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Ensuring the Integrity, Accessibility, and Stewardship of Research Data in the Digital Age
The twin ideals of trust and transparency lead to our first recommendation:
Recommendation 1: Researchers should design and manage their projects so as toensure the integrity of research data, adhering to the professional standards thatdistinguish scientific, engineering, and medical research both as a whole and astheir particular fields of specialization.
Some professional standards apply throughout research, such as the injunction never to falsify or fabricate data or plagiarize research results. These are fundamental to research, and have been confirmed by leading organizations and codified in regulations.23 Others are relevant only within specific fields, such as requirements to conduct double-blind clinical trials. Researchers must adhere to both sets of standards if they are to maintain the integrity of research data.
THE IMPORTANCE OF TRAINING
The integrity of research data can suffer if researchers inadvertently or willfully ignore the professional standards of their field. Data integrity also can be negatively affected if researchers are unaware of these standards or are unaware of their importance.
Recommendation 2: Research institutions should ensure that every researcherreceives appropriate training in the responsible conduct of research, including theproper management of research data in general and within the researcher’s fieldof specialization. Some research sponsors provide support for this training and forthe development of training programs.
The training that is appropriate for researchers varies by field. While every researcher should be familiar with the standards common to all research, other standards may be unique to a particular field. Much of this knowledge is handed down from senior researchers to junior researchers during the course of a person’s education and research apprenticeship. In at least some fields, a more formal statement of accepted practices, combined with more explicit instruction in those practices, could enhance the quality and utility of the data produced by those fields. Given the rapid pace of change in many research fields, research focused specifically on methods to ensure the integrity of research data may be necessary.
Today, the actual implementation of training varies greatly from field to field and institution to institution. The National Institutes of Health (NIH)
National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 1992. Responsible Science: Ensuring the Integrity of the Research Process. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.