Situating integrity: locating policy concepts in practice
(University of Copenhagen)
Sarah Davies (University of Vienna)
Paper short abstract:
In this paper, we explore what happens to the meaning of integrity when the concept is applied to research as a whole? If the aim is responsible research, where does integrity reside, and who bears responsibility for ensuring it?
Paper long abstract:
Integrity is a prevailing concept in current research policy, along with terms such as 'innovation',' sustainability' and 'interdisciplinarity. While these concepts have been employed as bench marks, measuring tools, and devices for standardisation across national, institutional and disciplinary boundaries, they are highly performative in that their meanings and definitions vary across sites and are implicated in the coproduction of specific local practices.
Integrity originally referred to wholeness, consistency of character and was construed as an individual trait. Current discourse around research (mis)conduct, however, frames integrity not only as a personal quality, but a characteristic of particular kinds of scholarship. But what happens to the meaning of integrity when the concept is applied to research as a whole? If the aim is responsible research, where does integrity reside, and who bears responsibility for ensuring it?
We explore these questions with reference to two data sets: one a study of 'interdisciplinarity' in practice, and the other of scientists' talk about integrity. In both cases we are interested in how potentially abstract policy concepts are realised at the level of practice. In the case of integrity, informants repeatedly pointed to the wider context of science as being behind misconduct and questionable practice. Insecurity of employment and the need to chase funding were understood as ethical problems in and of themselves. Here integrity was indeed a function of the system of science, rather than of individuals - meaning that efforts to ensure integrity aimed at individual scientists were understood as unneccessary or problematic.
Integrity: personal virtue, remedy for fraud, object of governance?