Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Scholarly Integrity in a Rapidly Changing Academic Environment

In April 2008, the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) released a report announcing the Project for Scholarly Integrity, funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Research Integrity. The report, "The Project for Scholarly Integrity in Graduate Education: A Framework for Collaborative Action," described significant concern for three phenomena in recent past and present research activities in higher education: (1) increased instances of research misconduct, (2) commercial and governmental encroachment upon the freedom of academic research, and (3) increased responsibility or expectations for reseachers in a global academic community. These developments occur, nonetheless, while researchers, especially in the medical and scientific communities, continue to have high public confidence.
Among the more compelling factors reported by the CGS that influence the present climate was its juxtaposition of the "ever-contracting 'half-life' of knowledge" with the increase in "average age of first tenure appointments and ... average time spent in postdoctoral appointments." (p. 6). Faculty on tenure track may more frequently experience pressures that quantity takes precedence over quality in tenure decisions. Furthermore, the report suggested that the shear rate of research, competition for funding, and "unprecedented opportuntities for ... broad public benefit" have pressured researchers to reach conclusive findings and seek prompt publication at the expense of traditional scientific replication or self-regulation (p. 7).
While the CGS report emphasized these developments primarily in the context of the health, natural, and engineering sciences, it did not excuse other disciplines from these concerns, recommending the importance of including the social sciences and humanities in the dialogue to reach systemic solutions.
Some unique social and economic benefits may only arise from interdisciplianry collaborations among such diverse disciplines as law, education, psychology, information technology, and communications. Ultimately, all researchers may be impacted by these phenomena and may wish to monitor the activities and outcomes of the CGS Project for Scholarly Integrity.
For more information: http://www.scholarlyintegrity.org/
Council of Graduate Schools, The Project for Scholarly Integrity in Graduate Education: A Framework for Collaborative Action (Apr. 28, 2008), available at

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