Research Integrity and Research Ethics in Professional Codes of Ethics: Survey of Terminology Used by Professional Organizations across Research Disciplines
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AbstractProfessional codes of ethics are social contracts among members of a professional group, which aim to instigate, encourage and nurture ethical behaviour and prevent professional misconduct, including research and publication. Despite the existence of codes of ethics, research misconduct remains a serious problem. A survey of codes of ethics from 795 professional organizations from the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Codes of Ethics Collection showed that 182 of them (23%) used research integrity and research ethics terminology in their codes, with differences across disciplines: while the terminology was common in professional organizations in social sciences (82%), mental health (71%), sciences (61%), other organizations had no statements (construction trades, fraternal social organizations, real estate) or a few of them (management, media, engineering). A subsample of 158 professional organizations we judged to be directly involved in research significantly more often had statements on research integrity/ethics terminology than the whole sample: an average of 10.4% of organizations with a statement (95% CI = 10.4-23-5%) on any of the 27 research integrity/ethics terms compared to 3.3% (95% CI = 2.1–4.6%), respectively (P<0.001). Overall, 62% of all statements addressing research integrity/ethics concepts used prescriptive language in describing the standard of practice. Professional organizations should define research integrity and research ethics issues in their ethics codes and collaborate within and across disciplines to adequately address responsible conduct of research and meet contemporary needs of their communities.