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The Strategic Council for Research Excellence, Integrity, and Trust
Saturday, 2021/10/16 | 07:17:46

Marcia McNutt, France A. Córdova, and David B. Allison; PNAS October 12, 2021 118 (41) e2116647118

 

We announce the creation of a new body within the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine called the Strategic Council for Research Excellence, Integrity, and Trust, charged with advancing the overall health, quality, and effectiveness of the research enterprise across all domains that fund, execute, disseminate, and apply scientific work in the public interest. By promoting the alignment of incentives and policies, adoption of standard tools, and implementation of proven methods, the Strategic Council seeks to optimize the excellence and trustworthiness of research for the benefit of society.

 

The research enterprise is vast and complex, and it has also become essential to health, prosperity, and national security in the 21st century. The current system grew up organically from modest beginnings in the 20th century, with the contributions of science to victory in the World Wars prompting a remarkable growth in peacetime to nearly half a trillion dollars of support annually from government, industry, and philanthropic sources in the United States alone. As with any complex human undertaking, the rapid growth has not necessarily resulted in maximum effectiveness and coordination among the various stakeholders, including funders, research institutions, researchers, publishers, and those who use research results for policy and other applications. Thus, researchers are confronted with a dizzying array of different requirements and policies, all roughly intended to ensure the excellence and integrity of research but time consuming, frustrating to satisfy, and not all obviously ensuring the excellence and integrity of research in actuality.

 

Several reports from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) have noted the lack of any organization charged with strengthening capacity to support research excellence across all domains. Two reports, Optimizing the Nation’s Investment in Academic Research (2016) (1) and Fostering Integrity in Research (2017) (2), recommended the creation of a new entity focused on anticipating threats to research integrity and streamlining and improving accountability throughout the research enterprise. Yet, given the decentralized nature of research involving government, industry, and nonprofit organizations, it was not clear who could step up to this task. To be successful, any willing entity would need to have the respect of the scholarly community and public, understand the challenges encountered in all aspects of research, and be minimally conflicted to avoid having an agenda tuned to its own interests.

 

A group of stakeholders across all facets of the research enterprise convened for a retreat at the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands and recommended that the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) should step up to this mandate and engage the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and National Academy of Medicine (NAM) in partnership. This recommendation furthermore aligns with two of the objectives in the Strategic Plan of the NAS: “Promote excellence and diversity in the scientific workforce” and “Support the basic research enterprise across all disciplines.” Further conversations within the Academies resulted in the Committee on Science, Engineering, and Medicine for Public Policy (COSEMPUP) agreeing to be the parent body for a “Strategic Council for Research Excellence, Integrity, and Trust.” The concept of a Strategic Council (SC) is new for the Academies. This body will function in a mode with similarities to both a committee and a roundtable. Like a roundtable, the SC will include stakeholders across the research enterprise, although none are appointed by any sponsors of the SC. Like a committee of the Academies, the SC can discuss, originate, and disseminate best practices, request creation of study committees to issue consensus reports on key issues, and form action collaboratives to implement recommendations from such reports.

 

The charge to the SC is 1) identifying, anticipating and prioritizing key challenges to research ethics, integrity, and trustworthiness; 2) articulating principles, policies, and best practices to address them; 3) catalyzing progress by coordinating collaborative action; and 4) breaking barriers where needed to accelerate solutions.

 

The inaugural operations of the SC are being supported by the NAS and a grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

 

See: https://www.pnas.org/content/118/41/e2116647118

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