A Systems Approach to Understanding and Improving Research Integrity. Academic Article uri icon


  • Concern about the integrity of empirical research has arisen in recent years in the light of studies showing the vast majority of publications in academic journals report positive results, many of these results are false and cannot be replicated, and many positive results are the product of data dredging and the application of flexible data analysis practices coupled with selective reporting. While a number of potential solutions have been proposed, the effects of these are poorly understood and empirical evaluation of each would take many years. We propose that methods from the systems sciences be used to assess the effects, both positive and negative, of proposed solutions to the problem of declining research integrity such as study registration, Registered Reports, and open access to methods and data. In order to illustrate the potential application of systems science methods to the study of research integrity, we describe three broad types of models: one built on the characteristics of specific academic disciplines; one a diffusion of research norms model conceptualizing researchers as susceptible, "infected" and recovered; and one conceptualizing publications as a product produced by an industry comprised of academics who respond to incentives and disincentives.

published proceedings

  • Sci Eng Ethics

altmetric score

  • 6.4

author list (cited authors)

  • Gorman, D. M., Elkins, A. D., & Lawley, M.

citation count

  • 6

complete list of authors

  • Gorman, Dennis M||Elkins, Amber D||Lawley, Mark

publication date

  • January 2019