Highlights of World Conference on Research Integrity 2022

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Highlights of World Conference on Research Integrity 2022

The 7th World Conference on Research Integrity (WCRI) was held in Cape Town, South Africa, from May 29 to June 1, 2022. The event brought together important stakeholders, including researchers, organization leaders, national and international policymakers, funders, and journals across all disciplines. This year’s theme was “Fostering Research Integrity in an Unequal World.”1

The program centered around topics such as the following:

  • What types of ethical challenges researchers face
  • How to foster research integrity in different situations
  • How to support and empower global researchers
  • How to promote innovative research integrity education
  • How to promote diversity, equity, and fairness in academia

Here’s a brief overview of some key discussion points:

Parachute science, ethics dumping, and citational injustice

“Parachute science” (also referred to as “helicopter science”, “scientific colonialism”, and “parasitic science”) is the practice of researchers from resource-abundant countries conducting research in resource-poor countries without involving or giving due credit to local researchers or the community. “Ethics dumping” is the practice of researchers exporting unethical research practices to low-resource countries that may not have sufficiently rigorous ethics requirements or laws. These practices have been persistent in the Global South for decades and often lead to citational injustice, where authors from resource-poor countries are not cited enough for research they may have contributed to because they do not receive credit.

On third day of the conference, one of the participants, Francis Kombe, a founding member of the African Research Integrity Network, an early career researcher, and promoter of research integrity in Africa called out the colonialism that still prevails in science. He calls it the “big brother syndrome”2, referring to the Global North taking the lead in research activities when it is not the sole contributor. He urges all the important stakeholders—researchers, publishers, institutions, and fundersto dismantle this system and bring more fairness and equality in science.

The discussion has started showing results, with Nature Portfolio introducing a new policy to combat parachute science.3 All Nature journals will be encouraging authors to follow the Global Code4 and submit a disclosure statement on inclusion and ethics.

Preprints over peer-reviewed papers?

When COVID hit the world, researchers, especially in the biomedical sciences, felt the need to disseminate data and information quickly. So, the need for speed compelled more researchers to share their work through preprints.

The Lancet’s senior editor, Miriam Lewis Sabin, acknowledged the “explosion of preprints”5 and even called it a “paradigm shift in science”.6  She believes in this medium and thinks it surely is the future of science. However, she also argued that peer review still holds high value in science and academia, and said that “peer review is still king”.5

Further, Sabin suggested ways to standardize preprints publication and improve the authenticity of the information, including development of journal guidelines and best practices for preprints, maintenance of scientific quality and research integrity, and creation of a discussion document by Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE). At last, she urged to continue advocating for peer review.

Compromised research integrity 

Professor Ntusi, the chair and head of the Department of Medicine at the University of Cape Town and Groote Schuur Hospital, discussed the publish-or-perish culture as one of the primary reasons promoting unethical research practices.

He emphasized that research institutes should share as much responsibility as authors to maintain research integrity. He also added “questionable research practices” to the list of three most common malpractices that breach research integrity: “fabrication, falsification and plagiarism”.7

Ntusi pointed out that with the increasing number of researchers, a large chunk of researchers remains devoid of funding. Much of the global research, even the fully funded ones, continues to stay behind paywalls. Such factors pose limitations for researchers, sometimes compelling them to disregard research integrity to build their careers and compete with fellow researchers.  




1. 7th World Conference on Research Integrity. https://wcri2022.org/

2. Iednewsdesk. University Of Cape Town: Championing Equity In A World Of Scientific Colonialism. IndiaEducationDiary.com. 2 June, 2022. https://indiaeducationdiary.in/university-of-cape-town-championing-equity-in-a-world-of-scientific-colonialism/

3. Authorship. Nature Portfolio. https://www.nature.com/nature-portfolio/editorial-policies/authorship#consortia-authorship

4. A Global Ethics Code. https://www.globalcodeofconduct.org/

5. Merwe, C. ‘Preprints are the future but peer review is still king’. ResearchProfessional News. June 1, 2022. https://www.researchprofessionalnews.com/rr-news-africa-pan-african-2022-6-lancet-editor-preprints-the-future-but-peer-review-still-king/

6. @mattjhodgkinson (Matt Hodgkinson). “Miriam Lewis Sabin, @mimilewissabin, says the rise of #preprints…”. Twitter. May 30, 2022. https://twitter.com/mattjhodgkinson/status/1531252985845645313

7. Davids, N. Transparency, collaboration underpin clinical and biomedical research integrity. University of Cape Town News. June 1, 2022. https://www.news.uct.ac.za/article/-2022-06-01-transparency-collaboration-underpin-clinical-and-biomedical-research-integrity

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Published on: Jun 09, 2022


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