Research Culture

The origins of current responsible conduct of research (RCR) training requirements lie in a series of high-profile scientific research misconduct cases in the late 1970s and early 1980s and the consequent laws passed by congress which place obligations on those receiving public money to carry out scientific research. Even though no single “solution” has emerged and research misconduct cases continue to surface at institutions across the world, our understanding of what causes it has progressed and we are now in a better position to develop more effective ways to prevent it from occurring.

Over the years various experts were convened multiple times by the National Academies to study the problem, most notably in 1992 (NAS-NAE-IOM 1992), 2002 (IOM-NRC 2002), and 2017 (NAS-NAE-NAM 2017). We see a clear progression in understanding research misconduct. From a general idea that “bad person” and “environmental factor” explanations were both at play (NAS-NAE-IOM 1992), to a more specifically articulated “environment” that included the lab, department, and university as influences on individual behavior (IOM-NRC 2002), to our present understanding of the research enterprise as a complex adaptive system (NAS-NAE-NAM 2017) where we can clearly identify not only specific actors and stakeholders, but also systems and processes as playing roles in enabling or helping to prevent research misconduct. This more sophisticated understanding allows us to make more realistic and effective interventions.

research enterprise schematics
The research enterprise conceptualized as a complex adaptive system (NAS-NAE-NAM 2017)

It is from with this understanding of the research enterprise as a complex adaptive system that the importance of research culture emerges. Aside from specific interventions that we can make and work towards at various points in the system, the scientific enterprise rests on a set of values, often discussed as the six foundational core values of science (NAS-NAE-NAM 2017):

  1. Objectivity
  2. Honesty
  3. Openness
  4. Accountability
  5. Fairness
  6. Stewardship

These six values lie at the foundation of a culture of research integrity. Details matter a lot, especially when we are designing specific interventions at key points in the research system, but one thing is also clear: that for the system to work as it should these core values must be present in our research activities. The Research Integrity Initiative at the University of Texas at Austin works for the good of the research enterprise through encouraging continual reflection on these values and invites you to help us in fostering a culture of research integrity.


  • IOM-NRC. 2002. Integrity in Scientific Research: Creating an Environment That Promotes Responsible Conduct. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
  • NAS-NAE-IOM. 1992. Responsible Science: Ensuring the Integrity of the Research Process. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
  • NAS-NAE-NAM. 2017. Fostering Integrity in Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
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