Research ethics and integrity challenges require innovative approaches

​Our world is growing. The number of researchers and academics is increasing. The pressure for these researchers and academics, and indeed their institutions, to publish more is ongoing. Consequently, the number of research publications in both journals and books is on an exponential upward trajectory. Coupled with this positive trend is the challenge facing all countries, both developed and developing, to uphold the ethics of research and advance research integrity. However, this task is no longer simple and requires innovative, collaborative and coordinated approaches to ensure the integrity of the research enterprise. Research integrity may be viewed as active adherence to the ethical principles and professional standards essential for the responsible practice of research. 

The objective of the World Conferences on Research Integrity (WCRIs) is to foster integrity in research. The first WCRI was held in Lisbon, Portugal, in 2007. Six WCRIs later, participation has grown from 275 participants from 47 countries in 2007 in Lisbon to 701 participants from more than 50 countries at the 6th WCRI held in 2019 in Hong Kong. The majority of participants were from Asia and Europe, with only 24 participants from Africa. South Africa has been afforded the privilege of hosting the 7th WCRI in Cape Town in 2021 – the first time that a WCRI will be held on the African continent. The WCRIs have produced two global statements on research integrity, namely the Singapore Statement in 20101,2, of which the National Research Foundation (NRF) is a signatory, and the Montreal Statement in 20133,4. In fact, the NRF translated the Singapore Statement into eight of South Africa’s official languages to ensure wider dissemination of the statement.

According to the Singapore Statement on Research Integrity, the value and benefits of research are vitally dependent on the integrity of research. While there can be and are national and disciplinary differences in the way research is organised and conducted, there are also principles and professional responsibilities that are fundamental to the integrity of research wherever it is undertaken. The Montreal Statement on Research Integrity in Cross‐Boundary Research Collaborations emphasises that research collaborations that cross national, institutional, disciplinary, and sector boundaries are important to the advancement of knowledge worldwide. This is particularly important to the NRF whose mandate includes research collaboration across national, regional and international borders.