Being a Trustworthy Researcher

Categories: Careers, Other, Research Ethics, Research Roles, Research Skills


In June and July MethodSpace will focus on research-oriented careers including career purpose and goals, skills, as well as expected and unexpected transitions. Find the whole series here.

In the BC (before Covid-19) we might have relied on networking opportunities at face-to-face conferences to find others who shared our interests. Many of us counted on those occasional meetings to make connections that might translate into opportunities for collaboration or even new positions. Now, professional travel has ground to a halt and academic events are being held online. At the same time, academic hiring is more competitive than ever.

To succeed, we need to be sure we are presenting ourselves and our work as trustworthy. These open-access articles describe issues and challenges related to credibility for researchers and the research. Of course a first step is to be trustworthy, with attention to research integrity, and honesty on our Curriculum Vitae. Sometimes the language we use, or our attitudes towards cultural identities, either build or detract from our credibility. Those who work in other research paradigms might not understand our approach. Perhaps one of these multidisciplinary articles contains ideas that will help you improve your scholarly work and the way you represent it!

Braun, R., Ravn, T., & Frankus, E. (2020). What constitutes expertise in research ethics and integrity? Research Ethics, 16(1–2), 1–16.

In this paper we reflect on the looming question of what constitutes expertise in ethics. Based on an empirical program that involved qualitative and quantitative as well as participatory research elements we show that expertise in research ethics and integrity is based on experience in the assessment processes. We then connect traditional concepts of expertise as “improved performance” with deliberate practice activities and, based on our research findings, show that ethical assessment experience is a form of deliberate practice. This in our view has further ramifications in the design and recruitment processes of ethical assessment units performing research ethics and integrity assessment.

de Koning, M., Meyer, B., Moors, A., & Pels, P. (2019). Guidelines for anthropological research: Data management, ethics, and integrity. Ethnography, 20(2), 170–174.

Abstract. As anthropologists we are increasingly confronted with attempts – be it by employers, the media, or policy makers – to regulate our work in ways that are both epistemologically and ethically counterproductive and threaten our scientific integrity. This document is written out of concern about the problems that occur when protocols for data management, integrity, and ethics, developed for sciences that employ a positivistic, hypothesis-testing and replicable style of research, are applied to different scientific practices, such as social and cultural anthropology, that are more explorative, intersubjective and interpretative. In social and cultural anthropology, issues of scientific governance and its ethics are strongly case-specific. Still, concerns about the imposition of scientific protocols from other disciplines require anthropologists to develop some general guidelines for data management, integrity and ethics of anthropological research. Rather than fixed rules, these are broad principles to guide work and adapt it to specific cases.

Hofmann, B., & Holm, S. (2019). Research integrity: environment, experience, or ethos? Research Ethics15(3–4), 1–13.

Abstract. Research integrity has gained attention in the general public as well as in the research community. We wanted to investigate knowledge, attitudes, and practices amongst researchers that have recently finished their PhD and compare this to their responses during their PhD fellowship. In particular, we wanted to investigate whether their attitudes are related to their experiences of their immediate research environment.

Gierth, L., & Bromme, R. (2020). Attacking science on social media: How user comments affect perceived trustworthiness and credibility. Public Understanding of Science, 29(2), 230–247.

Abstract. The science on controversial topics is often heatedly discussed on social media, a potential problem for social-media-based science communicators. Therefore, two exploratory studies were performed to investigate the effects of science-critical user comments attacking Facebook posts containing scientific claims. The claims were about one of four controversial topics (homeopathy, genetically modified organisms, refugee crime, and childhood vaccinations). The user comments attacked the claims based on the thematic complexity, the employed research methods, the expertise, or the motivations of the researchers. The results reveal that prior attitudes determine judgments about the user comments, the attacked claims, and the source of the claim. After controlling for attitude, people agree most with thematic complexity comments, but the comments differ in their effect on perceived claim credibility only when the comments are made by experts. In addition, comments attacking researchers’ motivations were more effective in lowering perceived integrity while scientists’ perceived expertise remained unaffected.

König, L., & Jucks, R. (2019). Hot topics in science communication: Aggressive language decreases trustworthiness and credibility in scientific debates. Public Understanding of Science, 28(4), 401–416.

Abstract. Current scientific debates, such as on climate change, often involve emotional, hostile, and aggressive rhetorical styles. Those who read or listen to these kinds of scientific arguments have to decide whom they can trust and which information is credible. This study investigates how the language style (neutral vs aggressive) and the professional affiliation (scientist vs lobbyist) of a person arguing in a scientific debate influence his trustworthiness and the credibility of his information. In a 2 X 2 between-subject online experiment, participants watched a scientific debate. The results show that if the person was introduced as a lobbyist, he was perceived as less trustworthy. However, the person’s professional affiliation did not affect the credibility of his information. If the person used an aggressive language style, he was perceived as less trustworthy. Furthermore, his information was perceived as less credible, and participants had the impression that they learned less from the scientific debate.

Pelzang, R., & Hutchinson, A. M. (2018). Establishing Cultural Integrity in Qualitative Research: Reflections From a Cross-Cultural Study. International Journal of Qualitative Methods.

Abstract. This article contributes to the growing body of literature on the methods and techniques that might be used to help ensure the cultural integrity and rigor of research that has a cross-cultural dimension. Drawing upon our experiences while conducting a study investigating patient safety concerns in Bhutan, we will reflect on how the study was conceptualized and framed around the elements of the Bhutanese traditional cultural values; how the researchers were positioned; and how the intercultural perceptions, representations, languages, and attitudes influenced the fieldwork processes. It is anticipated that the approach described in this article will help qualitative researchers to understand how important it is to recognize and be responsive to the cultural and linguistic nuances of given research settings to achieve cultural integrity.

Phillips, T., Saunders, R. K., Cossman, J., & Heitman, E. (2019). Assessing Trustworthiness in Research: A Pilot Study on CV Verification. Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics, 14(4), 353–364.

Abstract. When scholars express concern about trust in science, they often focus on whether the public trusts research findings. This study explores a different dimension of trust and examines whether and how frequently researchers misrepresent their research accomplishments when applying for a faculty position. We collected all of the vitae submitted for faculty positions at a large research university for 1 year and reviewed a 10% sample for accuracy. Of the 180 applicants whose vitae we analyzed, 141 (78%) claimed to have at least one publication, and 79 of these 141 (56%) listed at least one publication that was unverifiable or inaccurate in a self-promoting way. We discuss the nature and implications of our findings, and suggest best practices for both applicants and search committees in presenting and reviewing vitae.

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