How to combine rules and commitment in fostering research integrity?

Krishma Labib*, Joeri Tijdink, Klaas Sijtsma, Lex Bouter, Natalie Evans, Guy Widdershoven

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Research integrity (RI) is crucial for trustworthy research. Rules are important in setting RI standards and improving research practice, but they can lead to increased bureaucracy; without commensurate commitment amongst researchers toward RI, they are unlikely to improve research practices. In this paper, we explore how to combine rules and commitment in fostering RI. Research institutions can govern RI using markets (using incentives), bureaucracies (using rules), and network processes (through commitment and agreements). Based on Habermas’ Theory of Communicative Action, we argue that network processes, as part of the lifeworld, can legitimize systems–that is, market or bureaucratic governance modes. This can regulate and support RI practices in an efficient way. Systems can also become dominant and repress consensus processes. Fostering RI requires a balance between network, market and bureaucratic governance modes. We analyze the institutional response to a serious RI case to illustrate how network processes can be combined with bureaucratic rules. Specifically, we analyze how the Science Committee established at Tilburg University in 2012 has navigated different governance modes, resulting in a normatively grounded and efficient approach to fostering RI. Based on this case, we formulate recommendations to research institutions on how to combine rules and commitment.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAccountability in Research
Early online date2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2023

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