Shaping the Future of Research Integrity - A view from France

Research Publishing
By: Tamara Welschot and Asja Prohic, Thu Dec 14 2023

Author: Tamara Welschot and Asja Prohic

Pave the way for a more collaborative approach in addressing raising issues.

In the academic world, where the pursuit of knowledge and innovation is key, ensuring rigorous research standards is essential.  Yet, engaging researchers in integrity education is one of the ongoing challenges. While many institutions offer such training, some researchers still don't participate. The reasons for this range from heavy workloads to overconfidence in their understanding of research integrity or a belief that it's not a top priority. To address this, more efficient approaches are still to be found to make integrity education the priority.

Scholarly publishers play an important role in maintaining integrity in their publications. At Springer Nature, we are dedicated to promoting research integrity at all stages of the research process, from supporting the research community in ensuring rigour and best practices in its activities, to protecting the publication record and equipping our editors with the tools to identify problematic content. Whilst at the heart of this work is a dedicated team of experts, this commitment runs throughout the organisation so that safeguarding integrity is a guiding principle for every one of us.

Our Research Integrity group at Springer Nature takes a leading role in this approach, advising our editors, reviewers, and authors on best practices and ethical conduct in research. We provide training for editors on the fundamentals of publication best practice, and on how to resolve research integrity problems when they arise. Our leadership in addressing research integrity issues has also been recognised by the wider publishing industry as we have taken a central role in the STM Association Integrity Hub.

Nevertheless, we also face challenges and criticism, including concerns about how long it takes to retract articles. The French research community is particularly vocal in highlighting publishers’ lack of responsiveness and advocating for a more proactive approach. 

In this context, the French Office for Research Integrity (OFIS), established in 2017, has recently taken on expanded responsibilities. Since 2021, OFIS is entrusted with maintaining the research integrity network, summarising the progress of policies developed by institutions every two years, and conducting surveys to better understand the evolving research integrity landscape. 

Springer Nature contacted OFIS in May this year and started conversations with their team on how we, as a publisher, can better support institutions and research communities. As part of this engagement, we participated in the 2023 Congress on the Practice of Research Integrity hosted in Paris and jointly organised by the European Network of Research Integrity Offices (ENRIO) and the French Office for Research Integrity (OFIS).

The ENRIO Congress was more than just a gathering to share knowledge and ideas; it served as a lively platform for networking and engagement, drawing stakeholders from across Europe. It provided a valuable opportunity for exchanging innovative ideas, best practices, and crucial insights related to research integrity, and ultimately highlighted the need for a closer collaboration between publishers, researchers, and institutions to understand each other's positions and the complexities of the publication process in particular.

As we look ahead to more collaborations with French stakeholders and the broader European community, it's a reminder that the pursuit of research integrity is a collective effort that requires ongoing dedication and collaboration across borders, disciplines and stakeholders.

Working hand in hand with institutions will create an environment where responsible research practices are not just a set of rules and guidelines but a fundamental part of the research culture. This holistic approach would be beneficial to all stakeholders involved; publishers included. Springer Nature remains committed to embedding research integrity in the core of our culture, fostering cooperation and dialogue for responsible research practices. Together, we advance towards upholding ethical standards in the pursuit of knowledge and innovation.



Author: Tamara Welschot and Asja Prohic

Tamara Welschot holds a Master’s degree from Tilburg University (Netherlands) and has been active in the publishing industry since 1997. Tamara looks after resources on research integrity and publication ethics for editors, authors and peer reviewers, and oversees projects on preventing and detecting misconduct. In her roles at Springer Nature, Tamara has led overall responsibility for Springer’s strategy and standards on publication ethics. She provided expert advice on ethical issues, and oversaw other activities such as annual year reporting for journal editors, abstracting & indexing, journal transition management and digital preservation.

Asja Prohic is Head of Academic Affairs for France and French-speaking countries, having joined the Springer Nature in 2022. With a Ph.D. in social sciences, she brings a wealth of experience as an accomplished analyst in international strategy, gained from significant roles in both private and public sectors. Asja's expertise extends to European project coordination and conducting training in intercultural management. In her role at Springer Nature, Asja is responsible for overseeing academic initiatives, fostering collaborations with institutions across France and French-speaking regions, and enhancing engagement within the academic community.