Promoting Responsible Research Conduct: A South African Perspective
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- Horn, L. J Acad Ethics (2017) 15: 59. doi:10.1007/s10805-016-9272-8
A great deal of effort has gone into developing capacity in the sphere of human research protection programmes in South Africa and Africa over the last decade or more, by several international organisations. However the promotion of the broader agenda of research integrity or ‘RCR’ (Responsible Conduct of Research) has lagged behind. From a global perspective South Africa and other African countries are actively involved in research endeavours and collaborations across a very broad spectrum of scientific fields. For this research to fulfil its potential social value it must be reliable and trustworthy and hence it is essential that research institutions and universities take the promotion of research integrity seriously. The purpose of this paper is to consider the role of an institutional office of research integrity within the context of academic research particularly in South Africa but also in Africa. I will reflect on my own experience over a period of five years as a research integrity officer at a South African academic institution to highlight concerns in five domains; the promotion of an ethic of responsibility in opposition to compliance and bureaucracy, collaboration ethics and collegiality especially in the context of North-South collaborations, authorship and publication ethics, the problem of plagiarism and the utility of policy and procedure. I will suggest that the establishment of such an office can be of great value in the promotion of a broad culture of research ethics and responsible research conduct. The possible role and scope of function of an institutional office of research integrity will be briefly outlined.