The latest UK national public opinion from Ipsos Mori about who do people most trust (and not trust) shows that public trust in scientists not only remains high but has increased in recent years. Doctors and teachers top the poll.
To see the findings go to:
Researchers are in a privileged position in society and the general public rightly expects researchers to undertake research to the highest standards. But researchers are only human and as shown by the recent survey and discussions with scientists – see the Nuffield Council on Bioethics The Culture of Scientific Research in the UK http://nuffieldbioethics.org/project/research-culture/
This indicated that a reasonable number of scientists are aware of scientists feeling tempted or under pressure to compromise on research integrity and standards (including themselves).
The validity, impact, trustworthiness and reputation of research depends on the credibility/believability of the research findings and supporting data. But individual or organisational reputation can rise or fall on the back of scandal and once lost can be hard to build back up – the difference between a ‘noose’ and a ‘halo’ is 6 inches:
Individual researchers, research support staff/professional colleagues, academics in leadership positions, universities, research funders and journals have an individual and collective responsibility to preserve the high reputation amongst the general public – where people cut corners or commit research misconduct this damages everyone involved.
We are all pressed for time but it is worth remembering a few guiding principles that the previous Chief Scientific Officer of the UK, Sir David King, used in order to summarise how to do research with integrity: Rigour – Respect – Responsibility: