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1. Introduction

1. Introduction

Good research flourishes in a culture where independence and integrity are evident. Many depend on such integrity. University Medical Centers have a responsibility to society and patients. By means of scientific research, they aim to contribute significantly and distinctively to improving health and health care. Thus, users of scientific knowledge should be able to trust that what is studied rightly adds to the body of knowledge. Researchers themselves benefit from a culture of integrity and constructive mutual relationships as well. If they can trust their colleagues worldwide they will feel free to cooperate in a fruitful manner and cherish creativity. No less is a research institute and the academic community as a whole dependent on its reliability and honesty in the eyes of society.

In their European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity , the European Science Foundation (www.esf.org ) has specified the following principles:

  • Honesty in presenting research goals and intentions, in precise and nuanced reporting on research methods and procedures, and in conveying valid interpretations and justifiable claims with respect to possible applications of research results.
  • Reliability in performing research (meticulous, careful and attentive to detail), and in communication of the results (fair and full and unbiased reporting).
  • Objectivity : interpretations and conclusions must be founded on facts and data capable of proof and secondary review; there should be transparency in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data, and verifiability of the scientific reasoning.
  • Impartiality and independence from commissioning or interested parties, from ideological or political pressure groups, and from economic or financial interests.
  • Open communication , in discussing the work with other scientists, in contributing to public knowledge through publication of the findings, in honest communication to the general public. This openness presupposes a proper storage and availability of data, and accessibility for interested colleagues.
  • Duty of care for participants in and the subjects of research, be they human beings, animals, the environment or cultural objects. Research on human subjects and animals should always rest on the principles of respect and duty of care.
  • Fairness , in providing proper references and giving due credits to the work of others, in treating colleagues with integrity and honesty.
  • Responsibility for future science generations . The education of young scientists and scholars requires binding standards for mentorship and supervision.

In order to consistently promote, facilitate and ensure conduction of scientific research according to these principles in and across the University Medical Centers in Amsterdam, a joint Research Code was established on behalf of the Executive Boards of the Academic Medical Center (AMC) and VU University medical center (VUmc). This Code aims to be a stepping stone between the general principles outlined above and the specificities of daily scientific practice. It was prepared by experienced investigators and expert support staff members from both alliance partners. The Research Code covers the main issues in conducting science as applied to (bio) medical and health research, and focuses on good mentorship, respect for research subjects, good clinical and laboratory practices, data handling, collaboration with external partners and parties, ownership of research findings, authorship, dealing with media, conflicts of interest, and prevention of and how to handle when scientists do not work according to the established rules and regulations.

This Research Code applies to all units operating within the AMC and VUmc organization. Every scientific practitioner - from Principal Investigators to junior researchers, as well as research support staff - should know of this Code and be familiar with its content. This Research Code is, however, not a research handbook, nor a 'cookbook' covering all regulations in detail. Instead, and because the process of evolving possibilities and questions is crucial in scientific research, the Code provides a framework to guide researchers in living up to the values of independence and integrity. It provides and introduces the main issues on the different topics, and where useful or necessary refers to further readings. By making clear which conduct is expected and considered effective, this Code hopes to contribute to an atmosphere of openness and a culture where doing research is an enjoyable and productive experience.

The Research Code is not a fixed and definite document. Science and scientific conduct develops and innovates. For example, biomedical and health research are more and more dependent on multi-disciplinary collaborations, frequently in large - often international - consortia including public-private partnerships, with the use of extensive data from a variety of sources. Such developments may and most probably will make further changes in the Research Code necessary. In the same venue, emerging technological possibilities, cultural norms about privacy and safety, changing legal frameworks and new modes of scientific communication urge us to constantly rethink how researchers can maintain their scientific integrity. The Research Code of the UMC's in Amsterdam is therefore a living document that will be updated on a regular bais. The most up-to-date version can will soon be available on intranet on this page.

The AMC-VUmc editorial team

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