we have a lot of information. So, what we can see is that secondary school students who come from normal schools, not gifted students, students who come from normal schools, they actually have little knowledge about research integrity. What does that mean? We asked them, for example, do you know what an ethics committee is, or what the task of an ethics committee is, and we asked them about research procedures, you know what research procedure should look like, and so on, and so on. With our training, they learn more about scientific practice. So, after the training, they tell us more often the right scientific practice to do, but still, they check the box on - it doesn't relate to my everyday life. So, they do not know why they should know it. And if you look at other educational theories that means that they will forget this knowledge really fast. And when you turn it around, as we just said, to a citizen/science perspective, then, actually, I think, and we can see the first steps there, because we changed the project a bit to this direction, they relate to it more. And then they can integrate their knowledge, what they learned in our trainings or in the trainings have passed integrity, to their everyday life.
DBD: So, the project is wrapping up this year, and you have a robust portfolio of learning cards and tools to empower people that train in research integrity, and you have some research results that will inform further research. What do you see is the impact and output of the project in the long term? Maybe in 10 years time. What would your aspiration be for that?
JPB: That's a good question. My aspiration, of course, is that a lot of trainers will use the Path2Integrity material. And also, of course, the knowledge that we gained about how to conduct such trainings and also the campaign material so that we actually contribute to promote a research integrity culture. We are on a good way because we have a quite big network, which increased over the last three years, of trainers and administrators who are actually already using now the material. What I hope for the future for research integrity is that we pursue actually the way we are going right now -in a sense that there is a growing awareness on how important it is to discuss the topic research integrity with future researchers, and of course, also with researchers already in place. And that we learn even more about the best way to teach and learn these topics; I think we already know a lot, but not all. And we still can learn more and make better trainings.
DBD: Your network goes around the world. There are various forms. It's not only the members of the consortium in various EU countries, but I know you have people through the International Advisory Board in Asia, Latin America, Africa, and North America, but you also have another network.
JPB: So, we have the Path2Integrity network. It's an open network, everybody who wants to can join us there. And it's for trainers, mainly from higher education institutions, but also from secondary schools. And it's for administrators who are somehow in charge of research integrity, and it is a growing network. When we started, we started with 10 people, and now we are over 60, I think. So, it is expanding, expanding over the whole world. Its aim actually is to be a place where people can discuss different topics on how to teach and learn research integrity. I think this is something we really need in a sense of there's a lot of knowledge, but it's not yet in the open. So, I think this network really helps to find the right ways to teach and learn research integrity.
Cover photo: provided by Pensoft Publishers
(Music used in the podcast - Shutterstock Pink Pop)