Integrity versus fraud and corruption

Section IX in Tracey Bretag (editor), Handbook of Academic Integrity (Singapore: Springer, 2016), pp. 891-972

Section editor: Brian Martin


Brian Martin, Introduction (see below)

David L. Vaux, Scientific misconduct: falsification, fabrication, and misappropriation of credit

Brian Martin, Plagiarism, misrepresentation, and exploitation by established professionals: power and tactics

Daniel Lee Kleinman, From matters of integrity to cultural transformation: higher education in the era of neoliberalism

Jason A. Delborne, Suppression and dissent in science

Tom Devine and Alicia Reaves, Whistleblowing and research integrity: making a difference through scientific freedom

Section 9: Introduction, pp. 893-894

Brian Martin

When speaking of "academic integrity," the word "academic" has two potential meanings. One refers to members of the university, including students, academics and other staff, and their activities. Academic integrity for this group can address issues such as plagiarism by students and academics, conflicts of interest, staff-student sexual relationships, hiring policy, and intellectual freedom. A second meaning of "academic" refers to intellectual activities commonly associated with universities that are undertaken in other contexts. Academic integrity in this wider perspective can be concerned with a range of issues, including scientific fraud, plagiarism by professionals such as judges and architects, intellectual freedom and free speech more generally.

These issues are extremely broad and potentially involve various types of fraud, cheating, employment policies, bureaucratic systems and human rights. Think for example of financial fraud and the global financial crisis, cheating on income tax by individuals and by massive corporations, discrimination in workplaces, power plays in organisations, and assassination of journalists. The chapters in this section address a few key topics in this wide domain, while hinting at the many others that could be covered.

David Vaux surveys what is known about scientific fraud and how to address it. Some scientific researchers falsify or fabricate data, and some claim credit for the ideas and texts of others. Science is not nearly so automatically self-correcting as many people believe, and considerable effort is required to identify and expose fraud and have the problems rectified. Vaux provides an overview of this crucially important area, describing both fraud detection and a variety of ways to deter misconduct and encourage good practice.

Brian Martin looks at types of plagiarism, misrepresentation and intellectual exploitation in several arenas both inside and outside the university. Misrepresentation occurs when credentials and accomplishments are falsified or exaggerated. Martin addresses "institutionalised plagiarism," in which one person takes credit for the work of another in a routine, standard way, for example when bosses take formal credit for the work of subordinates. Such practices are seldom even called plagiarism even though they fit standard definitions.

Daniel Kleinman addresses a deep and crucially important issue: the influence of business culture on university agendas and practices. Focusing on the US, where these processes are well advanced, he outlines how neoliberal policies enable business culture to infiltrate university operations, thus altering the character of university education and research. While most studies of academic integrity look at violations at the level of the individual, Kleinman draws attention to structural influences with more far-reaching consequences.

Jason Delborne analyses the suppression of dissent, which occurs when individuals espouse or study perspectives that challenge mainstream views or threaten powerful groups and, as a result, come under attack, for example being denied publication or grants or even losing their jobs. Suppression of this sort is a direct challenge to intellectual freedom in two important ways: it silences or discredits dissident individuals and sends a warning to others to avoid deviating from the norm. Delborne surveys the dynamics of suppression and describes ways to challenge it.

Tom Devine and Alicia Reaves tell about whistleblowing, with special attention to scientists. Whistleblowing is speaking out in the public interest, typically about corruption, abuse or hazards to the public. In a society with intellectual freedom, whistleblowing should be normal and perhaps not even warrant a special name, yet all too commonly whistleblowers are met with savage reprisals: their attempts to speak the truth are treated as unacceptable, even traitorous. Devine and Reaves give numerous examples of whistleblowing scientists, describe the most common sorts of reprisals, and itemise ways of defending freedom of speech.

The chapters here point to the need to expand the ambit of studies of academic integrity beyond the usual focus on university education, to encompass research and speech by established professionals. In particular, they point to the role of integrity, and integrity violations, by those with the most power, including established scientists and senior managers in business and government. Furthermore, some of the biggest problems are built into the way social systems operate and are so deeply entrenched that they seldom receive attention. For anyone concerned about intellectual integrity, there are many topics to explore and challenging goals to pursue.

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