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Spotlight on Research Integrity: How To Build High Performing Teams With A Culture Of Integrity

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Author: Liesl Lawrence | Category: Of Interest | Cell Biology, Genetics & Molecular Medicine (CGM) | Cell Biology, Genetics and Molecular Medicine | September 13, 2018

Spotlight on Research Integrity is a monthly workshop sponsored by the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs that addresses a variety of ethical issues in biomedical research. The latest workshop was led by Dr. Rachelle Mainard, the Medicine Department Administrator for Infectious Disease at MD Anderson Cancer Center. In her talk, Dr. Mainard discussed building high performing teams with a culture of integrity.

The National Institutes of Health definition of research integrity includes the use of honest and verifiable research methods, following rules and regulations in reporting of results, and adherence to accepted professional codes. Research misconduct is defined by the Public Health Service as “fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results.” Research integrity (real and perceived) is vital for both scientific discovery and the success of the individual researcher. The consequences of research misconduct are severe including loss of reputation and funding, committee review/report, and even civil or criminal action. The general approach to addressing research integrity in the past has been to focus on misconduct and enforce compliance. This means that the focus is not on integrity but no policy violations. However, this strategy has not been very successful in improving research integrity.

The different components of the research system, including sponsors, researchers, institutions, journals, societies, and regulators, each have different motivations. These must be understood in order to motivate research integrity. Institutions generally describe a set of core values, which are expected to influence people’s behavior and consequently the environment. However, Dr. Mainard pointed out that core values are created to support a strategy and are not useful unless they accurately describe the institution’s culture. Values must be authentic and deeply ingrained, describe existing values rather than imposed values or goals, and be adhered to aggressively.

The standard approach in promoting research integrity includes effective training, management, awareness, reporting, and rational policies. Dr. Mainard recommended an alternative solution with more power to motivate people: create a sustainable culture of integrity; go beyond compliance to promote best practices; monitor, measure, and evaluate; minimize fear; and provide accountability. To create a high performing team, a leader must synchronize with the team around a positive emotional message. Instead of focusing on non-compliance, we should focus on appreciative inquiry: identify what is working well, analyze why, and then do more of it. This requires emotional intelligence and discovering what motivates employees and brings life to the organization. We should avoid negative emotional attractors and instead focus on affirmation in order to effectively build a culture of integrity.

This article was written by Liesl Lawrence, a student in the Cell Biology, Genetics, and Molecular Medicine discipline of the Integrated Biomedical Sciences program. 

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